What is Email A/B Testing & How Can It Up Your Email Marketing Game?

What is Email A/B Testing & How Can It Up Your Email Marketing Game?

Email A/B testing, also referred to as ‘split testing’, is one of the best ways to determine how effective your email marketing strategies are. A/B Testing allows you to set up two variations of one campaign and test them both on a percentage of your audience and track how well each does. The results are then analysed and a ‘winning version’ is determined before being sent out to the remaining subscribers on your mailing lists.

email ab testing

Why Is It Important To Test?

Email A/B testing allows marketers to determine what kind of content their audience is interested in engaging with. It’s also an effective way to determine the effectiveness of other factors such as personalisation, subject lines, language used and tone. A/B Email Testing allows you to gain unique insights into your customers’ psychology and behaviour – without you having to earn a Psychology degree!

You can test practically anything with A/B testing:

  1. Content length
  2. Titles
  3. Different calls to action
  4. Layouts
  5. Send time (e.g. weekends vs. weekdays, morning vs. lunch time)
  6. Header images

…And much more to see what combinations lead to your audience opening more emails, clicking through links, and bring in the most revenue. A/B testing therefore allows you to pinpoint exactly what works and what doesn’t with your audience rather than leaving it all up to guess work.

What Should I Test

Well, where to start?

Getting the subject line right is vital to the success of any email campaign. With A/B testing you can experiment with longer, shorter, generic or more specific subject lines to see which really grabs your subscribers’ attention. Personalisation is a great starting point because everyone likes to be seen as an individual! But that’s not to say that personalisation strategies work for everyone. A/B Testing allows you to test the theory for yourself and see what creates a better response.

The methods which you use in your promotional emails can be a big determining factor whether your email gets opened or deleted. Play around with inventive incentives: what would your customers appreciate more? Free shipping, 10% off their next order, or an exclusive free gift?

Playing around with the sender name in your email campaign can also be effective, but remember, readers like to see emails from people they recognise. The key to choosing a successful sender name is going to depend on your relationship with the recipient; consider whether they’ll recognise you from your name, title, company position or by product.

Other elements to play around with include: hard sell vs soft sell, optimisation for mobile, column formatting, time which the email is sent, teaser emails, linking your most popular items, using testimonials and use of bullet points. When it comes to A/B testing the options really are limitless!

How to Test

By using an A/B email testing platform, you will be able to create campaigns to test using templates. Creating a test campaign is quicker and easier than you think thanks to platforms which allow you to set up two newsletters and automatically send them out to your subscribers.

After both versions have been drafted, all you have to do is choose the subscriber list or lists you wish to send versions A and B to. After you’ve made your selection, you’ll need to select the size of each test group, but before you hit send, decide how you will choose a winning strategy and how long your testing campaign will be. A/B Testing can run from anywhere between one hour and a number of weeks, depending on your sample size.

You can select the number of test recipients yourself. But we would recommend that you use between 20 and 30% of your subscribers in your testing campaign to ensure that you have a significant sample size. This will ensure your subscriber list doesn’t shrink and you can continue to improve your engagement rates.

How to Recognise a Winning Strategy

After your test campaign has reached whatever deadline you decided to set, it’s important to know how to analyse that data effectively. The results will depend on the criteria used which more often not falls into a number of common categories: click rate, total unique clicks, total clicks on a selected link, total revenue or which gives the best overall performance. The results will be shown to you in metrics which you are able to monitor throughout the duration of the test.

When to Test

The best day of the week, even the best time of day to test all depends on your audience, so much so that this is another test element you’ll want to play around with. Start with thinking about which day of the week would be best: whilst weekend may work for some, weekdays, when you can catch people on their work emails, may work better. You’ll also want to consider the time zones of your global audience.

Hints and Tips
  • Pay VERY close attention to what you’re sending out. Once the testing is underway, there’s no going back to edit, for the best idea of how your emails will be received by your subscribers, send both versions to your own inbox.
  • Keep subject titles between 6-10 words, or better yet, as close to 35 characters as possible.
  • Use appropriate tones in language that accurately reflect the ethos of your business.
  • NEVER mislead your audience with your subject line— you’ll only damage any trust you manage to build.
  • Why not check how effective flash sales can be? Give your subscribers time limited chances to grab a great deal.
  • Play around with the imagery contained in your emails to get a good idea of your audience’s preferences.

So there you have it. You can use A/B testing to get the best out of your emails, whether you want to drive traffic or drive sales. And the best part is that you never have to stop: you can keep improving what you send out again, and again, and again. So save some time and don’t go it alone: use the tools designed to help you through your testing process!