The Complete Guide to A/B Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

A.B Testing Email Campaigns

For those who think email marketing isn’t an effective tactic, think again. Email marketing is alive and well and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, not with there being over 3 billion email users across the globe anyway.

Any marketer knows the importance of tracking and optimizing digital marketing campaigns and email marketing isn’t any different.

A/B Testing – Is It Really Necessary?

While it’s easy enough to wing it and hope that every one of your subscribers will enjoy your email content and want to buy from you, this broad approach almost never produces the results you’re hoping for.

Yes, it takes time to create multiple subject lines, email layouts, and copy but if that means that you can increase your click-through rates and in turn, your conversion rates, A/B testing becomes a worthwhile exercise.

Plus, you get to learn about your target audience in the process. Learnings that you will very possibly be able to apply to your other online campaigns and your online content.

Fortunately, the majority of email marketing tools such as Klaviyo, MailChimp and Campaign Monitor make A/B testing incredibly easy. All that’s really required of you is to decide what you want to test and to set your campaigns up.

In order to test your campaigns, most email marketing tools will use your email variations and send them equally to a portion of your email list. Once the tool establishes which email has achieved the best results, it will send the winning email to the remainder of your list.

Knowing What to Test

While you can test almost anything, these are the elements that CoolCat Digital recommends you start with:

  • Subject Lines: Since your subject line is the first thing that your recipients will see, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting it right. Testing them will help you identify the types of subject lines that will lead to more opens going forward. So how do you test your email subject lines?
    • Try out different lengths. There are a number of different opinions about the ideal subject line length but overall, anything between 30 and 60 characters is a good starting point. Keep mobile users in mind when testing length too.
    • Test wording and even word order. Take a look at the content of your email in order to brainstorm a few great subject lines. You can even use exactly the same wording but simply change up the order and structure of the sentence in order to test different subject lines.
    • Personalize it. According to Adestra, personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened so this is another approach that you can take when testing your subject lines. Just make sure that you have the first name of each of your subscribers before you go this route.
  • Images. Eye-catching images can be one of the best ways to get your message across in an email and are another element that you can test. Not only can you test different visuals but you can also test emails with and without graphics to see whether that makes a difference. Image styles such as illustrations versus stock images can also be tested.
  • Copy. With today’s online users having such short attention spans, most emails perform better when there’s minimal copy but since every audience is different, you will need to test what works best for your subscribers. When it comes to testing your copy, you can try a similar approach to your subject lines.
    • Vary the length. Try comparing the results of using short, impactful sentences with longer, more detailed copy to see what your subscribers really respond to.
    • Test the tone. Making a simple adjustment such as trying out a negative versus a positive tone could produce different results.
    • Add a personal touch. Find out whether including a subscriber’s name or their last purchase in your email copy makes a difference to your click-through rates.
  • Calls to Action. Every one of your emails needs to have a call to action but testing out different types of calls to action could make a massive difference to your campaign results. Not only can you test out buttons versus text but you can also change up your button’s copy to see what results in higher click-through and conversion rates.

Dos and Don’ts of A/B Testing

In order to successfully A/B test your email campaigns, theses are a few dos and don’ts that CoolCat Digital recommends you abide by.

Don’t forget to establish campaign goals

What has lead you to consider A/B testing? It’s important to understand what you’re trying to achieve by testing your campaigns so that you know what metrics are most important once you begin reviewing your test results. Are you looking to achieve a higher open rate? Do you want to increase conversion rates? Establish your campaign goals before going any further.

Do use a hypothesis

A hypothesis helps identify what results you believe you will achieve by making specific changes to your email campaigns. For example, maybe you believe that adding a number to your subject line will increase your open rates because it breaks up the copy. A hypothesis will also make it easier to establish exactly what you want to test.

Don’t A/B test ad hoc campaigns

When you test once-off or seasonal campaigns, you will only be able to implement your learnings once that particular event or holiday comes around again, which is why it’s recommended that you only focus on recurring or frequently sent emails. Examples include weekly newsletters or monthly sales campaigns.

Do test one element at a time

When you start changing up too many elements all at once, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify which change actually made a difference to your stats, which is why it’s best to only test one element at a time. While this may feel time consuming, a slow and steady approach to A/B testing will produce the best results.

Don’t decide on a winner too soon

Once you’ve picked out your test group, it’s important to give your subscribers enough time to open, read and react to your emails before you decide which email worked best. In general, it’s advisable to wait at least 12 hours if you really want to base your findings on the most accurate results.

Do use a random list of subscribers

While most email marketing tools will already do this for you, it’s important to mention that you should always choose a random group of subscribers to use for A/B tests. If you will be choosing your own subscriber groups, you will need to divide them into equal segments.

Don’t forget to implement your learnings

As you A/B test, you will start collecting learnings along the way. Some campaigns won’t produce favorable results but these are learnings none the less and should be implemented in future tests and campaigns. Even if your campaigns produce favorable results, continue testing your campaigns until you find a formula that works for your subscriber list.

Email marketing can be an incredibly effective and affordable way to reach your subscribers as well as potential customers, and any additional effort that’s required to find a mix of elements that produces great results is well worth it.

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