How to Use A/B Testing in Your Email Marketing

When it comes to email marketing, better open and click-throughs result in more sales. It is a very effective way to drive sales, but how can you make sure that more of your emails get opened and acted upon by your target customer? One way is to start running tests on your email campaigns.

It is essential to test elements of your campaign to ensure your emails are read by potential customers. Then once armed with information, you might need to try a different tactic to ensure that you’re properly targeting your audience and giving them the content they need. A/B testing is one way you can determine exactly what your email subscribers want rather than guessing. Here’s how to use it.

What Is A/B Testing?

It may sound complicated, but A/B testing is nothing more than sending one variation of an email to a subset of your email subscribers and a different version to another subset of subscribers. Your ultimate goal is to work out which version of the email garners the best results.

Simple A/B tests can include sending multiple subject lines to test which one generates more opens, while more advanced A/B testing could include testing completely different email templates against each other to see which one generates more click-throughs.

By A/B testing your emails, you can ensure that your emails are performing at their best. When it comes to A/B testing your emails, one thing you need to know is that small changes can make big differences.

Here are a few things you can test out:

  • Subject line
  • Personalization
  • Sender name
  • Images, Video & Graphics
  • Email copy
  • Call to action or CTA copy
  • Button/link copy
  • Send time

You want to see what small tweaks you can make to boost whatever metric you’re focusing on: the number of people who open your emails, click a link or make a purchase.

The subject line is one of the most prominent elements of your email marketing campaign as it’s the first thing viewed in the inbox. You can test the length of the title, word order, or the content featured in the title if you are doing a newsletter with multiple pieces of content to select from.

Personalization is very effective. Could adding someone’s name to the subject line get them to open an email? Research has shown it absolutely makes a difference.

The sender’s name can make a difference. See if your recipients are more responsive to emails coming from a person’s name or from the name of your company or organization. You’ll provide the sender name and email address that you want to use for each combination to see which combination works best.

Images, videos, and graphics are very powerful in email marketing. Not everyone responds to the written word. So you might want to create podcasts, videos, and infographics, to draw your target audience to your email. Try to A/B test video testimonials against written ones, include your latest podcast vs. leaving it out or try short infographics against longer versions. Even stock images can impact your A/B testing. For instance, if you have a photo of someone pointing at your CTA, the image will naturally draw viewers toward that element. People process visuals much faster than words, which means using images in your email campaigns can be an effective way to get your message across.

Email copy is your main point of engagement with your target customer. But consumers’ attention spans have eroded to the point where less is more when it comes to email copy these days. Unfortunately, great writing is a lost art. It’s best to be short and sweet. If you can’t quickly and easily explain your product or offer, you’ll struggle to get your subscribers to click-through on your emails. To determine what great copy looks like for your audience, try A/B testing different copy in your emails. You can test copy length using personalization and tone. From my experience, staying positive in your messaging is always a winner.

Calls to action/CTAs are one of the most important parts of your email marketing campaigns. They help increase your email click-through rate by making it clear to readers exactly what the next step is. You’ll want to test using buttons vs. hypertext links.

Button copy is another area you’ll want to test. Regardless of whether you choose to use buttons or text links, you must also consider the copy you’re using for those buttons and/or text links, as it can have an effect on the number of people who click-through from your campaigns. Using specific, action-oriented copy such as “Get the guide” is often better than using generic copy like “Click here.”

Send time could be a factor in your emails. Learn when your recipients are most likely to open your campaigns. Since this option tests specific days and times, you must send your combinations to all your recipients at once because the winning combination can’t send at a time that has already passed, of course. Instead, use this data to inform when to send or schedule future campaigns.

How NOT to Do A/B Testing

The really crucial thing with A/B testing your emails is only changing one component at a time. If you, for example, change the subject line, the copy, and the button copy in the email, and you see better success with that email, you won’t know which single factor was the contributor to that success.

So change one thing for each test. You might end up testing all of these potential variables, but only change one element at a time.

Decide What Your Goals Are

Before you send your first email test, you need to have at least an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. It could be your open rate, click-through rate, sign-ups, or sales. The open rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered campaigns were opened by subscribers.

The click-through rate is a percentage that tells you how many successfully delivered campaigns registered at least one click. Your click rate reveals general trends but isn’t particularly detailed unless it’s based on a call-to-action.

Maybe your open rates have been abysmal, and you want to increase those. Or maybe you want to boost sales from your emails by 5%. These are goals you can measure against once you have the test results.

Where to Send Your Test Emails

Let’s say you have an email database of 5,000 contacts. You don’t want to send the entire group Email A or B, otherwise, what good will the information you get from the test do you? Instead, choose a percent of your total contact list, like 10-30%, to be your test group. Send half of them one email, and the other half the other email.

Once you have the “winning email” — the one that gets you more opens, clicks, or sales — you’ll send it to the remainder of your entire email list. You’ll have some assurance that the winning email is one that will do well with your larger subscriber list.

Using Your Test Results

Once you have data on each email you sent, it’s time to evaluate it and use it to your benefit.

Let’s say Email B was identical to Email A, except the call to action button was red instead of green. You saw 10% more people click the button. That’s good news! So for this specific email campaign, you absolutely should use a red button.

But you can also use this information for future email campaigns. Every time you need a button in a similar context, make it red.

A/B testing takes the guesswork out of email marketing. And since email is still one of the best ways to connect with your past and future customers, it’s worth your time to figure out what your audience best responds to. Most email marketing platforms have a testing feature built-in, which makes it simple to test.

For your next campaign, try testing two versions of the same email and see if you can’t improve the results you’ve been getting. You may see an increase in opens or click-throughs but, if you don’t, you’ll learn something about your audience that can help you create better campaigns in the future.

Here’s what to remember about A/B testing your emails:

  • Create a goal for how you could improve your campaign
  • Test all critical elements of your email one at a time
  • Use the right tools to improve the impact of your emails

A/B testing is one of the most powerful ways to collect information about your email marketing efforts. Try it today.