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A/B Testing: How to Launch a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

A/B Testing: How to Launch a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

Email marketing campaigns and newsletters are a great way to keep your customers engaged with your ecommerce business. The audience you are targeting has agreed to receive your communications, so they’re bound to be more receptive. In return, ensure the content you send them is tailored to their needs. A/B testing is a tool that will help you do exactly that. Improving the conversion rate of your emails can really impact your bottom line. So let’s dive into it:


What is A/B testing?

An A/B test is a quantitative research method that allows you to define what content resonates more with your audience out of two options (you guessed it… option A, and option B). There are many ways a message can be crafted, and deciding which way to go can be a pretty complicated puzzle. An A/B test aims to create space for different approaches in order to get to the right formula faster. The first step is to segment a portion of your audience into two sizeable groups. When it comes to email, it essentially means that the first group will receive version A of an email, and the other will get version B. Once you have identified a winner by a desired margin, you can stop running the losing version and run the most successful one.


What’s the goal of your email?

Before testing anything, make sure you know exactly which action(s) you’d like recipients to take once they read it. This will help you determine which metrics should be used to measure effectiveness and define success.

If you have an ongoing promotion, you may want to direct shoppers to your website and click on the CTA (call to action) that leads there. In this case, you’d monitor clicks. On the other hand, if you just want to share information, you’ll monitor open rates. Ensure that your subject line is compelling!

How to create successful marketing campaigns with A/B testing

The three main metrics of success for email marketing are as follows:

  • Open rate: the number of people who open your email divided by the number of people you sent it to.
  • Click rate: the number of people who clicked on the links included in the email divided by the number of people you sent the email to.
  • Conversion rate: the number of people who took the desired action (i.e. placed an order, reserved a table) after opening the email divided by the number of people you sent the email to.


What do you want to test?

Although both versions of the email you’re testing need to be different, you don’t want them to be too different. In order to clearly identify what part of the email is making a positive difference, limit the number of variables.

If you’re hesitating between two subject lines, then let that be the only difference in your A/B test. This way your results will be very clear. The same holds true if you’re hesitating between two images or two versions of the copy.  If too many things differ between the emails, you’ll never be able to confidently pinpoint which variable made the difference.

Here are a few of the most popular variables you can test:

  • Subject line
  • Call to action
  • Send time (when are you sending the email)
  • Design and layout
  • Personalization (starting with a first name vs. “Dear customer,”)
  • Body of the email
  • Imagery
  • The offer itself

These variables pertain to different phases of the conversion process. A CTA will impact the number of orders you receive, for example. Your subject line will impact the number of people who open your email. Understanding these variables is critical to running a successful A/B test.


1. Subject line

The subject line is one of the most important elements of an email. Almost 50% of marketers test subject lines to improve their email strategy. If your audience doesn’t connect with your subject line, your open rate will be low and all the email content will be wasted. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Mention the promo in the subject line
  • Personalize your subject line (name of the recipient)
  • Use a question as your subject line
  • Include an emoji
  • Write a call to action as the subject line
  • Avoid using spam words like ‘free’
Note: if you are testing two subject lines, one approach is to make them identical with the exception of one variable (ex: emoji vs no emoji).

How to create successful marketing campaigns with A/B testing

Here are a few tips to create good subject lines:

  • Be succinct  — Inboxes usually show 60 characters of the subject line on a desktop and 25-30 on mobile.
  • Numbers — Numbers work well in blogs and subject lines (ex: “5 ways to…” or “5 reasons why….”, etc.).
  • Questions — Using a question as a subject line is a good way to drive engagement.
  • Action verbs — Starting a subject line with an action verb can positively impact the click rate.
  • Emojis — Try to them in a subject line to add some personality.
  • Personalization — Including the name of the recipient catches their attention.


2. Send time

The success of an email also depends on when you’re sending it. Testing different times in the day is the easiest A/B test because you’re not changing the actual content. You can test the morning against the afternoon, one day against another, weekdays versus the weekend, etc. Although these tests are easier to perform, it will be harder to draw definite conclusions as many factors can contribute to why a certain time is better to send than other (a special consideration when you’re sending to recipients in different time zones).


3. Design

Layout and design are most often the keys to the success of an email. Here are the elements you’re building the visual experience with:

  • Images — How many images? Where are they placed?
  • Font — What font are you using? Is it bold?
  • Color — From the background to your call to action, colors will help you highlight the most important parts of your email.
  • Layout — Ensure that your content is easy to read, in text blocks or columns.


6 steps to improve your email marketing strategy

Download our free guide to learn how to connect with your audience.


How to create successful marketing campaigns with A/B testing


4. CTA or call to action

Your CTA is the button you want recipients to click on in order to perform the desired action. In regards to CTAs, less in more. The recipient should be able to see right away what they’re expected to do, and what they can expect once they click. Here are a few CTA examples:

  • Buy now
  • Check out our promo
  • Save big today
  • Learn more
  • Free delivery
  • See it in action
  • Download now
  • Register now
  • Buy now
  • Start a free trial

If you’re looking to connect with your audience through emails, A/B testing is a great way to optimize your efforts. With so many possible variables, starting small and looking at specific aspects of your email can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Try an A/B test with your next email send. Write a subject line, send a version with an emoji, the other without, and see what happens. There’s no exact science when it comes to how people react to content, but there’s a specific way to learn from your work, and that’s A/B testing.

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