Your ABC Intro to A:B Testing Email Best Practices

Your ABC Intro to A/B Testing Email Best Practices


Do you know how to A/B testing your emails?

Known by some as split testing, A/B testing is a process designed to improve and optimize your email strategies. Remember, you’re 6 times more likely to get a click from an email than a tweet. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to make your emails as compelling as possible.

So, how does A/B testing email help you do that?

By simultaneously running two versions of the same marketing solution, companies can determine which CTAs, subject lines, and copy drive the best result. In the world of email, A/B testing can be simple or complex depending on your goals. The two primary options available include:

  • The standard A/B test – wherein you compare several versions of the same feature, such as a Call to Action button or subject line.
  • Multivariate testing – A process that checks email templates by changing multiple elements at once.

Generally, it’s best to get started with traditional A/B testing. Changing just one element of your email at a time makes it much easier to track which factors make the biggest difference to your bottom line.

Why Learn About A/B Testing Email Best Practices?

It’s easy to underestimate the power of email in today’s social media-driven world. Frequently, companies build email marketing onto their campaigns as an afterthought. However, the average order value from an email is up to 3 times higher than on social media.

The only way to make sure that your emails are having the best possible impact on your audience is to test your way to success. A/B testing allows you to identify trends and factors that improve your click-through rates, so you can spend less money, and enjoy increased conversions. The benefits of A/B testing emails include:

  • A better understanding of your audience and what they need
  • Save time and money (invest less in the strategies that don’t work)
  • Ability to automate your campaigns based on what you learn
  • Better segmentation based on what you know about audience behavior

77% of email’s ROI comes from targeted and segmented campaigns. A/B testing is just another way to make your strategy more focused and precise.

So, where do you begin?

What to Include in Your Campaign Testing Process

Using A/B testing email best practices to drive your success is an excellent way to enhance the value of your marketing efforts. The tiniest tweaks to subject lines or copy can transform the number of leads your business successfully converts.

But, which elements should you be testing first?

We recommend starting with:

1. Subject Lines

The tone, length, and even words you choose for your subject line have a significant impact on your campaign. Up to 47% of the email recipients you reach will determine whether your email is worth opening based on the subject line alone.

Subject lines don’t have to be long or witty to make an impact either. The simple “You’ve got money” email that comes from PayPal whenever you receive payment is enough to get most customers to click. It gets straight to the point, and it’s personalized. Remember, “you” focused emails get a 42% lift in unique open rates.

Paypal "You've got money" subject line

Remember to consider the “pre-headers” that appear next to your subject lines too. That first couple of words at the top of your email can convince your audience to click-through even faster. A few points to look at during your campaign testing process include:

  • Personalization: Do you use the word “you,” or the customer’s first name?
  • Tone: How friendly, sophisticated, or professional do you sound?
  • Length: Try both longer and shorter opening lines
  • Word order: Play around with your sentence and see what sounds catchy
  • Emojis: Will emojis attract the right audience to your emails and make you stand out in the inbox?

2. Email Content

The content of your email might not be the first thing that customers see – but it’s still crucial. Without interesting and easy-to-understand content, people will send your mail straight to the trash box.

Of course, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to A/B testing email content. For instance, everything from the formatting of your post, to the pictures and fonts you use can have a significant impact. Check out this email from Headspace for instance. To deliver the best result, they probably tested everything from the length of their copy to the headline “Six months for $20” and even the hero image.

A/B Testing Email Example: Headspace visual email "Six months for $20"

Look at various elements within your email content, including:

  • The format or email template you’re using: Is simple or rich content better?
  • The pictures/graphics: The human brain love visuals – what do yours say about you?
  • Length of copy: Short and sweet is usually best – particularly for mobile emails
  • Ease of use: How simple is it for your customer to take their next step from your email?
  • Headline text: What’s the first thing your audience sees?

3. Days, Times and Email Frequency

The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to tailor your emails to their needs. Campaigns perform best when you send them at a time that’s convenient to your customer. As you progress through your campaign testing process, you should be keeping a close eye on the times when you get the most clicks and opens.

According to GetResponse, Tuesdays have the best open rates compared to any other day of the week. However, you’ll need to track your audience carefully to find out what’s right for them. Some companies even send emails based on what their customers want. For instance, Starbucks asks its customers to determine the frequency of their emails by changing their account preferences.

Starbucks "Change your profile" email

Remember to think about how often you’re going to send your emails too. Just because you find that people open your messages more at noon, doesn’t mean you should send an email every day at that time. Ask your customers how frequently they want to get your emails and pay attention to when subscriptions start to drop off.

Oracle studies indicate that people generally unsubscribe from emails because they feel overwhelmed by the volume of content.

4. Call to Action Content

Calls to Action produce unique results depending on their imagery, placement, and wording. Something like using a button instead of an HTML link can determine how likely a customer is to click on your content. According to Campaign Monitor, buttons lead to 28% higher conversion rates than text.

Once again, it will be up to you to find out what works best for your audience. Your CTAs need to be compelling and value-oriented if you want them to drive action. For example, Sweetgreen uses their knowledge of their target audience to create CTAs that get your mouth watering. They don’t just say “Click here,” they invite their foodie friends to “Taste the Summer”:

SweetGreen taste of summer CTA

When you’re using A/B testing in an email to check your CTA performance, look at:

  • The color and style of your call-to-action buttons
  • Usability: how easy is it to click your button or link – particularly on a smartphone?
  • Action words: How do you compel your audience to act?
  • CTA placement: Are your CTAs at the top of your page? Or are they dispersed throughout the email copy?

If changing parts of your CTA’s design doesn’t impact your results, it could be that your value proposition needs to change. Are you offering what your audience wants?

5. Sender Name

Reputation is a big deal in the age of social media and influencers. Make sure that you’re building on the positive perception of your brand by using the right sender name in your emails. For some companies, the best way to drive clicks will be to use the official name of their business. Other organizations will find that a personal human name is more appealing. Your options include:

  • Brand name: The safest way to get recognized by your user
  • Representative and brand name: Instead of just sending an email from Smart Email Trends, try a mail from “John at Smart Email Trends” instead. This delivers a more personalized experience.
  • Business name and message type: If you send different kinds of emails to your audience, you can adjust your sender name accordingly. For instance, “The Great Gap Sale,” instead of just “Gap”

Sender name examples from Gap

Making the Most of A/B Testing Email

Now that we’ve looked at some of the critical elements worth checking let’s think about how you can use A/B testing email best practices to get more out of your marketing strategy.

For example, the first thing you need to do is always start your process with a goal in mind. That’s the only way you can figure out what kind of metrics you need to measure to track the performance of your campaigns. For instance, common goals include:

  • Improving the open-rate: Maybe you want to boost the number of people who open your emails. In this case, you’ll need to focus on pre-headers and subject lines, as these are the elements that affect this outcome.
  • Increasing click-through rate: Getting people to click on your emails is great, but you also want them to take the next steps after that too. Try changing your email copy, tone, visuals, and call-to-action.
  • Enhancing subscriber retention: If your audience is leaving you, then there’s a chance you’re doing something wrong with your emails. Try changing the frequency at which you send new content or the offers you provide.

Find Your Sore Spots and Analyze Your Results

Generally, the best way to make the most of your campaign testing process is to ensure that you’re getting measurable insights out of your hard work.

Don’t just go in looking to improve anything. Analyze your sales funnel and figure out where you’re losing potential customers. This will help you to determine which elements of your email campaign need the most work.

For instance, if your open rate is excellent, but your click-through rate is suffering, you don’t need to go to work on your subject lines, but your CTA could use some refinement. Once you know what you’re working on, make sure that you keep track of your results.

Start with a set of benchmark numbers on your click-through, open rates, conversion rates and so on, then track the changes every time you add something new to your campaign or adjust your strategy. It may take time for your alterations to have a significant effect, so don’t look for instant results the next day. Usually, you’ll have to give it a few weeks between changes to see your numbers starting to rise or fall.

Good Luck with Your A/B Testing Email Strategy

A/B is only one piece of a broader puzzle required to make the most out of your email content. However, it’s crucial if you want to make sure that you’re getting the best results from your investment. If you don’t frequently take the time to improve your outcomes, then you’re wasting the potential of your lead generation efforts.

When implemented correctly over time, A/B testing email best practices can show you how to genuinely connect with your target audience. Just remember to stick to one alteration at a time and begin with a clear idea of what you need to measure.



Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email