The 7 Most Important Email Elements to A/B Test


How do you know that you’re getting the best results from your email campaigns?

Can you tell which of your subject lines deliver the most revenue? What kind of CTA buttons drive conversions? Which offers do your customers respond to best?

If you want the answers to those questions (and more), you need to do some testing.

A/B testing is one of the most important things that you can do for your email campaigns. This strategy ensures that you can experiment with different ways to reach your audience and focus on spending your hard-earned marketing budget in the right places.

To help you get started, we’re going to look at the most valuable elements to A/B test in your email campaign.

Why Does A/B Testing Matter to Email Marketers

Let’s start with the basics – why do you need to A/B test your email strategies?

The simple answer is that you don’t know whether different parts of your email campaigns are driving the best results until you test them.

You could be sending newsletters to customers that generate a relatively high click-through rate, with 30% of people coming back to your site. However, switching to a different offer could take that 30% to 60%, or 80% instead.

That’s where A/B testing comes in.

In the context of an email strategy, A/B testing means sending variations of your campaign to a subset of subscribers. The aim is to use your tests to determine what’s responsible for driving results.

Testing something like your subject line could be enough to drive a 127% increase in click-throughs, according to Campaign Monitor.

So What Should You Test?

Deciding what to A/B test in your email campaigns is just the first step. You’ll also need to determine if you’re going to run your tests with a segment of your list, or the whole thing. At the same time, it’s essential to think about how you’re going to measure success with your A/B strategies. Are you going to test conversion rates, clickthroughs, engagement, or something else?

The good news is that there are plenty of tools out there to help you. Today’s email marketing services generally come with A/B testing options that support report building, statistic gathering, and more.

Merely deciding to split test could be enough to put you one step ahead of the competition. 39% of brands say that they don’t test their segmented or broadcast emails. However, deciding to test the right things can give you even more significant benefits.

1. The Subject Line

Around 47% of customers say that a subject line is the main reason they even consider opening emails. Your subject line is the first thing that your subscribers will see, and it needs to be captivating enough to prompt action. Your subject line also needs to convey exactly what you have to offer.

One of the great things about email subject lines is they give you a chance to connect with your audience on a deeper level, by showing off your unique personality.

Emojis are great at driving more attention to your messages and making them stand out in the inbox. For instance, look at this example from the PhotoBox brand:

Photobox subject line

Just remember that the personality you demonstrate with emojis needs to match the brand image you’ve been trying to build up to now. If emojis don’t make sense for your B2B software brand, keep them out of your emails.

2. The Preview Text

The preview text is another critical feature in increasing email open rates. This information appears alongside your subject line and sender name. Although you only have a couple of extra words of space here where you can attract attention, your effort can make a huge difference.

Preview text

An excellent preview text choice increases open rates by up to 30%. However, it’s challenging to know straight away what kind of message is going to resonate best with your audience.

You might decide to tell your audience exactly what you’re going to give them like Apple does in the option above. Alternatively, you might provide your reader with a quick note that they’re going to get a discount if they click through.

Use your preview text to show your customers why they should bother opening your emails. Something as simple as just using the customer’s first name at the start of the message could be enough to make your email more engaging.

3. The Offer or Body Content

Once you’ve got your audience to open your emails, you need to convince them to take the next action. This usually means asking them to click through to a blog on your website or check out a product in your store. The content of your email will often make or break your chances of success.

Apple books

If you’re sending a newsletter, a product email, or something else entirely to your audience, make sure that you focus on something relevant and valuable to your audience.

In this Apple Books email, the company suggests books based on the reader’s previous history of buying novels from the app. Rather than just sending the same deals to everyone, Apple makes sure that the offer resonates with their target audience using customer segments.

At the same time, the body of the content is engaging and immediately valuable. You know you’re getting “limited time” prices, and you can see exactly what’s available.

Try testing different types of content with your audience, including:

  • Offers and deals
  • News updates and announcements
  • Reviews and blog roundups

4. Email Design

The actual formatting of your email is often easy to overlook when you’re trying to get the subject line and content just right. However, if you want your message to connect with your customers, then you need to ensure that they can navigate your newsletters.

The formatting and design you use will depend heavily on your industry and chosen business type. For instance, you can use things like Gifs in your email if you’re connecting with a younger audience. However, if you’re a business from the banking sector, gifs, and other playful things like emojis might not make the right impact.

confirmation email

If you’re trying to drive more engagement with your email messages, then it may be worth experimenting with interactive email elements. You can create buttons on your messages that change color when someone hovers over them. Some companies are even adding videos to their email content.

One important thing to keep in mind when choosing design is that your emails need to work well for everyone. This means offering a more basic version of your message for people who can’t see animations and images. It also means ensuring that your content works just as well on mobile devices as it does on a desktop.

5. Personalization Options

Personalization is a part of the email campaign that doesn’t often get a lot of attention when it comes to A/B testing. Many companies assume that if they’re adding a customer’s first name to an email, that’s enough. However, you actually need to work to find the right balance of relevant messaging.

Divide your audience into different segments based on what you know about them. Once you have your segments, you can test how they respond to varying levels of personalization. Some customers might love getting emails based on things they’ve ordered in the past, while others might find it pushy.

Testing your segments and finding out their preferences will also help to guide you in your other A/B testing efforts. You might learn that some customers prefer to get emails more frequently than others, or some want you to provide more information on specific topics.

If you’re not sure exactly what your audience wants from you in terms of relevant content, ask for their feedback. Send them an email asking exactly what they want to hear about. Here’s an example of how Amazon does just that:

Amazon email options

6. The Call to Action

Some people see the call to action as part of the “body” content of an email. However, this conversion device has its own importance. You’d be surprised how much a small element in your CTA can impact your chances of positive results.

Using a red button instead of a green one to convey urgency could lead to more click-throughs. Choosing different words that help your customers to feel understood might help your content to appear less pushy. You can even A/B test the placement of your call to action buttons in your email. For instance, if you have a long piece of content, you might want to place it higher up, above the fold.

In this De Beers email, the CTA is all about showing customers the benefits of clicking through to the site. It doesn’t just say “Subscribe here” or “Read the blog.” Readers see that they’ll get the value of learning more about their bridal style after clicking:

Call to action

7. The From or Sender Name and Frequency

Finally, the sender name you use for your emails is more important than you think.

Small changes also make a big difference. For instance, when Hubspot decided to test the difference between using a personalized sender name or a company name, they found the personal name delivered a 0.53% higher open rate.

The right approach for your name will depend on your customer, and the kind of relationship you’re trying to build. B2B customers might prefer to see that their email is coming from an established business.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to show that you’re a friendly and approachable company, you might find that you get better results from a more human name.

Using a human name could also mean that you can send your emails more frequently without coming across as overbearing. If your customer thinks of you as a friend, then getting regular emails won’t seem as “promotional.”

Testing your assumptions when it comes to sender name and frequency will guide your future campaigns.

Make the Most of Your Emails

There are endless elements that you can test on an email campaign, from sending times and frequency, to subject lines and sender names.

A/B testing each part of your campaign one at a time is the best way to ensure that you’re getting the most value out of your email marketing efforts.

While this process might seem time-consuming and daunting at first, the results on your revenue will be worth the effort.

Go out there and start A/B testing.





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