Why you should definitely be using A/B tests in your e-mail marketing

Alexandra Hicks
Alexandra Hicks
I
If you own a business or run a website, chances are you have some type of active e-mail marketing campaign in place to drive traffic and sales. A/B testing is a crucial factor to increasing or continuing your success with e-mail marketing.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

An e-mail marketing campaign is a sequence of e-mails used by a business, company, or sole proprietor to communicate with current and potential consumers. E-mail campaigns are a very important aspect of marketing and, if done correctly, will entice customers to communicate with the company. One of the most practical e-mail marketing methods is A/B testing.

 

WHAT IS A/B TESTING?

A/B testing, also referred to as bucket testing or split run testing, is a randomised way of comparing two different variations of something; in this case, A and B are similar, yet different e-mail campaigns. It’s one of the most effective ways to determine which e-mail format out of the two garners the most opens and interactions. In a standard A/B e-mail marketing test, you would set up two similar variations of a campaign while making sure to include a few key differences. Most likely, you will only be sending the tests to a percentage of your recipients. Within the testing groups, you will send version A to half of the subjects in the group and version B to the other half. The “winning” version is determined by the amount of e-mail opens or link clicks.

 

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WHY IS A/B TESTING BENEFICIAL FOR YOUR E-MAIL CAMPAIGNS?

On their own, e-mail campaigns are a perfect way to get repeat business and also convince new customers to visit your website. What’s good is that you’re dealing with people who already confirmed that they want to receive updates and information from you. Many of them have even purchased from you before, and it’s always more convenient and effective to have repeat business than constantly trying to find new customers. This is where A/B e-mail tests come in handy. If you’re already sending out marketing e-mails, why not experiment with your content and format to see what pulls in the most customers? Only minor adjustments to your e-mail can sustain a huge impact on the response you get, and therefore, can drastically improve your profit margin.

 

Only minor adjustments to your e-mail can sustain a huge impact on the response you get, and therefore, can drastically improve your profit margin.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EFFECTIVE A/B TESTING

 

1: DECIDE WHAT TO TEST

When setting up your A/B test, the first thing you need to do is decide what you want to compare. To get the most accurate results, it’s best to keep testing to a minimum. Some potential key elements to compare include call-to-action, subject line, testimonials, e-mail format, greetings and personalisation, and of course, some of the basics like body and closing texts.

 

2: TEST ONLY ONE VARIABLE AT A TIME

As with any random comparison, the only way to determine its effectiveness is by isolating the successful variable. It makes sense when you consider that something as small as a subject line or new image can have a huge effect on your campaign.

 

3: HOW MUCH ON THE LIST DO YOU WANT TO TEST?

To get the most precise results, you generally want to test your entire list of variables. This will paint you the best picture in terms of what changes are most beneficial. Occasionally, you might want to narrow down your list a bit. For example: if your list is very large, if you’re trying something more extreme, or if you’re making some type of limited-time offer.

 

If this sounds a bit time-consuming, have no fear, you can find e-mail marketing software that comes with easy-to-use A/B testing tools.

 

4: WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?

Before you actually send out your e-mails, you will need to determine what exactly you consider to be a successful campaign. Consider what you want your total click or conversion rate to be, or what kind of percentage increase you would like to see. That way, you know what you want and won’t be jumping in blindly.

 

TOOLS FOR TESTING

If this sounds a bit time-consuming, have no fear, you can find e-mail marketing software that comes with easy-to-use A/B testing tools. Some good programmes to look at include Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, Active Campaign, and HubSpot. If you do have to set up your A/B testing manually, rest assured that it can be done if you have the time. All you need to do is follow the guidelines listed above and you’ll be golden. To make life a little easier, you can put your results into a spreadsheet to compare more efficiently.

 

ANALYSE THE RESULTS

After you’ve run your e-mail campaign and given people a reasonable amount of time to check it, you’ll need to do a bit of analysing. Organise your results into a few different categories and make sure to look at the open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate on your website. Track conversion rates from each of your e-mail samples to make sure your changes aren’t being negatively received (loss of sales and no clicks). In a perfect world, conversion rates on your website would be pretty much even. But if e-mail A results in 10% of your recipients clicking through more and e-mail B results in 15%, that’s something you’ll definitely want to make note of for future reference.

 

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS TO BEAR IN MIND

When running your A/B marketing test, you’ll need to ensure a few things are done in order for your campaign to be effective. Always make sure that:

  • Your tests are back-to-back
  • Make sure your test sample is as large as possible
  • Utilise any tools that are available to you
  • Test early and often
  • Only test one variable at a time

What are your experiences with A/B e-mail marketing? Has it been a successful endeavour for you? Let us know—we’d like to hear from you!