What if one minor change could drastically improve the return on investment for your email marketing campaigns? Most marketers would jump at the opportunity. However, how do you know what move to make and what impact it might have? A/B testing your email marketing campaigns can help you determine what works best in increasing open and click-through rates.
What is A/B Testing for Email Marketing Campaigns?
A/B testing, sometimes referred to as split testing, is the process of sending different versions of an email to different subsets of your mailing list and comparing the results. The purpose of this is to determine which of the two variants is more successful.
Before you start your testing, there is one thing you have to ensure: that your email list is clean. Having any invalid, fake and abandoned email addresses in your list will skew your reports, so you won’t know what works best. If you haven’t used an email verification tool in a while, take a look at several services and choose one that fits your needs.
Tip: a bulk email verification service should be able to remove misspelled, abuse, catch-all, temporary and dormant contacts from your database. Also, if you opt for a more complex system, it will isolate spam traps, which will have a positive impact on your sender reputation and deliverability.
Why Should You Consider A/B Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns?
A/B testing of email marketing campaigns can create and offer essential data and information about the effectiveness of your campaigns. Marketers put much effort into creating emails that will garner the most significant number of opens and click-throughs. However, how do you know what is working and not working? Overall analytics give you some idea. By just looking at the general statistics for each campaign you can observe improvement or decline. However, how do you know what it is about the message that is impactful and what is not?
Using A/B testing to analyze your campaigns will allow you to base changes on the data you collect rather than on guesswork. Even when you do go with your gut or best guess, A/B testing will help you see if you guessed correctly. Ongoing A/B testing will create a constant flow of data which will lead to continued improvement and consistently better results.
Types of Content That Can Be Tested?
Nearly any variable in an email campaign can be examined using A/B testing. Here are some examples:
Subject Lines – Subject lines are one of the most critical components of an effective email marketing campaign that uses email content personalization. If the subject line fails to catch the readers attention, the email may never be open. By using A/B testing on subject lines and then analyzing open rates, marketers can determine what type of text works best.
Send Time – Open rates and click-through can vary drastically depending on the day and time the email is sent. By sending the same campaign at different times to different subsets and reviewing results, the most impactful times and days can be determined.
Layout – The format and style of your message can play a part in determining how many customers engage with your message. By experimenting and A/B testing different placements of content blocks, columns, and images, marketers can examine click-through rates and decide what is most effective.
Call to Action – The call to action can be the most critical piece of your email marketing message. However, what wording and placement gets the most clicks? An A/B test of alternate CTAs can show precisely what works best.
Content – In some cases, A/B testing can help evaluate the overall content of an email. Perhaps some topics resonate more with your customers. One way to find out is to test an alternate version with entirely different content to see which performs better.
Tone – Striking the right tone in a marketing email is an art that requires trial and error. Alternate copy with a different approach can offer a chance to experiment and quickly see the results.
Visual Elements – The use of images has been shown, in many cases to increase engagement. However, this isn’t true in all cases. There are times when an image or graphic can detract from the message and reduce ROI. A/B testing with two versions, one with the visual element and one without can offer data on which is more effective for your message and audience.
How to A/B Test Your Email Marketing Campaigns
Fortunately, many modern email providers offer tools to help automate the process of A/B testing. However, whether it is automated or manual, the process is the same:
Choose a Sample
You can choose to split your entire list in half or work with a smaller sample. This will depend on the size of your list and also your degree of confidence in the alternative version you are testing.
Design an Alternate Version of Your Email Message
It might be tempting here to test every possible change all at once. However, if your alternative version has a different subject line, tone, and layout, it will be difficult to determine which of those elements led to different results. It is best to start with one or two alterations and then review the data before making more changes.
Review the Analytics
Look at the results for open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and other metrics to determine which version had more impact.
Adjust and Repeat
A/B testing for email marketing campaigns is most effective when it is an ongoing process. Unless you are already completely satisfied with your email marketing results, continued experimentation and testing should always improve your outcomes.
Perhaps you learn what type of subject lines create better open rates. It might be time to experiment with send times. Once you find out what time works best, it may be useful to test the layout of your messages to see if you can improve conversion rates. However, remember to prune your list by employing an email validation platform.
With continued experimentation and careful data review, you will find your email marketing campaigns continue to improve, leading to greater customer engagement and increased sales.