Filed in Email Marketing for E-Commerce, Email Marketing for Service Providers — July 1, 2022

What to A/B Test in Your Emails

A/B testing can be a confusing topic–especially for new email marketers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, we got ya covered. Keep reading for a full breakdown of what AB testing is and how it can optimize your email marketing strategy. 

The whole point of A/B testing is to find which version of your email yields the best results for your audience. Best results can mean increased open rates, click rates, web visits, or anything else you want to test for your industry. You get to decide which outcome is most meaningful to you.

How to get started with A/B testing

The concept of A/B testing is fairly straightforward, but actually doing it is another story. To add a layer of complexity, setting up A/B testing is completely based on which email service provider (ESP) you have and if you’re testing a newsletter or an email in an automated sequence. We recommend you search on Google for these separate queries to get support on your specific platform (there should be how-to guides on the support based on your ESP): 

  1. How to set up A/B tests in newsletters inside [your ESP name] 5

  2. How to set up A/B test in automated sequences inside [your ESP name]

Here are a few ways you can approach A/B testing: 

Send out one email to a small number of your email subscribers (10-20%), send a different version of the email to another segment of subscribers (10-20%), and compare the results based on your criteria. Then you can send out the winning email to the majority of your contact list.

You could do a random 50/50 split in your automated sequence, let it run for a few weeks, and move forward with the segment that received higher open rates (if that’s the data you’re trying to improve).

You could do a random 50/50 split in your newsletter list too! Just make sure you’re isolating one variable (like the use of emojis in the subject line) and are clear on the success metric you’re analyzing (like open rates). 

You can A/B test at whatever size email list you have, but the bigger the better! If you have a small list (less than 100 contacts), your results may be slightly less dependable. Larger sample sizes yield more accurate results. 

Molly, copywriter from Acorn Digital Strategy Holding Laptop

Select the winning criteria 

The first step is to narrow down what your criteria is. This is how you will measure your test results. It’s also what will bring you closer to achieving your email marketing goals.

Here are some common testing options:

  • Open rates 

  • Click rates 

  • URL visits

  • Revenue generated

  • Number of conversions

Figure out what matters most to your business. Do you want people to just open your email and be aware of your offers? Or are you trying to increase conversions and generate more revenue? Pick your criteria based on your business needs.

Options for AB testing 

Once you pick your criteria, it’s time to change up your emails to see how it impacts your results. 

There are lots of options for what variables you modify in an email. The variable you choose will depend on what criteria you’re looking for. So, if you want to see more people opening your email, you might want to play around with different subject lines since recipients will see that first. If you want to measure click rates, changing the design of your email might encourage more clicks. 

Take a look at these ideas:

  • Subject lines–Add emojis, capitalization, personalization, or urgency to see what catches the most interest.

  • Send time/day–Try sending an email in the morning and another at night to see when more people will open it.

  • Call to action types and location–Change up the words in your CTA or where it’s placed in the body text. Even using a different color button could encourage more clicks.

  • Sender name–Show the sender as your business, or try using your name. People might trust the email more if they see it’s coming from a person rather than a company.

  • Email design and layout–Design one email that’s text heavy and one that has more images. Try using different kinds of images, too–people vs products, or even GIFs could give you different results.

  • Email length–Vary how much text there is and how much scrolling is necessary. Maybe some people want long emails, or maybe they have short attention spans and prefer quick messages.  

Be sure to change something noticeable about your email–uber specific word choice isn’t going to matter. Instead, mix up bolder elements. The bigger details are the ones that will make a difference on your results.

Isolate one variable at a time

There’s so much you could change in an email, but remember to stick to just one! To successfully A/B test, you have to isolate one variable at a time. Change too many things, and you won’t know what impacted your audience. 

You always have the option of doing another round of A/B testing at a different time. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to A/B test whenever you have something you need your subscribers to know–like updates to your services, or a new sale. Since there are plenty of opportunities to test out different variables, pick one thing to test on an email, with one goal in mind. We promise you’ll get much better results this way!  

Creating strategic email marketing campaigns

A/B testing is a great tool to have in your pocket. It’s true that creating two versions of the same email will take some time on your part. But done well, it’s worth the extra effort. A/B email testing gives you a lot of info about how best to appeal to your audience. It can also make your email campaigns more successful and get more customers to engage with your brand.

Email marketing in general can be an extremely lucrative marketing stream. Data shows that every $1 spent results in $36 made with email marketing. Creating strategically written and designed emails will help increase ROI over time. If you need help with newsletters management or writing automated sequences, send us a message and we’re here to help! 

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