If you’re running any kind of email marketing, A/B testing should be something you’re regularly practicing. A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the process of producing and sending out two of the same email broadcasts to the same audiences, changing one element. For example, you may test out two different headlines, images, structures or call to actions, and see which email performs better.
A/B testing allows you to understand more about what your ideal customer responds well to and what they engage with the most.
But the question is, what to test?
#1 Send Out Times & Days
There’s an obvious correlation between the time of day that you deliver your email broadcast and your open rates and click through rates. Unfortunately, Googling “Best time of day to send out my email” will NOT give you the magic answer. The lifestyle and demographics of your ideal customer avatar will determine which time is best suited for optimum engagement.
For example, if your audience are young parents, you may find that early morning send out times work well as their babies wake early. But if you’re targeting teenagers, early mornings might be a struggle. That’s an assumption, but you can back your assumption up by testing, and providing evidence that favors, or contradicts your hypothesis.
The day of the week is also important for you to test. Think about the lifestyle of your ideal customer avatar, and ask yourself which day would suit best? Test your assumptions to find a conclusive answer.
You also need to consider any other email campaigns and what times and days they are being sent out – as you don’t want to bombard your customers with too much content at once.
Hopefully your email lists are segmented, so that you can choose different send-out times and days of the week depending on their avatar makeup.
As with any A/B testing, you need to test these variables over a course of email broadcasts in order to make any conclusive decisions about which times and days are best suited to your target market and your segments. We suggest a minimum of 10 emails.
#2 Graphic Based vs. Copy Heavy
Another important thing to test is the overall structure and display of your email, and whether your audience prefers emails that are copy heavy, or graphic heavy.
The benefits of graphics is that you can generally capture your audience’s attention faster, and convey information in a more compact and efficient way. Images are interactive, easy to consume and look appealing to the eye (if you’ve got a great designer on your team, that is).
However, the downside of using graphics is that it’s less personal to your reader, it can look overly promotional and ‘sales-y’ and you run the risk of display and loading issues on the reader’s end.
The benefit of using copy is that if’s done well (see our copywriting guide here), then you can capture your audience’s attention just as efficiently as using images. However this is completely reliant on the quality of your copywriting. By using a copy-heavy format, you can personalise your emails more using merge tags and speak directly to the reader.
The main downside to using a copy-heavy format is that people are busy, and if they open a long email they’re not always going to read it.
Take the pros and cons of copy-heavy and graphic-based emails into consideration, and weigh up what you think is the most important to your audience. Test both structures, and see what performs best to inform the structure of your ongoing email campaigns.
#3 Subject Lines
Whether or not your customer opens your email relies almost solely on the subject line.
There are two main types of email subject lines – a blind subject line, and an exposed subject line. A blind subject line is generally more ‘click-baity’ than an exposed one. Blind subject lines draw the reader in with a statement that does not giveaway the offer on the contents of your email. For example, You Wouldn’t Believe This…or This Made Me Cry…
In comparison, exposed subject lines directly reveal the offer inside your email. For example, 50% Off All T-Shirts Starts NOW.
You may like to test a blind subject line against an exposed one, or two different blind, or two different exposed. The more you test your subject lines, the more data you will receive that will suggest which type of copy your customer responds best to.
#4 Your CTA’s
Subtle changes to your CTA’s will impact your click through rates and reveal more about the behaviour of your customer.
For example, email #1’s CTA’s all say “Buy Now” and email #2’s CTA’s all say “See Plans & Pricing”. If email #2 has a higher average click through rate over 10 weeks of emails, it may suggest that your readers are more cautious when it comes to purchasing and price is an critical factor of their decision making process.
Some CTA ideas you could test out:
“Learn More” vs. “Sign Up Now”
“Sign Up” vs. Subscribe”
“Try for Free” vs. “Learn More About Our Free Trial”
“Join Us” vs. “Become a Member”
You may like to test out different variables in your CTA’s as well, such as button vs. links, lowercase vs. capitalization or button colours and styles.
How To Go About Testing?
Now that you know what to test in your email marketing, you need to come up with a plan of what variable you’ll test first, how long you’ll test it for and a system to record the data on the two different emails and the chosen variable.
Remember for you results to be accurate, you can only test one variable at a time. We recommend setting up a spreadsheet that tracks the deliverability, open rates and click through rates of your email tests so that you can see the results all in one place.
Once you’ve tested a variable over a minimum of 10 emails and worked out which performed better, stick to the winning variable and move onto testing the next.
A/B testing is an ongoing process, but it’s something that needs to be done if you want to connect with your audience better and drive more engagement and sales for your business.