Email campaigns are a central pillar of modern digital marketing. The numbers don't lie: 59% of users say emails influence their purchasing decisions, and 80% of business professionals believe email marketing leads to better customer retention. The question isn't whether an email campaign will work- it's how. That's where A/B testing comes in. It will help you design emails that your customer base will be the most likely to respond to and engage with. Here is everything you need to know about A/B testing and how to use it in your next email campaign.

What is A/B Testing?

The basic idea of A/B testing is pretty simple. You have two user groups, A and B. These groups should be randomly selected from your email base. You show each group a slightly different version of your product and see which performs statistically better. A/B testing will give you a solid idea of which version of your product you should use for the general population. In terms of email campaigns, you can use A/B testing to find which emails lead to the most user engagement and drive traffic to your website. You can get a better sense of subject lines, graphics, and wording that leads to the most reads and clicks.

What to Test

The short answer is everything. However, when you run an A/B test, you only want to change one variable between the two versions of your email that you show to users. The variable you choose to change could be:

  • Subject line
  • Customer testimonials
  • Graphics
  • Wording of the call to action

For example, you can create two emails, one with the subject line "50% off sitewide sale!" and the other with the subject line "Don't miss our half-off sale!". The body paragraphs, any photos, links, etc., of the email will be kept identical. Then you send these emails to two groups of your email recipients and analyze which email performs better.

Measuring Success

Creating thorough and measurable criteria is vital for A/B testing to be useful. Set goals for your email campaign that are meaningful and achievable. Benchmarks can include:

  • Improving your previous conversion rate
  • Increasing your email open rate
  • Generating increased site traffic

With each of these, you'll want to define actual ranges of numbers, for example, increase email open rate by 15%.

Analyzing Outcomes

You'll want to track three main data points in email testing:

  • Open-rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Website conversion rate

When you analyze the different versions of your emails, these data points will help you draw definitive conclusions as to which email leads to higher customer engagement. The end goal is ultimately to maximize conversion rates. If you see a significant discrepancy between email click-throughs and conversion, chances are your website and email is sending conflicting messages about sales, promotions, or products.

Best Practices

  1. A/B testing is most effective with bigger datasets, so use your entire email base when you can, or as large a sample as possible.
  2. Run tests simultaneously to minimize time-based factors, and remember only to test one variable at a time.
  3. Trust the data you get from these tests; they may go against your initial intuition. 
  4. You don't have to do this on your own- there are plenty of tools out there to make A/B testing more accessible.

Tools for A/B Testing

Most email campaign software includes built-in tools for A/B testing, like MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Sendinblue. If you don't have access to these tools, you can run it yourself by randomly splitting your mailing list, then manually compare results with data visualization tools like Microsoft Excel or Tableau

If you need help with email campaigns, we are here to help. We have experience with email campaigns and have worked with many software to complete effective testing. Contact us today for a free consultation.