3 Ideas For A/B Testing in Email Marketing

It’s now well proven that email marketing is one of the best digital marketing strategies in terms of return on investment (ROI). If you have any doubt, here are a few statistics that may help:

  • 80% of retail marketers and professionals credit email marketing as their greatest tool for customer retention,
  • Consumers who purchase through email spend 138% more than those who don’t receive orders by email
  • 59% of B2B marketers credit email as their most effective channel for revenue generation

The success of email marketing means that marketing teams are constantly trying to determine the best ways to utilize this tool, and how they can reach their audience in more personal and meaningful ways. One of the tried and true methods is to use A/B testing on your email marketing efforts. Below are three ideas for using A/B testing in your email marketing strategy.


  • Subject Lines


Believe it or not, something as simple as the subject line of an email can have profound impacts on your audience. And if you think about it, it makes sense. You may have extraordinary content in your newsletter that will benefit your readers, however, if a subject line doesn’t entice them to open the message, all can be lost. These “first impressions” are very powerful, and it’s important to get them right.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. In order to make sure you’re getting the best out of your subject lines, consider the following A/B test:

Divide your email distribution list into two separate groups. Send the first group your newsletter with a generic subject line such as, “[Company Name’s] Newsletter”.

Then, send the second group your newsletter with a more descriptive subject line that includes topics from the body of the email. For example, if the articles in your newsletter discuss QR codes, customer service, and best practices for putting on a webinar, the subject line might be “QR Codes, Customer Service, Best Practices for a Webinar and More”.

After sending out the email (and waiting a little bit for your readers to receive and open it), check your data analytics to see if one subject line was opened more frequently and garnished more “click-throughs” than the other.

Remember, the subject line of an email is your first (and often only) chance to get your readers to engage with your material. Take the time to get it right by A/B testing your subject line.


  • Personalization 


Building off of the effectiveness of a well-tailored subject line, we can take that one step further and personalize it. According to a recent study, the single most impactful word that can be added to a subject line is the recipient’s name. However, that same study also reveals that not all attempts at personalization are created equal.

One way to determine how effective you can be with personalization is by A/B testing whether or not adding a first name leads to higher reader engagement. For example, segment your list into multiple groups, then deliver a very general introduction to one group, a more personalized line to another, and finally a hyper-personal message to another.

For the latter, you can use more than a name, and include something like a personalized URL on a direct mail piece. At the end of your campaign, take a look at your analytics and see how recipients responded to the different strategies. (Let us know if they respond more to the generic message – this would be a first for us.)


  • “The Giveaway”


It’s no secret that the main goal for email and direct mail campaigns is to generate leads. Companies want to attract consumers to their product, and hopefully keep them there by building brand loyalty and genuine customer satisfaction. Generally, we’ve found that one of the best ways to attract initial consumers is through some type of giveaway campaign.

The best way to test the effectiveness of “the giveaway” is to run an A/B test to see how it works on your target audience. Take this example of a paving company that split their recipients into three separate groups, and pushed out direct mail accordingly. The three groups were:

  1. Received a direct mailer that contained an offer for a gift card to an ice-cream shop.
  2. Received a direct mailer that contained an offer for a DVD and informational kit on the paving company’s products.
  3. Received a direct mailer that contained no special offer whatsoever.

In this case, the paving company had more replies from people that received the DVD and informational kit on their company. Surprised? So were they. But the A/B test showed them something they didn’t expect, and they were glad they ended up running the test.

Are you curious as to how your target audience will respond? There’s only one way to find out…start testing!