Why You Should A/B Test Your Next Email Marketing Campaign

Every client’s goals are different but there’s a standard practice that’s sure to deliver results: A/B testing.

It’s a simple concept: send out multiple versions of an email to see which one performs the best. Platforms like MailChimp and Campaign Monitoroffer extensive A/B testing options. You can change a hero image, blocks of copy, the headline, the color scheme, delivery times, or pretty much anything you want. It’s immensely useful in nailing down the most effective email format, particularly during the beginning stages of a campaign.

Both MailChimp and Campaign Monitor will walk you through how to set up an A/B campaign and let you choose your criteria. These platforms are designed for ease-of-use and allow you to segment your audience based or previous activity (another variable you can A/B test).

After delivery, you can compare useful metrics like clickthrough rates, open rates, unsubscribes, and more from a few reports the platforms provide. You’ll also see exactly where users clicked in your email. So, for example, if you’re testing a linked above-the-fold image, and Version A receives a four percent higher click rate than Version B, you’re probably best served to mimic a photo like that in the future. (It’s a general best practice to test only one variable per email blast.)

You’d be surprised how a tiny thing, like the typeface inside a button, will change a clickthrough rate. And we’ve had campaigns where slightly altering the subject line from a teaser into a question more than tripled the open rate. (Needless to say, we didn’t use a subject line without a question again for that campaign.)

It’s a very basic model which means it’s relatively easy to understand the results. But that doesn’t diminish their value. The fact that they’re so accessible means even a beginner can come up with a strategy, design and send an email, and see real-time results spelled out in black and white.

The larger your audience, the more credible your insights will be. And one of the best ways to grow your audience is to A/B test email after email after email to deliver something that is tightly-worded, aesthetically pleasing, touches all the relevant keywords, and appeals directly to your campaign goals, whether that’s sales, donations, sign-ups, etc. Bottom line: regularly tested campaign emails will lead to higher conversion rates. And that’s the goal, after all.

One parting thought: make sure you always listen to the data. It’s empirical—use it.