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A/B Testing In Email Marketing

From my work, I see that marketers can get much more return from the email channel if they apply A/B testing or split testing. In this article you will read why it is important to make some time for this and how you can make good measurements.

What is A/B testing exactly?

First things first. For those who do not yet know exactly what an A/B test or a bucket test is.

Here is a definition: A/B testing is a quantitative research method for comparing two variants, to discover which variant yields the best result. In an A/B test, a test group is divided in two. The first part gets the original (version A) and the second part the version (version B). After the test duration, the other persons from the target group receive the message version that has attracted a higher response in the test.

Why A/B testing?

Why would you test A/B? The answer to this question is simple: measuring is knowing. By performing an A/B test, you get a better insight into your target group and how they respond or act on certain issues. The more insight into their behavior, the better you can tailor a mailing, a landing page or an advertisement to your target group.

Even though the conversion of your mailing, landing page or advertisement is good, there is always room for improvement. By performing A/B tests you discover where you can


What can you apply an A/B test to in email marketing?

Now that you know what an A/B test is and why you should apply this in your online marketing activities, I would like to give you insight into which elements within e-mail

marketing are suitable for A/B testing. These are:

1. Subject line

A subject line is one of the most important aspects of an e-mail. It is (in combination with the snippet) the first thing someone reads. A subject line determines to a large extent whether your recipient opens the e-mail or not (open rate). Elements of a subject line that you can test:

• Whether to personalize or not in your subject line

• The length of your subject line

• The call-to-action in your subject line

• The words you use in your subject line

• Adding symbols or hashtags to your subject line

In general, your subject line should be action-oriented, compelling and preferably short (50 characters or less). Also make sure that the subject line matches the first topic in the e-mail and your call-to-action. This way the recipient does not get the idea that he is being misled.

As a final tip, I would like to draw your attention to the four basic motivators that drive people in their behaviour: fear, greed, status and (self) development.

2. Name of sender

You see more and more often that the sender of a newsletter no longer uses a company name by default, but a personal sender as an employee of a company. You also see that for

example a specific department of a company is used. Whether you have to go for a company name, an employee or department, you can test well with an A/B test.

3. Call-to-action (CTA)

The subject line and sender's name are aimed at getting the open rate of your mailing as high as possible. The CTA (s) in your messages are set up to increase your click

through rate (CTR). You can test the text of the CTA , the place and the style (text links vs. buttons). By testing this thoroughly, you optimize your CTAs for the best results.

4. Layout

The layout of an e-mail consists of a number of things that can all be tested. For all these things, the best in the test leads to a higher click through rate. Without opening you

cannot see the layout, so if you test on elements of the layout, this leads to more or fewer clicks. Which aspects of the layout can you test? These include:

• Whether to include an image(s) in the content article or to go with text only

• Whether to style particular elements of the content copy in bold

• Whether to capitalize certain words in the content copy

• Different font sizes for the body of the email or specific parts of it

• Different font colours for the body of the email or specific parts of it

• Different headlines to be used

• Different places / placements of the sections of the copy in the e-mail (order)

• Different lengths of the e-mail (eg single message vs. three messages)

5. Timing

Finally, you can A/B test the time of the mailing. Testing the sending time of e-mails is the easiest thing you can test. You do not have to change anything about the e-mail, only determine a day and time of sending. On the other hand, the results of the test are the most difficult to interpret, because different factors can influence the result. The moment of sending of one variant is never the same as the other variant and in the meantime millions of things may have happened so that one mail is better opened

and clicked than the other.


Go to the test elements above and test what works best for you. It may just be that you get a big profit through a small adjustment in the e-mail. By performing A/B tests you learn from the results of your test groups and apply the best practices for even better e-mail marketing results.

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