9 Best A/B Testing Practices for Assured Success in Email Marketing
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Jasmine Handa
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9 Best A/B Testing Practices for Assured Success in Email Marketing

Published : May 18, 2023

Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses to reach out to their target audience, and a marketer can make it even more effective by using A/B testing.

A/B testing is a method of comparing two different versions of an email campaign to see which one performs better. Regularly testing different variables will help you keep up with changing trends and preferences among your audience, and analyzing your results will help you refine your approach over time. For instance, testing different calls-to-action (CTAs) can help identify which CTAs lead to higher click-through rates and conversions.

This article talks about nine A/B testing best practices for email marketing, and highlights a few success stories and statistics.

1. Identify your goals

Before you plan an A/B test, it is crucial to identify your goals. What do you want to achieve with your email campaign? Are you trying to increase open rates, click-through rates, or conversions? Once you have identified your goals, you can create two versions of your email that differ in a specific aspect, such as subject lines, call-to-action buttons, or images.

2. Choose a single variable to test

When conducting an A/B test, it is essential to test only one variable at a time. If you test multiple variables at once, it will be challenging to determine which variable had the most significant impact on your results. For example, if you want to test the effectiveness of different subject lines, you should only change the subject line and keep all other email elements the same.

3. Use a large sample size

To get accurate results from an A/B test, you need to use a large enough sample size. If you test your email on a small group of people, your results may not be statistically significant. A good rule of thumb is to test your email on at least 1,000 subscribers.

4. Test both versions simultaneously

To ensure that external factors do not skew your results, test both email versions on the same day/time.

Example: If you test one version of your email on Monday and the other on Friday,  your results may be affected by differences in subscriber behavior on those days.

5. Test on different segments

Different segments of your email list may respond differently to your emails. To understand how your emails perform, you should test them on demographics, engagement levels, geographic area, past purchases, position in the sales funnel, personal interests, and other segments.

6. Measure your results

Once you have conducted your A/B test, it is essential to measure your results. Look at the metrics relevant to your goals, such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. Compare the results of the two versions of your email to determine which one performed better.

7. Analyze your results

After you have completed your A/B test, analyze your results for actionable insights. Look for patterns and trends in your data to identify what worked and what didn’t. Use this information to refine the content, segmentation, and send time optimization of your campaign, to improve its performance.

8. Keep testing regularly

A/B testing is not a one-time process. To continue improving your email marketing efforts, you should test different variables regularly. This will enable  you to keep up with changing trends and preferences among your audience.

9. Be patient and persistent

A/B testing takes time and patience. You may need to run several tests before you hit the winning formula for your email campaigns. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Keep testing and refining your approach until you find what works best for your target profile.

Success Stories that leveraged the above best practices:

  • Barack Obama’s presidential campaign
  • One of the most famous examples of A/B testing in email marketing comes from Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012. The campaign used A/B testing to optimize its email fundraising efforts and increased email sign-ups by 20% and donations by 49%.

    The campaign tested a series of variables including subject lines, sender names, and email content. For example,  the effectiveness of different subject lines, such as “Hey!” versus “Join me for dinner?” was tested. It was found that the subject line “Hey!” had a higher open rate than “Join me for dinner?” and the “Hey” was used in subsequent emails.

  • Airbnb
  • Airbnb used A/B testing to optimize its email campaigns and increased bookings by 30%. The company tested multiple variables, including subject lines, sender names, and email content.

    One successful test involved the use of personalized recommendations in the email content. Airbnb found that personalized recommendations increased click-through rates by 5% and implemented that feature in the following emails.

  • Grammarly
  • Grammarly is a digital writing assistant that helps users improve their writing skills. The company used A/B testing to optimize its email campaigns and increased click-through rates by 20%.

    Grammarly tested a range of variables, including subject lines, sender names, and email content. One successful test involved the use of animated GIFs in the email content. Grammarly found that the use of animated GIFs increased click-through rates by 26%, and implemented this feature in later emails.

    In addition to using A/B testing to optimize email campaigns, Grammarly uses machine learning algorithms to personalize email content based on user behavior. This approach has helped the company to achieve impressive results, with open rates as high as 40% and click-through rates reaching 20%.

  • Netflix
  • Netflix is another company that has used A/B testing to optimize its email campaigns. The company tested diverse variables, including subject lines, sender names, and email content.

    One successful test involved the use of personalized recommendations in the email body. Netflix found that personalized recommendations increased click-through rates by 30% and implemented this feature in subsequent emails.

    Netflix has also used A/B testing to optimize its email frequency. The company found that sending fewer emails resulted in higher engagement, and consequently reduced their email frequency.

    Nine statistics that highlight the importance of A/B testing in email marketing:

    • A/B testing can increase email click-through rates by as much as 300%. (Source: HubSpot)
    • A/B testing can increase email open rates by up to 49% and click-through rates by up to 73%. (Source: Campaign Monitor)
    • Only 17% of marketers use A/B testing for their email campaigns. (Source: HubSpot)
    • A/B testing can increase email click-through rates by up to 40%. (Source: Optimizely)
    • A/B testing can lead to a 37% increase in open rates and a 102% increase in click-through rates. (Source: Mailchimp)
    • Companies that A/B test their emails generate 18% more revenue than companies that don’t. (Source: HubSpot)
    • A/B testing can increase click-through rates by up to 103%. (Source: Experian)
    • A/B testing email campaigns resulted in a 127% increase in click-through rates for the winning variation. (Source: Smart Insights)
    • A/B testing email subject lines resulted in an average increase in open rates of 42%. Additionally, testing email send times resulted in an average increase in open rates of 23%. (Source: Econsultancy)

    Wrapping it up

    A/B testing is a powerful tool that can help businesses optimize their email campaigns for maximum impact. Brands can identify the elements that resonate most with their audience by testing different variables, such as subject lines, sender names, and email content. They can also use it to test different email designs and layouts. It will help determine which design elements, such as images, colors, and fonts, find affinity with the email recipients.

    While A/B testing is an essential part of email marketing, it is not a substitute for the basics: engaging subject lines, creating valuable content, and maintaining a hygienic mailing list.

    A/B testing should be used in conjunction with other email marketing best practices, such as segmentation and personalization, to create effective campaigns that drive engagement and revenue. As the above success stories and statistics show, A/B testing can make a significant difference in the performance of email campaigns. It should be an essential part of every marketer’s toolkit.

    Netcore can help you take the right approach to A/B testing as a powerful tool for driving engagement and boosting revenue from your email campaigns.

    Netcore has an unparalleled success record in email marketing. For the second year in a row, Netcore received the highest overall customer rating as a customers’ choice in the 2022 Gartner Peer Insights’ Voice of the Customer’ Report.

    We are leaders in the email deliverability and transactional email space, and the world’s most recommended ESP as ranked by G2.com. We have  also been recognized as “Ahead of the curve at applying AI to marketer workflow” as per The Forrester Wave™: Email Marketing Service Providers Report 2022. 

    Connect with us to understand how you can benefit from our expertise and experience – we send over 20 billion emails a month on behalf of 6500+ businesses across 40 countries.

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    Written By: Jasmine Handa