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The Most Important Elements to A/B Test in Email

a/b test email campaigns

In our Email FAQs series, we answer your email marketing questions! In this episode, Daniel Kohn, the Founder of SmartMail, answers this email marketing question he gets asked all the time by online retailers: What elements should I A/B Test in my emails?

You put tons of work into creating and implementing a winning email marketing strategy for your eCommerce business. But what should you be testing to ensure your emails are optimized for conversion?

Watch the video below to find out what the most important elements are to A/B Test in email. You can also read the full article or listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.

Hi there. Welcome back to another episode of eCommerce Email FAQs. My name is Daniel Kohn. And today’s question that we’re gonna be looking at is, what is the most important element of email to A/B test?

A/B Test Subject Lines to Improve Open Rates

Now, A/B testing is something that everybody should be doing, because most platforms make it available really easily. If you wanna drive more value and get more success out of your email campaigns and email marketing in general, then you wanna be doing A/B testing.

The way I like to look at A/B testing is that you have the actual subject lines and you have the body content of the email itself. Now, subject lines are directly related to your open rates.

So if you need and you’ve identified that you need to improve your open rates, then you need to really be A/B testing your subject lines.

What to Test to Increase CTR in Email

If you’re getting decent open rates, but you’re seeing the people aren’t quite clicking on your emails, then what you wanna do is A/B test your body copy, and they’re the two main metrics that you really wanna be paying attention to when it comes to A/B testing.

If we sort of carve out the subject line part first, usually what we find is, with subject lines, if you’re just always emailing the same kind of subject line, like, “This week’s specials are…” or, you know, you got the date, you know, “Weekly specials,” it does get a bit boring, it does get a bit obvious.

And what you wanna do is kinda like a pattern interrupt with people. So if you’re used to sending the same things, start testing questions, or statements, or, you know, things like, “What do you think about these products?”

You know, when you ask a question like that, it kind of arouses curiosity.

So you try and start thinking of subject lines that you wanna test that might be, you know, different to what you’re normally sending, and try to make them revolutionary different so there’s, like, a patent interrupt, so it’s like a break.

And they weren’t really expecting that, and they didn’t think it was gonna be just another newsletter.

So that’s the first thing that you wanna start looking at with testing subject lines.

Tips for A/B Testing Subject Lines

One of the things that we have found over and over again when testing subject lines is that you wanna keep price possibly out of the equation. So if you’re promoting specific products in your subject lines, stay away from price, and maybe test with and without price.

That’s always a good thing to test, because sometimes markets are very price-sensitive, and if you leave price out, it, again, creates that intrigue. So you wanna leave the price out.

And then the other thing that I would strongly suggest doing is googling, you know, top subject lines for eCommerce and see what the results are, and there are so many articles.

But when it comes to A/B testing and email marketing in general, you wanna have really good subject lines up your sleeve. And what you wanna do is over time you wanna rotate your subject lines and start figuring out which subject lines work well, but you don’t wanna keep using the same one over and over and over again.

So you wanna find, you know, your top 10 if you’re emailing at least once a week and then rotate those subject lines. And then once you feel like you’ve got a good set of subject lines, then start A/B testing them again and continuously going on that cycle to improve and change out subject lines.

So that’s how basically I would approach A/B testing with subject lines.

How to A/B Test Email Copy

If it’s the click-through rates that you’re looking to improve, and that’s, again, related to the body copy of your emails, then what I would start looking at are a couple of things. Like I said, price in subject lines. I’d look at testing price as well in the body copy.

Many times we’ve removed price, and it actually helps a lot in terms of click-through rates. The other thing I would start doing is A/B testing, not just the body copy, but maybe the segments, so maybe testing a segment of buyers and clickers as opposed to a segment of just everybody and starting to see and creating unique segments for different people on your list, maybe people who have bought from you before versus people who haven’t bought from you before, and trying to sort of see if you can generate better click-through rates that way as well.

Setting up Your Email A/B Tests

So I would actually test segments, and that’s something relatively easy that you can do and set up inside platforms like MailChimp.

And we have, you know, products like the ChimpExpress that we sell. Hopefully, there’s some marketing material maybe around the website that might help you figure out how to do some of these things much easier inside MailChimp, because we do have programs for that.

Testing Imagery in Email Campaigns

But the other thing that I would test with body copy is imagery and minimizing the imagery, and the other thing that I would test as well, like, minimizing imagery versus, like, more text, so text base versus image base and seeing if there’s much of a difference, because sometimes an audience might be more aroused by images.

And by images, I don’t mean specifically products, but I mean, like, using body copy. Some people much prefer just an image with products, and some people much prefer reading things and then seeing some images.

A/B Test Email Length and Content

The third thing I would test in body content that we see a big difference in is sometimes the size of the email itself.

So if you have, like, say, five or six scrolls of product versus one or two of product, then you wanna test that as well and start to see, you know, which length of email is optimal, because some people in some demographics with products like to just scroll until they see something.

If you put 50 products in your newsletters, that could be okay, whereas some people just wanna see your main deals, your top 10 or your main 5 deals, and that’s it, and if you start to put tons and tons more products, then you’re gonna lose them.

So what you wanna do is also A/B test the length of an email.

And that’s basically the main things that I would look at testing in terms of improving the click-through rate as well.

Test Confidence Builders in Email Campaigns

The other thing as well that I think is really important to test, it’s probably more secondary, but it’s having confidence-building imagery, so having templates with imagery at the bottom maybe that gives people three reasons why they should shop with you versus not having that imagery.

I don’t think that usually makes a massive difference, but sometimes it can make a difference.

If you’re selling high-ticket items, if you’re selling something that costs over $1000, then maybe that’s something that is really important. It’s part of the sales process that people need to feel more comfortable with your returns policy.

And if you keep sort of redefining that in all of your marketing messages, including your emails, it might actually improve your click-through rate and overall performance of your email campaigns.

Email Marketing: You’re Always Selling Your Online Store

That’s something that might be more, you know, specific to different brands. If you’re just selling regular consumable base products, then maybe that’s not something that you wanna be testing, but it really is something that you should be having in your emails, because, remember, email marketing, you’re still selling.

You’re pitching, and you’re selling. So you always wanna sell on your best foot, and having confidence-building material is always gonna help you sell more products.

So, hopefully, that was helpful in, you know, getting you across A/B testing and email marketing in general, and knowing, you know, and identifying some of the first things that you should be going for.

But, again, with open rates, you wanna be doing A/B testing and testing subject lines with curiosity versus regular. And in body copy, it’s all the things that we were just talking about.

So thanks for watching. Hopefully, this was helpful, and stay tuned for another episode.

ecommerce email marketing template

Listen to the full episode here: