Email & SMS

Email Testing: Beyond The Subject Line

By Tinuiti Team

Testing is an important element of any successful email marketing initiative because it’s the best way to isolate what works and what doesn’t. The unbiased data collected through testing can help you continually optimize your content and creative to build the most effective emails possible.

However, a recent survey from Yesware Blog showed that even though 31% of email programs are tested regularly, almost 43% of email marketers aren’t confident in what elements they should test.

Most often, we default to subject line testing because it’s the easiest to accomplish. But, there are other types of testing, that are often overlooked, that are far more effective and can result in an even stronger lift across more Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

email testing statsBy going beyond the subject line, you can discover optimizations that can impact more than just open rate.

For example, testing with click, conversion, or even average order value in mind as the primary success metric can isolate undiscovered opportunities to drive significant lift, helping you to send better, enhanced emails that your subscribers will respond to.

Why Test?

Many people ask, “Why test?” More appropriately, however, it might be best to ask, “Why assume?”

Email testing eliminates opinion and encourages teams to listen through user interactions. It diminishes debate because you aren’t leaving room for questions; rather, you’re presenting clear evidence that makes it easy to see what your customers and prospects really want from their emails. The result is a clear direction for email marketers via data-driven decisions.

The Cycle of Testing

Testing is a mindset, not an event. Tests shouldn’t occur in isolation or as a knee-jerk quick-fix to solve differing opinions. Instead, create a holistic optimization plan. Think carefully about what you need to accomplish and leverage testing to get there

In the cycle of testing, start with a basic email, then test its important elements.  Try limiting to one variable with each test iteration so you can clearly identify the change that drove the success for easily adjustable strategy in your marketing and on your site.  Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of what your customers really want.

cycle of email testingSo often, we see brands test continuously, but get caught in the riptide and stall.  At predetermined intervals, integrate successes as part of your overall email marketing strategy.  

I personally recommend choosing a date each month to review all testing results and insights. On that date, decide on at least one change you’ll commit to moving forward with.

5 Tips for Success

1. Track all marketing testing, from planning and hypothesis to results, insights, and action items in one document.

2. Review your all-in-one document monthly, before composing your marketing calendar and to decide on updates that can be made across the program.

3. Avoid over-testing so you can move on to further optimizations.  

4. Use a free online statistical significance calculator to measure confidence levels.  Let the data speak for itself!

5. Use 50/50 splits when possible. Avoid 10/10/80 splits as the rapid decision timeline can skew results and favor early opener behaviors.

Measuring Success

Identify a primary goal and KPI success metric for each test. Not all optimizations will increase all KPIs, so make sure you know what you’re testing for to stay focused.  

In some cases, you may discover that your email marketing changes impact different performance indicators than first thought, but always identify the success metric ahead of time to refer back to.  That way, if there are conflicting results (some KPIs up, some KPIs down) you can determine winners.

Use free online tools like Neil Patel’s A/B Testing Calculator or Optimizely’s Sample Size Calculator to ensure that you have appropriate sample sizes for the size of your audience. Be aware of how statistical significance can impact your results. Keep in mind that with the small sample size available in email testing, it can be difficult to achieve statistical significance so considering using a scale like this:

email testing scale

(source, Abby Siciliano, Elite SEM)

3 Click Optimization Tests You Can Try This Month

Are you ready to dive in and try a test on your next email? Here are three easy tests that can drive big results.

CTA Testing
Don’t underestimate the value of CTA testing! Test CTA copy for a generic vs. specific copy.  In the below, the CTAs with product names drove stronger clicks and conversion.  This CTA copy approach gave the email an elevated feel while bringing the subscriber’s attention to the difference in products referenced in the email.

CTA email test

Note: Conversion was +43% in the version marked winner above.

Offer Optimization Test
Offer the same discount, but position it in two ways. In a test of 25% off of $40 vs. $10 off of $40, the 25% off drove stronger KPIs, likely due to the higher number advertised. Enhancing promotions in this way can help subscribers feel confident that they’re getting a great deal in this highly competitive landscape.

offer optimization email test

Layout Testing
How does copy length impact your results? For example, in the test below, less copy with a mystery CTA drove a tremendous lift in clicks.

email layout test

Stay ahead of your competitors and transform your email testing into an optimization plan with clear timelines for implementing successes.  Every aspect of your email can influence the overall performance of the program. Don’t stop testing your subject lines, but keep in mind that email optimization through testing can go way beyond the open rate to translate into substantial traffic and revenue lift.

Learn how Elite SEM leveraged effective email testing and a strong email editorial calendar to help our client, MVMT, achieve seven-figure revenue growth in our case study MVMT Watches Doubles Email Revenue With Innovative Content And Full-Service Strategy.

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