A/B Testing Strategies: How to Optimize Your Approach and Drive More Conversions

A/B testing is the most effective way to raise conversion rates across pretty much every channel. Yet according to Econsultancy, just 38% of companies are actually conducting A/B tests on a regular basis — which gives your brand a golden opportunity to gain market share with more data-informed campaigns.

For the uninitiated, A/B or split testing allows marketers to compare the performance of two or more versions of campaign creative to determine which resonates more strongly and performs best. Whether you’re targeting your CRM customer list or new prospects, split testing results provide insights into creating a better customer experience, so you can ultimately gain more conversions and inform your future campaign strategy.

In an email marketing campaign, each element of your messaging — even some commonly overlooked ones — can significantly impact the conversion process.

For example, we’ve all noticed a marked difference in open rates from one email to the next in a campaign. Can you pinpoint why? That’s the beauty of A/B testing. When you know what’s drawing in your target audience, you can make on-the-fly campaign changes to maximize your results. Is your call to action turning away leads? Maybe it’s your email subject line that’s falling flat. Time to unleash alternate versions to see what makes people click.


Applying science to subject lines in email and more

A/B testing is all about incremental improvement — identifying a variable and applying best practices as well as your knowledge about your audience segment to compare how two different approaches can strengthen your results. It’s especially effective for email marketing in the following areas:

Subject lines. The average person receives 121 emails every day. Your subject line can be the determining factor in whether a message ever sees the light of day. In fact, recent research confirms that 47% of recipients scan the subject line to decide if they’re going to open an email.

So, consider questions like these: Is a particular audience segment persuaded by personalization? Are exclamation points a turn-off? A/B testing can give you answers. Try questions versus statements, emojis over exclamation points, direct and deadline-driven vs. soft selling, or use a short statistic to gauge how open rates are affected.

Headlines. Your headline is the first thing people see when they open your email. If it’s not relevant and attention-grabbing, people won’t bother reading on.  Much like the subject line, test headline versions with varying tones, lengths and levels of persuasion.

Creative. Visual elements play an important role in the success of your email marketing campaign. So, testing images, fonts, colors and header graphics provide straightforward, data-driven insights into what galvanizes a reader to action. You might discover that the font you’re using is sabotaging your open rates, and making one small creative tweak can help change the course of your campaign — for example, testing emojis in your subject line.

Calls to action. Your CTA communicates to readers what you want them to do — now. The text, font, button color, size, shape and of course location can all affect how well it performs. When A/B testing your CTA, be sure to test one variable at a time. For example, if you’re testing a button shape, keep the color and location the same or you’ll muddy the accuracy of your testing.

Forms. Someone’s clicked your email CTA — now what? Landing page and order forms are a science unto themselves, which makes them an ideal candidate for testing:

  • Where the form resides on your landing page
  • How much information is required
  • Creative elements like the font or color used, fill-in lines vs. boxes and similar variables


Lending A/B insights to your multichannel campaign

A/B testing is of course not limited to solely email campaigns. Facebook’s split testing tools, for example, allow you to automatically create A/B tests to evaluate Facebook advertising variables like targeting, placements, creatives and more to see which makes an impact.

The same concept applies to pay-per-click (PPC) and Google Ads. By testing ads regularly with tools like Google Ads drafts and experiments, for example, you can ensure no conversions slip through the cracks. Then, apply the insights gained to your email campaign to round out a smarter, multichannel approach.


Successful A/B testing: It’s all about control

For your A/B testing to yield useful insights, it’s important to consider best practices like these:

Test a single element at a time. As mentioned above regarding CTAs, if you change colors, fonts and/or offers in a single test, you won’t be able to isolate which specific factors are generating lift or depressing response.

Segment your traffic. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Don’t compare visitors from different audience segments. From returning visitors to new prospects, what works for one segment may not work for another. Each segment has its own preferences, and you should communicate to them accordingly.

Keep sample size in mind. While you can’t perfectly segment a test, having a large enough sample size from the segments you’re testing will help give you more accurate results. This number will vary from business to business, but there are online tools available to give you a general idea. As a best practice, we recommend a minimum of 30,000-50,000 names, deployed at least three times.

Consider seasonality as its own variable. Email click rates during the holiday season can differ greatly from a brand’s click rates in April. Think about all the special days throughout the year that influence your buyers’ habits, and consider excluding from testing customer segments that tend to react exclusively at holiday time.

When putting together a digital marketing strategy, it’s critical to identify the email marketing tactics that are most appropriate for your business and its lead generation goals. A/B testing can give you the answers you’re searching for. Find out how Specialists Marketing Services’ digital marketing team can help.


Related Questions

Are the guidelines for A/B testing ads the same as emails?

Yes. You should follow the same best practices for A/B testing across channels. Facebook offers a set of helpful guidelines, including:

  • Focusing on a measurable hypothesis. You’ll have an easier time interpreting results if you define a possible hypothesis before the test.
  • Using an ideal audience. Make sure the audience is big enough to get reliable results.
  • Implementing an ideal time frame. Facebook recommends running your tests for four days, but it’s really up to your discretion.
  • Setting the right budget. Be realistic about what it will cost to determine a winning strategy.


Aside from A/B testing, how can we improve results on our next email marketing campaign?

First, patience is key — response to an email campaign builds over time. We advise clients to budget for a minimum of three emails to make the most of your spend. Then, consider elements like your list quality and source of data. One more aspect to consider is your buyer’s unique journey. The time and actions it takes them to move closer to hitting “purchase” should inform the timing and frequency of your email communications.


[Related: Email Marketing Campaigns — How to Drive Positive Results]