Creating Email Marketing Strategies that Convert: Guide to A/B Testing

Newsletters and email campaigns are a great way to establish rapport with potential and existing customers and improve brand loyalty.

This is because for email campaigns, you’re targeting a sort-of pre-qualified base:people who are willing to receive information from you. It’s likely that most of these people have already conducted business with you, and as we know, retaining old customers is much easier and cheaper than getting new customers.

This is why it is extremely important to conduct A/B tests if you want to try out new layouts of techniques on your email marketing campaigns.


When done correctly, email marketing can greatly improve conversion rates that will significantly raise your bottom-line especially held against other marketing efforts of similar cost. Read on to learn how to conduct a successful email campaign A/B test.

5 Essential elements of Email marketing strategies:

Deciding what to test

The first step when setting up a A/B testing protocol is making a decision on what parameters to test. You may want to test two or more things simultaneously to save time, but the best test procedures are those which measure one characteristic at a time. For instance, you may want to test the following:

  • Call to action phrasing
  • Email title/subject lines
  • Whether or not to include testimonials
  • Message layout – number of columns, placement of various elements etc.
  • Email greeting and personalization
  • Email headlines
  • Body texts
  • Closings
  • Presence, number and positioning of images
  • Specific offers

Each of the characteristics listed above has some impact on the conversion process at different stages. The call to action for instance, will directly impact the number of people that will click through to your landing page or buy your product or service.

The email title or subject line will affect the number of people who will actually open your email to begin with.

When you’re deciding which characteristics to first test, bear these differences in mind. If you’re not getting people to open your emails, you may want to begin with subject line optimization.

Start with the more important aspects (make greatest impact to conversion) working your way down. For instance, your call to action phrasing and headlines will have greater impact on conversion compared with images or body text.

Deciding your test groups

In many cases, you may want to test your entire subscriber list. This will give you a more accurate picture of the way your email subscribers respond to any new email campaign aspects. In certain instances though, it may not be prudent to test through the entire list, for instance:

  • When you have a large subscriber list, and the A/B testing service you’re using charges by number of addresses tested. Here, you can go for the largest sample size you can afford, selecting randomly to get the most accurate results
  • When you’re trying something extreme. You’ll want to limit the reach of this strategy in case it goes awry. Nonetheless, test with as many people as you can risk, a few hundred or a few thousand depending on how big a list you have.
  • When running limited-time offers and are looking to convert as many as possible in that time. You can first go for a small test sample, and then send the winning offer to the entire list.

In all cases, you get more accurate results by testing larger samples.

Ensure that the split is done randomly, as picking recipients from two different sources of hand-picking recipients can skew your results. Your goal is to gain insight on which version of the A/B test material works best.

Defining test success

Before sending out the email versions, you should have decided what parameter you’re testing for, and how you will measure success or lack thereof. The first step is to analyze your previous results. If you’ve been applying the same email marketing strategy for a long time, you have a sizeable data pool to look through. If you have a historic conversion rate of 10 percent, your goal might be to increase it to 15 percent for starters.

email marketing strategies

Of course, your goal for the initial A/B test might be to get more subscribers to open your emails. Here, you should look at your previous open rates, and then determine the level of improvement that you’d like to see.

If the first set of A/B tests doesn’t give you that number, try two other variations and run another test.

A/B testing tools

Majority of the email marketing management software come with tools for A/B testing, such as Active Campaign, Aweber and Campaign Monitor.

If your campaign management software doesn’t include tools for A/B testing, you can manually set it up. Simply divide your mailing list into two and then send each version email to each group.

You’ll have to manually compare your results, but you can export the data to a spreadsheet to make this easier.

Analyzing your results

After you’ve run your test using the two email variations, you will need to look through the results. Some of the parameters of interest might be the open rates, click through rates and conversions rates for those that visit the website.

Your interest in the open and click-through rates is obvious, but why would you want to track conversion rates in the website?  Isn’t it beyond the reach of the email campaign?

Well, that’s both true and untrue.

In the ideal setting, your email shouldn’t impact the conversion rates once a subscriber comes to your site. However, if one variation has click-through rates of 10 percent and the other 15 percent, you’d expect to see that the second variation also results in 50 percent more conversions.

It doesn’t always work out like that. This is why it’s important to check the third parameter, as it will prove whether or not your email messaging is consistent with your website message. If your website doesn’t echo what’s on your email, visitors may get peeved or confused and leave.


Now you have a complete guide to carrying out an accurate A/B test. The following are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Test email variations simultaneously to avoid interference from time-based factors
  • Test larger samples for more accurate results
  • Use the empirical data rather than your assumption for how the test should have turned out
  • Use available tools to enable faster and easier testing
  • Test often and early in a campaign strategy to track response
  • Test a single variable at a time

Want to share any other Email marketing strategies or do you wanna share your experience with Email campaign A/B testing? Let us know in the commenting section below.

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