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The Science of Email Marketing

Email marketers might not spend their days hovering over microscopes in their white lab coats, but there is a bit of science involved in perfecting your email marketing campaign strategy. Similar to any scientific experiment, there are an infinite number of factors involved in an email campaign that has an effect on its overall performance.

Should you send on a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday morning? What about time of day? Should your newsletter contain two columns or three columns? Should you use a largely image-based email creative or should it consist of primarily text content?

When you put two email marketing experts in the same room, you will get three different answers to the same exact questions. When it comes to marketing to your customer base with such a myriad of different interests, tastes, and buying habits, how will you know what works without testing different variables? That’s where A/B split testing comes in handy.

Life is full of important decisions that are often made in an instant. However, as email marketers, our decisions can have a significant impact on open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. By creating an A/B split test, you can determine first-hand how your database will react to slight tweaks in your email campaign.

What is A/B Split Testing?

A/B split testing involves testing two slightly different versions of the same email creative to two randomly selected, equally-sized groups of your subscriber database. In order to obtain a fresh perspective of your audience and truly understand your email campaign results, it is best to test one variable at a time to fine-tune subsequent email deployments. If you were to send Email Campaign A out at 9amEST Monday morning using Subject Line A, and then send out Email Campaign B at 12pm EST Friday afternoon using Subject Line B, there is no way to determine whether it was the time of send or the subject line that attributed to the difference in your tracking metrics.

A/B Split Testing Example 1

Let’s say you want to test the performance of two different subject lines.

Subject Line A: Time to Discover Summer’s Best Kept Secret

Subject Line B: Experience Summer Like Never Before

With all of the other control variables kept constant (time of send, “from” name, email creative text content and layout, landing page, etc.), we can isolate the experimental variable (subject line) to determine what effect it has on performance. If Subject Line B surpasses Subject Line A in click-through rate, and conversion ratio, there is an obvious winner. Utilizing Subject Line B for the remainder of the campaign will, statistically speaking, result in steady improvements for each subsequent blast.

A/B Split Testing Example 2

How about if we were to change gears and proceed to test two different call to actions within the same body copy?

Call to Action A: Book Now & Receive a $60 Food & Drink Voucher

Call to Action B: Book Now & Receive $60 Toward Your Hotel Booking

In this case, you will utilize the same, high-performing subject line above, “Experience Summer Like Never Before,” but slightly tweak the call to action in the body of the email. Sending to two random samples in your database will give you insight into whether your database is incentivized more by food & drink savings or by a discount on their room reservation. If you find that a larger percentage of your existing customers book using Call to Action B, you know that your hotel guests would rather receive savings on their room rather than vouchers toward their restaurant and bar bill.

One Test at a Time

The life of an email marketer is similar to that of a research scientist with fewer test tubes. You will be surprised to find out how a little bit of tweaking, testing, and experimenting can have such a large impact on your bottom line. Don’t gamble with your ROI and make decisions on a whim based on your own personal judgment. Instead, maximize your conversions and subscriber engagement, one test at a time.


Guest Blogger Meredith Thornton
Meredith Thornton is an experienced writer in the online marketing field and specializes in deploying successful email marketing campaigns to drive traffic and build positive brand recognition for small businesses to enterprise level corporations.

Meredith works at Email Answers who offer a unique Guaranteed Opens Email Marketing Program. With this particular program, a number of separate campaigns will be launched until a select number of individuals have received the email in their inbox and opened it, without their images being blocked. Different levels of this program are offered based on each client’s volume specifications. Advertisers will choose the “from” name, the subject lines, and the landing page for each separate email creative offer. This gives them the ability to test different aspects of their campaign until the “winning” email creative has been chosen to use for the balance of the campaign.