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A/B Tests to Boost Email Marketing Results for Ecommerce

With all the bells and whistles digital marketing channels seem to be offering nowadays, email still takes one of the top spots in terms of efficiency. The best proof is the fact that open rates for retail are still at a consistent 13.9%.

But although email marketing has great potential, it’s also important to note that open and clickthrough rates are slowly dropping in the retail industry. The reason behind this is the sheer amount of competition. With more than 100 billion consumer emails being sent every day, it comes as no surprise that a lot of the messages get lost in the process.

For ecommerce and retail businesses, this means that there’s a real need for the optimization of email marketing campaigns. The best way to do just that? Testing followed by data-backed decision-making.

If you’re looking to boost the results of your campaigns, here are the top ways A/B testing can help you reach your conversion goals.


What is A/B Testing?

There are several ways to test your emails, and the most important thing you need to know is the difference between A/B and split testing. Many resources will use the terms interchangeably, but there are key differences you should be aware of.

Split testing means that there are two distinctly different emails you send as a part of the same campaign, aiming to see which one performs better. While useful for testing visual branding, split testing doesn’t necessarily provide the type of insight you need to make data-based decisions for your marketing strategies.

A much more insightful way forward would be to perform A/B tests. With this kind of testing, you’re sending out emails that are identical, save for one detail. That allows you to see whether version A or version B of this detail works better for your goals.

What’s important to remember about A/B tests is that they’re much more precise than split testing methods. However, as you should only change one single element per email, they can also be time-consuming.


Elements to Test

Now that you’ve got an idea of what A/B testing is, it’s time to think about the different elements you can experiment with. The following are some of our top suggestions for boosting the results of your ecommerce email marketing campaigns.


Opt-in Forms

The first step to having email marketing campaigns that convert is going to be a lead generation strategy that gets you in contact with your target audience. This means that the website elements you want to optimize for maximum success are going to be your opt-in forms.

There are many ways you can create lead magnets on your website. There’s the standard “Stay Connected” section most brands will put at the bottom of their homepage, like the one used by Zoma.

Zoma screenshot
In general, however, the ones that work best tend to be the ones that offer a reward the customer gets when they sign up for your newsletter.

They’re quite common and can be found in many forms and shapes. You can go with more standard practices, such as the one used on the Atkin and Thyme website. 

Atkin & Thyme opt in page

You can also go with something a bit more engaging, such as the spin-to-win opt-in form by Runners Athletics. While both options can be an excellent choice, it’s important you go with the one that performs better with your audience.

Runners Athletics black and white spin to win wheel doubling as an opt in form
The great thing about all these types of sign-up forms is that, with A/B testing, you can make incremental changes and see whether anything you do leads to better results. You could change the gift that you offer, make alterations to the wording (such as adding a timer for a sense of urgency), or even experiment with color schemes so that the element pops on your homepage and landing pages.

What’s important to remember, however, is that you should leave the test run for at least a couple of weeks, or at least until you’ve got a solid amount of web traffic.


Subject Lines

It’s well-known that first impressions have a significant impact on the effectiveness of marketing messages.

The first thing your potential customers will see in their inbox is going to be the subject line. So, you want to choose one that’ll immediately grab their attention.

You can experiment with length and wording, but it’s also a good idea to test what type of subject line results in the most opens, website visits, and conversions.

Some marketers, for example, prefer to use questions in the subject line, as seen in the example below by WearMoi. Others, however, like getting straight to the point, such as in the case by Hard Rock. They will give users a teaser of what’s in store once they open the email.


Body Copy

Unsure about how best to communicate your unique value proposition? By testing the body copy of your emails, you can identify the tone, wording, and even layouts that result in the highest CTRs and conversions.

For example, if you take a look at this welcome email from Gili Sports, you’ll see that it contains several blocks of content. What would be worth testing, however, is the layout.

Gili Sports welcome email
The giveaway section is sure to generate the most interest, but its top position is questionable. The idea behind the giveaway is that every subscriber who signs up for the newsletter gets the chance to win a free paddle board. The thing is, however, that the brand’s main objective isn’t to give their products away but to sell them.

With this in mind, it might be worth testing these two aspects of the email body:

  • Would placing the “Shop Now” section in a more prominent position result in a higher conversion rate?
  • The email is slightly too wordy for most users, so it would be advisable to experiment with section length. 


CTA Buttons

Calls to action will be essential if you want to inspire your subscribers to do something, whether that’s following your social media profiles or buying your latest product. 

However, despite the abundance of advice going around on how to design CTA buttons, you must remember that your branding and your audience require personalized solutions.

For example, companies will often use phrases like “Read more” or “Learn more” when sending content. Nonetheless, it’s worth trying out more creative solutions, such as the ones used by Adidas Runtastic below.

Adidas Runtastic screenshot depicting CTA

You can also use a dynamic QR code as the CTA using a QR code generator to test the effectiveness of the CTA.


Send Time

Another important thing you should test is the timing of when you send out the emails. Use an email sequencing tool to send all the emails at the right time when your users are online. While your newsletter client will provide analytical data about when your messages were opened by subscribers, it’s worth checking whether sending at a specific time will increase visibility, and consequently, the likelihood of opens and clicks.

For example, sending at 2 a.m. may not work as well as sending at 8 a.m., as the position of your email in customers’ inboxes will depend on when other brands they’re subscribed to send their messaging. The last thing you want is your emails to be buried under a bunch of communication from your competitors, right?


Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many different ways to use A/B tests to boost your email marketing results. As most clients offer the ability to test two, three, or more variations, you’re sure to find the practices that work best for your brand. Keep in mind, however, that small lead lists won’t often give you all the insight you need.

So, if you’re just getting started with your email marketing efforts, it’s worth emphasizing that you should keep at it for at least a couple of campaigns. That is, until you’ve got a solid amount of data to base your decisions on.


AUTHOR BIO: John Hurley became fascinated with online business and technology at an early age. And loves to geek out on technology and strategies used to grow online businesses

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