Email Marketing Holiday Testing

Published on November 14th, 2011 | by Colleen Corkery

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Take a Walk into a Testing Wonderland

Testing for the HolidaysThe word “test” has a natural, negative connotation – it can evoke fear, anxiety, and/or spontaneous outbursts of crying (or maybe that’s just me?), and there’s even a technical term for the fear of tests called “Testophobia.” However, testing in the world of email marketing has quite the opposite effect. According to Anne Holland’s WhichTestWon.com, “A/B and multivariate testing can – on average – help lead generation marketers get 40% more leads…and e-commerce marketers can expect a 20-25% sales lift if they do a round of tests.” This sounds like joyous news to me!

During the holidays, emails in your inbox will also increase by more than 47% (according to the Email Experience Council), so since we’re all sending a little more cheer, it’s the right time to test. Plus, testing is as fun as giving presents (okay, that’s just the nerdy email marketer in me!), easier than losing holiday weight, and gives you invaluable information about your customers. So how in the mistletoe do you test an email? By conducting a very, merry split test. The number of ways you can test an email could be compared to the number of snowflakes in a blizzard – endless. So, start with these basics and you won’t get snowed-in:

1. Subject Line – This is one of the most important aspects of your email to test. If you were in a room full of presents (because this happens often), and could only choose one, which gift would you take? The most interesting, the biggest, the smallest? Either way, it needs to twinkle to catch one’s eye, just like a subject line in an inbox. Try a long vs. short subject line, include a sense of urgency vs. none, add some holiday puns to get into the spirit or keep it simple. The possibilities are endless.

2. Button Text & ColorsCall-to-action buttons can drastically increase your click-through rates. So, if you’re not using them already, jump on that sleigh-like bandwagon. Try changing the colors (green, blue, red, etc.) and/or use holiday-themed buttons (we have some free ones for you). Experiment with the text by including different call-to-action statements like “Get it Now,” “Get 50% Off,” “Save $20,” “Buy Now,” “Add to Cart.”

Buy Now Holiday-themed button
3. Content – The average online readership attention span lasts about 140 characters (hence, why sites like Twitter exist), so similar to your subject line; try long vs. short pieces of content; include testimonials vs. none; change the placement or order of your text and experiment with different writing styles.

4. The Offer – Holiday offers are going to be aplenty, so testing yours will give great insight as to what really stands out in the crowd. Try offering a percentage off the price vs. a dollar amount, or something for free/complimentary vs. reduced. Experiment with a clear call-to-action vs. a description of the offer. If at all possible, try increasing or decreasing the price or discount percentage you’re offering. Also experiment with sale time limits (i.e., two weeks vs. three days).Here are some testing dos and don’ts to try all year long:

  • Do: Test one thing at a time
  • Do: Take some risk
  • Do: Measure & track your results
  • Do: Test often
  • Do: Let us know how you’ll be testing your emails this holiday season
  • Don’t: Stop believing…in how effective and fun email testing can be!

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About the Author

is a Content Marketing Manager and Managing Editor at VerticalResponse.



8 Responses to Take a Walk into a Testing Wonderland

  1. Jonathon Goodell says:

    Jonathon Goodell

    Great post. Awesome.

  2. EL says:

    Hi Ashley, I think you should always be thinking about SEO when working on content. I actually just wrote a post on how best to optimize your blog for just this reason. Check it out here: http://blog.verticalresponse.com/verticalresponse_blog/2011/11/blogworld-expo-10-steps-to-engaging-online-influencers.html

  3. Ashley says:

    How important do you think having content that is SEO rich is to an online business and how does this fall into what you have written here about content?

  4. Jill Bastian - Training and Education Manager, VerticalResponse says:

    Hi Sue,
    Great question! Generally you’ll want a list of at least 1000 to ensure the statistics are relevant. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do testing with a smaller list, you just need to keep in mind the actions of one or two people will have a bigger impact. You can still test subject lines and content to find out what your recipients will respond to better. The DMA has a blog post on how the size of lists impact results. Its very mathy, if you like math, and has tables to help see what list size you need for results.
    http://dmaemailblog.com/2011/07/29/split-testing-sample-size-lookup-table/

  5. Sue says:

    How big of an email list do you need before you start testing? If the list is just a couple hundred people, it seems like more trouble than its worth, and results might not be significant

  6. Sassy Karen says:

    Good points and thanks for the free buttons! And, a bit of humor once in a while makes all the reading we each have to do every day more enjoyable. So, Ho Ho Ho!

  7. EL says:

    Hi Helen, thanks for reading. We do definitely get a bit cheeky in the VR office this time of year! Though it doesn’t sound like you’ll be asking for seconds, hopefully some of the email marketing lessons still came through. Cheers!

  8. Helen says:

    What do the Christmas puns in this blog and the roast turkey on Christmas day have in common?
    There’s far far too much.

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