5 Essential A/B Tests for Email Marketing

The data to be gleaned from email marketing is powerful and practically endless. Your email channel is your direct window into your actual audience of real customers—what do they respond to, what inspires them, what bores them? What do they WANT? (And...do they like emojis?) But where do you start? Whether you’re just dipping your toes in the testing waters, or have been swimming in the deep end for awhile, here are five A/B tests that you should incorporate into your email strategy ASAP. And remember: Keep. On. Testing!

1. Subject Line

Testing a subject line is one of the easiest ways to improve your open rate and determine what grabs your audience’s attention. There are a variety of ways to test this: do your subscribers respond to short, grabby subject lines or longer, information-rich subject lines? What topics get the most attention? Do your customers respond more to promotions? Does personalization in a subject line make an impact? These are all questions that can be answered by A/B testing those subject lines over and over. (Just be sure you’re testing a true variable, and not just two subtly different ways to say something.)

2. Send Day/Time

When scouring the internet for email marketing tips, you’ll find articles aplenty that tell you the best day and time to send an email newsletter. Ignore them! Yes, there are general trends around when people are checking their email. But the more valuable information is when your subscribers are checking their email, and it varies based on business type, industry, customer demographics, content, and so on. The truth is, the best time to send an email is when your customers are most likely to read it. It might be in the evening, or first thing in the morning. It might be on the weekend. And the way to determine that is to A/B test it!

3. Content

What is email marketing if not content? Testing your content is vital to determining what your subscribers and customers find most engaging. There are many angles to test here, we recommend you start with these:

  • Length: Do your customers engage with shorter or longer content? Are they interested in multiple, short content stories or a deep-dive into a single topic?
  • Voice: Your brand voice is something you’ve spent countless hours getting just right, and you don’t want to compromise it, of course. But email is where you can play with voice a bit and see how it lands. Do your customers respond to the funny, light-hearted side of your brand? Or do they want serious, straightforward email content?
  • Personalization: Do your readers engage more with content that is personalized for them? “Merge tags” or dynamic fields offer an array of ways to customize your content for each individual, beyond just adding their name in an intro. For example, you can include product recommendations based on a customer’s purchase history. You can call out a customer’s birthday, or reference a previous purchase. Don’t assume that this powerful tool will creep out your customers! Personalization is a great way to let your customers know that you care about delivering content that matters to them.

4. Design/Color

When it comes to email marketing, design is just as crucial as content. In general, we know that people respond to emails that are clean, concise, and easy to navigate. But we highly recommend testing your color palettes and layout to determine what your customers engage with. Are they enticed by a bold color palette? Or do they click more when emails are light and bright? Is bold typography engaging or overwhelming? Which images perform best, at what size?

5. Call to Action

Say it with me now: Every email needs a call to action! This is true regardless of your business, industry, or email marketing goals. Why should someone open your email, and what should they do after they open it? If you can’t answer these questions, go back to the drawing board. When you’ve determined your CTA, the next question is how to best communicate it. Test the color of your CTA buttons, word choice, and placement in the email to determine what encourages your audience to take action.

We merge our dedication to innovative strategies and curiosity-driven design to foster growth and elevate brands.

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How To Execute A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy For An Established Ecommerce Brand

We have a long-standing relationship with Bernardo 1946, partnering to drive success on their digital marketing channels with excellent results and ROI. We recently revamped their email marketing channel—read on to see how we knocked it out of the park!

Case Study: Full Service Email Marketing

In less than 3 months, we increased Bernardo’s email campaign-driven revenue by 106%! The brand was looking for an email strategy to increase engagement and revenue within Klaviyo. By designing an email system that reflected their sophisticated, timeless brand and leveraged thoughtful subscriber segmentation, we built an immersive ecommerce experience that benefits both the consumer and the brand.

See The Results

Case Study: Search Engine Marketing & Paid Social

We developed a multi-channel paid media strategy around seasonality, allowing us to deliver a return on ad spend close to 1,000% even in historically slower months. Bernardo needed to stand out in an overwhelmingly crowded footwear market, drawing attention to the quality and craftsmanship of its heritage brand while also appealing to modern digital shoppers. The brand was also hoping to drive consistent seasonal revenue, with a focus on conversions for both iconic best-sellers and newer footwear designs.

See The Results

Impressed? We are too! To browse our services, see our certifications, and learn more about how our work can help take your brand to the next level, click here.

Refreshing Consent & Re-engagement

Keeping your audience both engaged and compliant is one of the most important keys to a successful email marketing program. Doing so ensures you’re reaching people that are interested to hear (and purchase) from you. There are three main steps to maintaining a compliant and engaged audience: 

  1. Gain explicit consent from your audience and refresh that consent when necessary.
  2. Periodically reach out to unengaged users with an enticing email to encourage them to re-engage.
  3. Archive users that do not re-engage after receiving this email, removing them from your regular newsletter and one-time campaign sends. 

Re-engagement should happen continuously, but the exact timing will depend on your audience size, email campaign cadence, and outside factors. In this article, we’ll go over best practices for these three very important steps!

Maintain Proper Consent to Send Emails to Your Audience

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a very strict privacy and security law passed by the European Union, was announced, marketers everywhere scrambled to ensure they were compliant. Soon after, California followed suit with the California Consumer Privacy Act (‘CCPA’), which is a similar regulation to GDPR. It’s rare, but now that we know how to refresh consent, we’re prepared for if anything similar happens in the future.

It’s recommended to regularly check-in on marketing regulations changes so you aren’t stuck flat on your feet when a change in consent regulations does happen. 

Depending on the specific standards you are subject to, like the GDPR, the exact steps you need to take will vary. You may need to send a re-permission campaign (getting people to give their consent again), maintain a double opt-in standard, or store information securely. You’ll want to check the laws that are relevant to your audience, which depends on factors like your industry and where in the world your customers are making purchases from.

Taking these steps is important not only because it’s the law, but because at the end of the day, you want to ensure you’re targeting people who are interested in hearing from you and doing business with you. This is essential to using email as a relationship-strengthening tool with your audiences instead of it becoming a nuisance.

Make One Last Attempt to Re-Engage Your Unengaged Email Marketing Audience

Unengaged audience members drag your KPIs down – it’s a simple fact. Re-engagement campaigns are a great way to, you guessed it, re-engage your unengaged audience members. Here are a few key guidelines we follow when running these campaigns for our clients:

Keep It Simple: 

  • Since these contacts aren’t opening emails, we don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy in making these campaigns flashy. Keep it short and to the point. 

Grab Attention: 

  • We like to use deals, discounts, or promotions in these subject lines and in the body copy to grab the attention of your audience, and entice them to click through and make a purchase. 
  • Since this audience is less likely to engage and to purchase, you can go with a higher-value promo than you typically would to really grab attention.
  • Put your promo (or at least tease it) in the subject line to get as many opens as possible for this campaign.

Send Only to Un-Engaged Members: 

  • You’ll want to narrow this down as much as possible, depending on your audience and your goals. This will usually mean sending only to people that haven’t engaged with your emails for 6 or 12 months, though it will vary depending on how much you’re looking to trim down your audience. 

There are a few ways to go about this, and your platform is a great place to start. At Good & Gold, we use MailChimp and Klaviyo, both of which have great templates for creating an email and a relevant segment as a jumping off point.

Remove Un-Engaged Users That Do Not Engage with Your Last Attempt to Reach Out

Your final step will be to archive (or “sunset”) users that don’t engage, even after you send that super-enticing last campaign. Those who do not interact with emails for a prolonged period of time are unlikely to start engaging again and will drag down your KPIs, so it’s best to part ways on good terms! Some platforms have this worked into the automated flow, and some require a manual process – you’ll want to check with your specific platform for their recommended best practices on how to do this.

Remember, staying compliant and maintaining an engaged audience results in a happy audience that’s more likely to make purchases – and that means a happy marketing team and a growing business! It’s a win-win…win!

A Gallery of Email Templates

Over the past year, we've had the privilege of working with LOTS of wonderful clients on their email marketing programs. And though email marketing strategy is about much more than design, we love the process of developing and executing great design systems for email. For us, the challenge of creating something eye-catching and compelling within a notoriously restrictive system is hard to beat. Scroll on for a gallery of email templates we created this year.

1) Clean & Simple

In many cases, less is definitely more for email design. We've found that simple and consistent emails using native HTML render perfectly on all clients and convert well.

👍 Pros of simple templates:

  • Always responsive
  • Adapt well in dark mode
  • Convert well
  • Easy to read
Prank-O Email Marketing Template
Zupan's Markets email template

2) Highly Branded

We use highly branded emails to leverage well-established and recognizable brand systems. These often require a bit more pre-production work, as they typically require lots of custom assets to make an impact.  

👍 Pros of branded templates:

  • Communicate strong brand identity
  • Eye-catching graphics
  • Highly recognizable
  • Engaging
Swimply Email Marketing Template
Infinity Images Email Marketing Template
Olympia Provisions Email Marketing Template

3) Modern & Elegant

This year, we've also designed some great templates that use a mix of native HTML and custom assets. In our opinion, this is a great approach, as it allows us to showcase strong brand systems without losing the flexibility afforded by HTML.

Seek & Swoon Custom Email Marketing Template
Sutro Winery Email Template
Tanglewood Bev Co Email Template

Understanding Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Update

As digital marketers, we navigate technology changes all the time. For example, now that Apple has released new privacy features in iOS 15 and Mac OS Monterey like Mail Privacy Protection, we know it's essential to understand how those features will impact email marketing holistically. 

Will Apple’s update make tracking harder? Sure. Will it make your emails any less great? Nope. Since we recently answered your SEM questions, let’s explore Apple Mail Privacy Protection and ways to prepare for it.

What Is Apple Mail Privacy Protection? 

If you're unfamiliar with Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update, it's basically a privacy feature that hides your IP address to block a sender from tracking your location, what you do online, and seeing if you've opened their email. It also prevents a sender from seeing the device you use to open their emails. 

While this sounds like a metrics nightmare for email marketers, privacy updates like these are generally positive in the long run, making it important to adapt.  

How Does Apple's Mail Privacy Protection Impact Emails?

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection features only affect Apple Mail users, and those who’ve toggled the feature within the Mail app. So, for now, you can still track anyone using the Gmail app or others outside of the Apple ecosystem.

Depending on how many of your subscribers exercise their privacy, the impact may vary. This update will, however, cause metrics like open rates, clicks per unique open rate, geolocation, device usage, or anything else captured by IP address to become less reliable or inflated. 

Beyond reporting, Apple’s privacy update could change how you manage segments, resends, A/B tests and automations. For example, automations or resends triggered by non-openers will be a no-go for people using Mail Privacy Protection. Similarly, A/B tests based on open rates like subject lines will become slightly skewed for these users. But remember: open rates aren’t going away. They’re just becoming a little more mysterious or inflated. Metrics like clicks—not clicks per unique visitor—continue to be reliable. 

How Do I Prepare?

The best place to start is taking a look to see how many of your subscribers use Apple Mail. If you’re unfamiliar with how to do that, here’s how in Mailchimp, and here’s a reporting refresher for Klaviyo

Once you have a good sense of how many subscribers are impacted, it’s time to do a little platform housekeeping to anticipate shifty metrics. At Good & Gold, we took Mailchimp’s advice to

  • Stop placing so much emphasis on open rates—they will be inflated, and they were never very reliable. Think of open rates primarily as your tool to test subject lines and send times.
  • Start collecting location info directly from your contacts by requesting that recipients update their profiles or provide zip codes when they sign up.
  • Review audiences and make sure location data, open rates, and other criteria are used appropriately within your segments.
  • Update automations and consider how open triggers will impact flows.
  • Consider using triggers like “did not click” instead of “did not open” when resending to lists with high Apple Mail subscribers.

In a Nutshell...

As daunting as this sounds (or reads), we’re approaching this as an opportunity to continue doing what we do best: create highly engaging emails that generate revenue.