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5 Rules for A/B Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Rule 1: Ask Questions

A/B tests can be an extremely informative tool or a complete waste of your time... it all depends on how you approach your test. Did you take the time to plan out what you actually want to do? One way to plan your test is to think of questions that are applicable to your industry and your brand—questions that may help you get the results you’re looking for. Here are a few questions to get you started:

Question 1: Does adding “shipping included” to the subject line improve the open rate?
Question 2: Which offer has a higher clickthrough rate: using dollar amounts vs. percentage amounts in discounts?

Rule 2: Get Answers

The structure of your A/B tests is KEY to successful performance and opens the door to a world of data and knowledge. Think of test A as the standard approach you have been using, and test B as the option that may perform better or at least give you some insight into how your subscribers react. Set up your test by keeping all factors the same except for the variable that you want to test for.  For example:

Subject line A: Save up to 50% off Your Favorite Bordeaux Blend
Subject line B: Save up to $65 off Your Favorite Bordeaux Blend

This A/B test will strictly test whether your subscribers are more likely to open the email with a percentage discount or dollar-amount savings. Assuming the emails are sent at the same time on the same day, it maintains all factors of the test exactly the same with the only change being the percentage or the dollar amount. In the end, you will be able to determine whether you should stick to dollar signs or percentages!

Rule 3: Think Big 1st

When setting up your A/B test, the best way to approach it is to start with broad insights and gradually work your way into more granular information. Test factors that may apply to all future emails, such as whether to add “shipping included” or to exclude it. Try not to test emails that you are only sending once a year, like your Valentine’s Day campaigns. Here’s a good example:

Subject line A:  94+ Point Wine From $49.99
Subject line B: 94+ Point Wine From $49.99 + Shipping Included

Rule 4: One at a time

Make sure that all aspects of the campaigns are the same for test A as they are for test B, with the exception of the variable you are testing.  This will help ensure that you actually get valid results.

For example, if you want to test what day of the week is best to send, here’s how you would set it up:


Email A
Subject line: Save 10% on all New Releases
Date: Thursday January 15 at 8:00 am

Email B
Subject line: Save 10% on all New Releases
Date: Friday, January 16 at 8:00 am

As you can see, these two emails are exactly the same except for the one variable we are testing—day of the week.  Thus, the only difference is that one email is sent on Thursday and the other one on Friday. If you always remember to only test one item at a time, then you won't go wrong!

Rule 5: Make the adjustments

Once you get your results and you feel comfortable with the outcome, make sure to stick with the winning formula—for a while, at least.  If you now know that adding shipping included in your subject line didn’t yield any additional results, then you should remove it.  This will give you the room to test other variables, come up with new questions, and get into more advanced testing to drive even better results.

Up next? Part 3 in our 5-part series: Be Authentic(ated)


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