3 tips for effective email testing

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Marketers may be committed to testing their email programs, but there is still much work to be done, according to unpublished research by Experian Marketing Services. The company in May sent out a market survey to more than 200 clients with day-to-day email marketing responsibilities. With more than a 50% response rate, Experian was able to glean specific metrics about testing in particular, said Liz Gould, director of strategic accounts, cross-channel marketing at Experian Marketing Services. Some good news from the research: This year, 98% of respondents surveyed said they test subject lines, with 62% of those reporting that subject-line testing had the most impact on their marketing programs. Call-to-action testing stood at 63%. In other positive news, 88% of respondents said they test creative, while 69% reported testing time of day. The bad news, however, is that only 15% of respondents said they are doing multivariate testing, and just 21% said they are testing the "from" field. Below, Gould details three must-dos for effective email testing.
  1. Use a significant test pool. Figuring out what's statistically significant requires a commitment to test a large group and to test frequently. One-offs or small testing pools won't show trends or give an accurate picture of results.
  2. Make sure everyone is onboard. "Just doing testing without having a plan of action won't help you a lot," she said. "Sometimes creative teams don't want to go forward and utilize results." A good strategy is to tell other stakeholders about the testing and ask for their input when designing and launching the testing programs, Gould said. She cited a customer that tested mobile designs but faced resistance after requesting that a button replace hyperlinked words. "The creative team hated buttons and only wanted things underlined," she said.
  3. Continue to test. Marketing teams sometimes stop testing after they start seeing results improve, but this is a mistake, Gould said. "You can't think like that," she said. Just because something worked once—or even multiple times—doesn't mean that results won't start to wane over time as competitors adopt similar strategies and email habits evolve, she said. "You need to be consistent over time and follow through."
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