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4 Simple Ways to A/B Test Your Email Subject Lines

By Bluecore Marketing

Although there are several best practices marketers should follow when it comes to A/B testing email programs, sometimes choosing where to start can feel overwhelming. A great way to prioritize which components to test, is to think about the steps a shopper takes to engage with an email. So what’s the first step they take? Opening it.

While there are a few different aspects that can affect your email marketing program’s open rate, perhaps the biggest opportunity to impact this metric’s performance is in the subject line. There are a handful of ways to approach testing this, so to help you get started, here are five thought-starter ideas:

1. Include the shopper’s name

Dynamic subject lines are used to provide personalization before a shopper even clicks into the email, and what’s more personal than someone’s name? Including a shopper’s name in the subject line immediately grabs attention and can potentially earn your email more consideration to be opened. Teleflora tests this tactic in its Cart Abandonment triggered emails with the subject lines, “[First Name], Your Blooms are Waiting” or simply “Your Blooms are Waiting.”

2. Include a product attribute

Another way to use dynamic subject lines is to include product attributes, such as the product name, brand name or category viewed by a shopper. Including this information can help trigger the shopper’s memory about the recent session they’ve had on your site and the specific products they’ve viewed. Jerome’s tests dynamic subject lines with its Cart Abandonment triggered emails by including the product name. In the example above, a shopper can receive an email with the general subject line of, “We Thought You Might Like…” or a dynamic subject line of “[Product Name] and more…” For triggers that engage shoppers higher in the purchase funnel, such as Search Abandonment, marketers should use broader attributes, such as product category or brand name.

3. Ask a question vs. make a statement

For content marketers, using questions as headlines is a go-to tactic for attracting readers. This works well because people’s brains are hard-wired to solve problems, and phrasing headlines as questions tells the reader they must read the article to find the answer. But how does that tactic translate into email subject lines? According to a recent study by Mailchimp, subject lines phrased as questions performed better than similar subject lines that were phrased as statements. As a best practice, be sure your subject line asks a question the reader cannot easily answer, otherwise they have no reason to open your email. In the example above, DermStore tests Cart Abandonment subject lines with a statement, “Take Them Home…” or a question, “Did You Forget Something?”

4. Play with character count

The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) is usually a good methodology for marketers to follow in order to avoid overcomplicating things. Email subject lines are no exception. The same study by Mailchimp also found that longer subject lines performed worse than shorter ones. Since most email providers can only display up to 50 characters, it’s best to test below that range. In the example above, Pura Vida tests subject line character count in its Back in Stock triggered emails. The first subject line keeps things short and sweet with, “It’s Back!” while the second option also reminds the shopper they had previously wanted to buy a product with, “You wanted it and now it’s back!” Even though both subject lines are simple, slight variations can sometimes make all the difference.

Every email sent is an opportunity to test and optimize. A/B testing your email marketing subject lines can not only have a huge affect on your program’s open rates, but also have a waterfall affect on your other marketing metrics, which will ultimately impact your bottom line. Use the tactics above to get started and be sure to follow our best practices to make the process as easy an effective as possible.

Bluecore Marketing

Bluecore Marketing