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09.30.19

4 A/B Test Must-Dos for Your Bank's Email Efforts

Sam Thorson

When it comes to customer communication, sending emails is still one of the best ways to deliver information. Today, our inboxes are crowed destinations for everything from news updates to spam emails. It’s because of this that many bank marketers have questioned the success of sending emails. I’m here to say that email marketing can still be a successful marketing strategy.

There are some best practices to keep in mind to maximize a campaign’s effectiveness.

While there are many aspects of email marketing that should be considered when planning a campaign, one of the most important elements to ensure good results is A/B testing. A/B testing (also known as split-testing or bucket-testing) is a method of comparing two versions of an email component against each other to determine which one performs better. A/B testing is essentially an experiment in which two or more variants of an email are shown to contacts at random, and statistical analysis is used to determine which variation performs better for a given conversion goal.

In this article, we’ll be going over four tips to help your bank effectively run A/B testing for your email marketing campaigns.

Tip 1 – One Test at a Time

A/B testing only works if you test one variable at a time. For example, a common A/B test is to try different subject lines in an email to see which one generates the most opens. If we want to know which subject line performed best, we need to make sure everything else stayed the same. This means the body copy of the email should be the same, but we also need to make sure that the emails are sent at the same time on the same day.

Doing this is the only way to truly determine how effective that variable is. Here are some common elements that are compared in A/B testing:

  • Best subject line
  • Best time to send an email
  • Best day to send an email
  • Best call-to-action at the end of an email
  • Designed (HTML) email vs. copy-only (plain-text) email

Tip 2 – Have a Control Group

A “control,” or default, is the original version of the email you would have sent anyway, as if you weren’t testing anything. This will provide you with a reliable baseline with which to compare your results. An article by Bluecore explains why this is important when it comes to A/B testing:

“The reason that having a control version is so important is because there are always 'confounding variables,' or variables that you can’t control, that impact the validity of your test. For example, a confounding variable could be something like one of your email recipients being on vacation without internet access during your test. By testing against a control version, you are cutting down on as many confounding variables as possible in order to make your results accurate.”

A control version will also serve as an easy variable to gauge results against. Without a baseline to measure against, it becomes difficult to see the actual lift the test version has driven.

Tip 3 – You Need a Crowd

When it comes to data, more is always better. The same holds true for A/B testing. If we’re trying to understand which subject line performs best for a group of contacts, we need to make sure that we’re testing the email variations on enough people.

For example, if I was going to A/B test two variations of a call-to-action button in an email, I would start by segmenting my list of recipients into two groups. In order to get sufficient data to make my decision on which CTA generated the most clicks, I need to make sure my two groups are large enough. If each group only has 10 people in it, the result won’t give me a full picture of the performance. At a minimum, I recommend the smallest sample size be 100 contacts.

Tip 4 – Be Able to Spot the Difference

Simply put, make sure there’s a clear difference in the elements that you’re testing. For example, the difference between a subject line that reads “The 4 Best A/B Testing Techniques” and “4 Best A/B Testing Techniques” is only one word of difference. If the variations that you’re testing are too similar, they may not be generating truly unique interactions from the recipients.

Using the same example subject line, “The 4 Best A/B Testing Techniques,” we can test it by sending a different subject line that is more fun and light-hearted. This subject line might read, “Learn how to CRUSH your next A/B Test.” These subject lines are clearly different and will likely produce a different type of engagement by the recipients.

Keep Testing

Things move quickly in the financial industry. Now more than ever, a younger generation is looking for information about their financial options. It becomes the responsibility of the banks to provide that information. This helps build relationships and trust with potential customers.

Delivering effective communication through email marketing is a great way to establish your bank as a trusted source of financial information. A/B testing guarantees that you’re sending the right information, in the right way, at the right time.

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