Testing has always been an essential part of email marketing. If you don't test, you don't know what works and what doesn't—and whether you’re reaping rewards or wasting your marketing money.
However, testing as we know it is evolving to keep up with the complexities of email and constant changes in consumer behavior. It's no longer just a one-shot deal with lag time between testing and implementation.
Instead, new testing technologies measure results and serve up the winning variable content assets in real time, eliminating the delay between testing and implementation.
The New Testing Environment
In the typical A/B split or multivariate testing protocol, you isolate an element to test, such as subject-line copy, image choice, message design, call to action, etc. You send test messages to a random sample of your database and then apply what you learned to the balance of the campaign.
Traditional testing works well for determining standard and recurring aspects of your email program: navigation, layout, location of administrative information and share-to-social links, tone and personality, and other factors.
But your variable and conversion-oriented content needs to be tested perpetually. There simply is no guarantee that the green "Get your free sample" button that tested best in one email will work best in every subsequent email.
Ongoing real-time content optimization helps ensure that the majority of your subscribers will see only the best content assets.
Email effectiveness is fluid. Not only does content change from one campaign to the next, but one highly targeted campaign may send out hundreds of different versions of the same message.
Each version may have a different offer, image or call to action and face different external factors such as message timing, time of year and competition within the inbox.
The smart move is to begin testing in real time. Perpetual testing leads to perpetual optimization of your core message content.
Real-Time Testing Optimizes Email on the Fly
We know that highly targeted email messages deliver higher ROI than standard broadcast messages. The first frontier in targeted messages incorporated customer data such as preferences or website/purchase behavior into email to create messages that come closer to one-to-one communications.
The next frontier is real-time content services (from Silverpop partner companies among others) that make email even more highly targeted and improve upon standard testing methods.
Real-time testing services (Silverpop partners 8Seconds, WebTrends Optimize and Omniture Test & Target among others) use A/B split or multivariate tests and measure responses on the initial portion of a campaign while it's being delivered.
As recipients open and act on the messages, the software calculates the winning message combination and then delivers it to the rest of your mailing list once it reaches a desired confidence level (typically a 95 percent interval).
Real-time testing can raise your email marketing performance quickly and noticeably:
- In-delivery testing can cut the lag time between testing and implementation to hours instead of days.
- Testing and its resulting optimization become a standard element of your marketing workflow. Your email team has more time to work on other projects, and you don't have to ask repeatedly for a testing budget.
- You can be more confident that you're basing campaign decisions on updated, relevant data instead of hunches or outdated data.
If you want to take your email program to a higher level these days, real-time content, testing and optimization can help you accomplish that.