What are the best things to test when running MVT on your email marketing campaigns?

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So you have an amazing MVT tool, now to test your email campaigns – what should you start with? The general rule of thumb is:

  • Start with your emails aimed at conversion, re-activation or cross-selling – small changes here will make a big difference, plus the results are more repeatable than newsletters, where each edition will have different content, lessening the reliability and usefulness of some results.
  • Think about the objective of the email – how can your tests support this? Is your newsletter about engagement? Then maybe your tests should be around how we get people to read more articles. If your email has a simple single action, like ‘Buy this product’ or ‘Review this purchase’ or ‘Come back and get a special discount’, then your tests should be aimed at maximising this, which usually means evaluating your call-to-actions and key messaging.

Once you have established which emails to test and the objectives for each then here are the key areas to look at:

Buttons & Call-to-actions

Simply, how can you make them stand out more? Should you make them orange? If you have a text call to action, have you tried reversing the text so it is perhaps white text on an orange background? Have you tried different text – how can you improve ‘click here’ – does ‘Buy Now’ work better?

Subject Lines

Subject lines are traditionally the first thing tested in an A/B test programme. However if you have done this you will know that the subject line that fits with the main content at the top of the email, will perform best. So when performing a multivariate test, try testing a number of subject lines, to see which one performs best with different combinations of content within the body of the email. You could find one combination outperforms the rest, even if when measured individually it is not the best performing subject line.

Remove clutter

If you have a single specific goal for your email, any additional clutter will distract reader and therefore should be removed. Try taking things out to see what happens, such as the pre-header and link to the online version, any menus in the header to sections of your website, or even any in-line links in text. If you only want someone to click on one link, test not having other distracting content and you should see an improvement.


The headline is possibly the first thing someone will digest when reading your email. Try different text here, as it can make as big of a difference as subject line to overall performance.


Why should your customers trust you or what you claim? Does adding logos of the likes of Verisign help persuade people your website is secure? Does adding customer testimonials or review scores improve click-thru rate on product offers?

Product Detail

How much is too much? Should you just have product name, image and price or should you add further information, and if so how much before the added clutter hinders the click-rate?

Product Imagery

Is it worth investing in extra photography, perhaps showing the product you are offering in action against the single box shot offered by the manufacturer?


If you have a special offer campaign what incentive works best? Does 10% off work better than Free Delivery?

These ideas are just examples of what can be done. If you have an idea of what might impact performance then create an MVT or A/B test.

About Craig Loynes

Marketing Manager at Emailcenter, the UK's largest independent ESP. Connect with +Craig Loynes on Google+ or follow on for more email marketing insights.