It’s easy to become complacent with your digital marketing efforts. Take email, for example. You deploy communications, people open them at a satisfactory rate, you move on to the next agenda item. But if you asked a smart panda, they’d tell you that you might be leaving considerable engagement on the table—and missing out on all the fun!—when you pass up an opportunity to test.
Even a very simple A/B test might provide some surprising results and help you increase your open or click-through rates or drive incremental traffic to specific campaigns. At the very least, a test can assure you that the choices you’re already making are the right ones. If you sense a case study coming, then your instincts are good! Here’s an example of a very simple two-part test that challenged our assumptions and continues to yield great results.
Making the Most of Subscriber Engagement with Testing
Recently, Smart Panda Labs helped optimize the Marriott Vacation Club blog for our long-standing client, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, by creating an opt-in subscription form. Through a custom-built integration between WordPress and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, an automated blog email digest was then deployed weekly to those subscribers, alerting them to new posts featuring vacation tips and travel guides. The blog and automated email alerts had been running smoothly for 5 months and the engagement with the email and blog—defined by opens and click-throughs—was above industry benchmarks. In fact, the numbers were astounding.
While average open and click-through rates for subscriber engagement in hospitality and retail industries hover around 20 – 23% (open rate) and 3% (click-through rate), respectively, the blog digest emails continue to average opens between 50-60%, with unique CTRs of 11%, month over month. With the blog running smoothly and the emails delivering such great results, we felt this was an optimal time to leverage that success. How could we drive even more traffic to the blog and improve engagement for the long term?
While SEO and other advertising channels are appropriate and relevant, we felt it was important to start with testing—and to focus on a captive and already-engaged audience. The weekly automated email was a natural testing ground.
For the first test, we pitted two versions of the “from display” against each other. Half of the blog subscribers received their email digest from “Marriott Vacation Club” (the baseline). The other half saw “Marriott Vacation Club Blog” (variation) as the sender.
The test ran for four deployments, and in all four, Marriott Vacation Club Blog outperformed the baseline in both open and click-through rates, sometimes by as much as 4%. We determined this variation to be the winner and recommended making it the only sender profile for the blog automation effort going forward.
For the second test, we decided to test a dynamic subject line against the baseline, Check Out Our Newest Blog Posts. The dynamic subject line pulled in key words from the featured blog post titles each week and looked something like, Read About Bali’s Monkey Forest and Lanai.
While the client and our smart pandas expected the dynamic subject line to perform better, the test proved us wrong. Throughout four weeks of testing, the general subject line consistently outperformed the content-specific subject line in both open rates (as much as 7%) and click-through rates (an average delta of 2%). Sometimes you just never know!
We recommended that MVC continue using the general subject line moving forward. Because the results were so counterintuitive, they were hesitant at first but decided to follow the data (applause!).
You Can Do It!
If your company currently has a blog, or is planning to launch one, be sure to offer your audience a means to subscribe. Use automation to send those subscribers regular reminders about new posts. With those tools in place, you’ll have created fertile ground for testing—from the subscription form itself to digest template design, calls to action, from displays, subject lines, deployment times and more. Before you turn to other advertising channels, make sure you’re maximizing what’s already working in your favor by leveraging the engagement of your opted-in audience.
Blog or not, starting an email testing program is as simple as we make it sound. As you begin to optimize your email campaigns based on test results, you’ll be adding incremental improvements to engagement each time. Even the smallest, simplest tests can yield big results and go a long way to helping you meet your business goals.
- To drive more engagement to a site or blog, start by leveraging subscribers. Use automation to send those subscribers regular reminders about new posts.
- Subscription forms and blog digests are fertile ground for testing—from the subscription form itself to email template design, calls to action, from displays, subject lines, deployment times and more.
- As you begin to optimize your email campaigns based on test results, you’ll be adding incremental improvements to engagement each time.
- Even the smallest, simplest tests can yield big results and go a long way to helping you meet your business goals.