Free shipping or fifty percent off? Free gift with purchase or deferred billing? What kind of email offer will get you not only the best user response but also the best return-on-investment and repeat users? In this article, we'll discuss email offer tests and promotion tests in your email marketing campaign.

Why Use Email Offer Test?

Subject lines and content may drive your email marketing metrics such as open rates and click through rates, but your email offer or promotion drives the actual financial success of your campaign. If nobody cares about your offer, if it's not competitive enough, if it's not easy enough to understand, or if it's not a product that anybody cares about, then you won't make any money. You can have a one hundred percent open rate, but a zero percent purchase rate if you promote the wrong email offer. Additionally, the difference between a "good" email offer and a "great" email offer can be the difference between a status quo email performance and a real winner. How will you ever know what kind of email offer get you the best return if you don't test?

Types of Email Offer Tests

Email Offer

The email offers and promotions that you want to test may vary extensively based on your product and market segment. However, some common tests to run are included below.

  • Types of Email Offers: The most obvious test that you'll want to run is an email offer type test. While this may vary, as noted above, based on your market segment, common email offer types include: shipping offers, bonus gifts, discounts, free upgrades, and extra loyalty points if you run a loyalty program. You'll want to consider testing all of those as well as any types of offers or promotions that are specific to your line of business.
  • Percent versus Dollar Amount: If you're going to be offering discounts, you'll want to test whether your users are more motivated by seeing their discount presented as a dollar amount or as a percentage amount. Most case studies imply that a percentage amount will convert better, but that may not be true for your demographic.
  • Discount Amount: You'll also, obviously, want to test different discount amounts to find out where you get the best return on investment. This may, as noted in the tips below, vary by user segments on your list.
  • Free Shipping versus Shipping Upgrade: Free shipping has been shown to be one of the most effective ecommerce promotions available on the internet. However, sometimes you can get just as much value from offering a shipping upgrade from standard shipping to an expedited form of shipping. Test free shipping versus shipping upgrades and see if you can improve your profit margin with an upgrade email offer instead of an entirely free shipping offer.
  • Minimum Purchase Amount: For many promotions, you'll require users to make a minimum purchase amount. After you do the math of what you can afford in terms of how low that minimum purchase amount needs to be, test making it higher. You may get the same response to the email offer whether you require people to spend twenty dollars or fifty dollars. If that's the case, you should always make the minimum fifty dollars!
  • Seasonal Email Offers: You'll obviously want to develop and test seasonal email offers as well. Do your respondents buy more when it's promoted near a holiday or vacation time? Test email offers that are seasonally themed. Then you can decide in the future if it's worth putting seasonal campaigns together at all.
  • Time Sensitive Email Offers: Finally, test whether your users respond better to time sensitive email offers that need to act on immediately or longer-tail offers. There are many arguments that time sensitivity causes users to take quick action, but as people spend less time in their inbox, that may not be as true. Be sure to test it to find out what's right for you.

Best Practices for Email Offer Tests

In addition to testing your email offers for bottom line revenue and profit margin promotion, consider the viral and acquisition value of an email offer. Did an email offer get you a lot of shared attention on the internet or did it get you many new customers? That may be worth it even if it didn't generate as much up front revenue as you were hoping for.

Don't lose money! Particularly in the era of social shopping and huge discounts, it's often considered necessary to offer massive promotions to generate customer interest. However, the math on that often doesn't add up and you end up losing money. A less well-responded to email offer that makes a profit may be better than a popular email offer that loses money for you.

Remember that there may be segments of your database that respond to one type of email offer better than to another type. Email offers may not be "one size fits all", and you may want to test different email offers to different portions of your database.

Consider that timing plays a role in email offer success as well. You may want to run an email offer test several times in case you've inadvertently sent an offer at a time when a product was unpopular or people were generally not spending as much money as usual.

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