Email Testing Methods To Try Before Holiday 2013

If you want to have a ho-ho-ho holiday season instead of a ho-hum one, you’ll want to do some A/B email testing before the holidays hit.

The areas outlined below for testing are not necessarily new; it’s how you approach the testing, in terms of holiday shopping, that’s key. 

Subject line

You won’t grow your holiday sales if subscribers aren’t opening – and clicking through – your emails. Start testing your subject lines for length, personalization, offer/no offer, product details and more.

Show me the money (or not)

Depending on the price points of your products, do you reveal the cost in your emails? If it’s a sale, do you just give a percentage off? Show the original price? Show the sale price? This email from Appleseed’s does all of the above.



Decisions, decisions. Your customers have many purchase decisions at holiday time, and you’ve got many layout decisions to make. Do you feature one large product image, so that you can show details, or a breadth of product, like the Alice & Olivia email below? Or maybe it’s a merry mix of the two.

4 AM Friends

Purchase options

For online stores, give your customers options on how to pay for your products/services. Then test those options with different callouts. Do you offer an installment plan? Purchase via PayPal?

For stores with brick-and-mortar locations, do you offer in-store pickup? Don’t worry about cannibalizing your online sales. After all, a sale is a sale.


Free shipping is a given during holiday season; consumers expect it. So do you hit them over the head with “free shipping” messages in your holiday emails? Test different scenarios – in the subject line, preheader, headline or banner below the main image.

What about shipping upgrades? As you get closer and closer to Christmas, consider offering discounts on expedited shipping. Again, you’ll want to test how you position such offers.

Even rarer are offers like free overnight shipping, especially outside the holiday season. But Bumble and Bumble ran a one-day special (on $40+ orders):

Bumble And Bumble

Landing pages

Where you take your customers is often as important as what you’re selling them. Are you taking them directly to a product page, then running the risk that they won’t like the item and will exit your site? Or are you taking them to a category page or product gallery, giving them more options? Are you taken them to your home page, forcing them to make extra clicks to get to their destination? Test various landing page approaches prior to the holidays, so you can determine what works best for your audience.


Speaking of audience (what a segue into segmentation!), be sure to test how you slice and dice your list. Do you group your subscribers geographically? By age? Gender? Average order value? Purchase history? By activity/inactivity? Think outside the inbox when testing segmentation.

Testing, testing 1… 2… 3

We’re not saying you should stop testing altogether during the holiday season – just the opposite. That’s the beauty of email marketing. You can take the learnings from one campaign and apply them to the next one. However, you can start tweaking your campaign strategy before the holidays, when you have a little breathing room, instead of once you’re entrenched in the holiday email madness.

Your email campaigns should be evolving, not static. During the holiday season, this can make the difference between a jingle in your company’s pockets and a silent night.

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