back arrow
All Blogs
How To Set Up A/B Tests In Salesforce Marketing Cloud: A Step-By-Step Guide To SFMC AB Testing

How To Set Up A/B Tests In Salesforce Marketing Cloud: A Step-By-Step Guide To SFMC AB Testing

Flawless optimization of your campaigns on your mind? Learn how to set up A/B tests in SFMC! ...

[This post was originally published on 9th July 2020. It has been updated on 6th April 2022.]

A ‘seat-of-the-pants’ approach is not advisable with Email Marketing. This is because the success of an email campaign – whether through Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) or some other platform – requires customer understanding, goal-oriented thinking, thorough planning and of course flawless execution. To this end, an email marketer must rely on the tools in his armory. One such tool is undoubtedly A/B Testing (also known as AB Testing).

illustration of A/B testing

SFMC A/B testing (or SFMC AB testing) is a great way to run experiments with email campaigns set up on the platform.  Email A/B testing – also known as split testing – enables you to set up multiple versions of an email campaign and determine which version is likely to drive more engagement with a subset of your audience before you send the campaign to everyone. Thus, it can guide your Email Marketing strategy and help you raise your campaign’s chances of success.

With automated AB testing, you can test for the following elements/variables in Salesforce email template:

·         Subject line

·         Email send

·         From name

·         Content areas

·         Send time

·         Pre-header

But what is AB testing in Marketing? For the answer to this question, and to know more about the what and the why, check out this article.

In this article however, we will focus on the how – how you can set up SFMC AB testing within Email Studio. We will also provide the answer to a very common question: is it possible to do AB testing in Journey Builder?

SFMC AB testing: Laying the groundwork

Before you start with A/B testing in SFMC, you should do some groundwork. Here are some strategies to get you going.

Step 1. Understand your audience

Who are you marketing to? Who will receive your email marketing campaign?

If you don’t know your audience, you won’t be able to set goals for your salesforce marketing cloud testing or make the most of it.

One of the best ways to understand your audience is by creating buyer personas. You can have different personas based on your current or prospective customers’ ages, locations, genders, pain points, or any number of other criteria.

Step 2. Segment your email list

Once you create your buyer personas, you will find that your audience (i.e. email subscribers) is not one homogenous group. By segmenting your email list into smaller groups, you can increase your conversions and get an edge over your competitors.

Some common ways to segment your email list include:

·         New subscribers

·         Location

·         Gender

·         Preferences/interests

·         Level of activity/inactivity

·         Opt-in frequency

·         Abandoned shopping cart

·         Purchase history

·         Purchase type/amount/frequency

·         Buying stage

·         Birthday

Step 3. Create your campaign

Create a well-formatted, mobile-friendly email template for A/B testing. Pay attention to the fonts, colors, design, call-to-action text, subject lines, etc.

Step 4. Identify your key metrics

How will you measure the success of your SFMC AB testing campaign? Identify the criteria that matter with metrics. Commonly-used email A/B testing metrics include:

·         Open rate

·         Click rate (also known as click-through rate)

·         Conversions

·         Email deliverability

Read more about email deliverability here:

Step 5. Define a hypothesis

Once you have identified your target audience, know what your email campaign will look like and have a handle on how you will measure your campaign’s success, create a ‘hypothesis’ about why a particular email variation might perform better than the other.

Hypothesis creation process
Hypothesis creation process

Once you have laid the groundwork, you’re ready to set up SFMC AB testing in Email Studio. But before that, keep in mind that you’re sending different versions of your email to real subscribers. That’s why it’s important to send only a polished, final product. Also, A/B testing should always be done before executing the final send but after reviewing and performing test sends. Finally, because A/B Test sends take more time due to the ‘splitting’ process, you should use a ‘standard’ send when speed is important and for sends exceeding one million recipients.

And now, on to configuring A/B Testing in SFMC Email Studio.

How to Configure SFMC AB testing in Email Studio

Step 1: Configure test content

         i.            Click A/B Testing

       ii.            Click Create A/B Test

      iii.            Enter a name and description

     iv.            Select a Test Type to send classic emails, Content Builder emails or shared Content Builder emails

       v.            Complete all required fields

Step 2: Choose test recipients

         i.            Next to the ‘Recipients’ field, click Choose

       ii.            Select subscriber lists, groups, sendable data extensions or data filters to use

      iii.            Click Select

     iv.            Slide the marker left or right to determine your test distribution. You can also manually enter the percentage or number of test subscribers

       v.            Click Next

Step 3: Set the winner criteria

         i.            Choose a version with either:

a. Highest unique open rate

b.   Highest unique click-through rate (CTR)

       ii.            Specify the duration in hours or days after which the system declares a winner among the test versions

      iii.            Click Next

Step 4: Schedule a test deployment

         i.            Select a start time: immediately, scheduled or schedule later

       ii.            Select how to send the winning email to remaining subscribers: automatically or manually

Step 5: Configure send options

         i.            Click Use the following from name and address OR Select a send classification

       ii.            Accordingly, make a selection from the dropdown menu

      iii.            Click Finish

     iv.            Click Confirm

Before the final A/B Test send, you can edit the A/B Test within SFMC Email Studio. If your A/B Test results in a tie, the system declares Condition A the winner. But you can edit the winner criteria: Determine Winner by, Declare Winner, Recipients or Next Send.

Follow these steps to edit your A/B Test:

Step 1: Click A/B Test

Step 2: Click the name of the test you wish to edit

Step 3: Click Edit next to the area you wish to edit and make your edits

Step 4: Click Save

Once the system saves your changes, verify your changes on the test results page.

Then to view high-level near real-time A/B Test results:

·         Click A/B Test

·         Click the name of the A/B test

You can also cancel an A/B test before completion.

·         Click A/B Testing

·         Click the name of the A/B test to cancel

·         Click Cancel Test

·         Click Confirm

If you cancel an A/B test, the current stage of the process will still complete.

How to Create a Duplicate A/B Test In Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio

SFMC Email Studio provides a functionality to copy the conditions from an existing A/B test to create a duplicate without reconfiguring those settings.

Follow these steps to create a duplicate A/B test:

Step 1: Click the A/B test name to copy

Step 2: Click Copy A/B Test

Step 3: Click Edit next to the area you wish to edit

Step 4: Click Edit next to Next Send to send or schedule the A/B Test

Can We Set Up AB Testing in Journey Builder?

AB testing is more of an Email Studio functionality so the idea is not really applicable using Journey Builder. However, a workaround for this is available, using Random Split. This activity divides SFMC contacts into random groups in a configurable number of paths (up to 10) in Journey Builder. The marketer can specify a distribution percentage of contacts for each path. Journey Builder will ensure that the sum of path percentages always equals 100.

After randomly splitting the contacts, you can define the Email Activity and use the same email with different subject lines or add a Wait activity to send it at different times. The downsides of email AB Testing in Journey Builder are that it doesn’t have a ’winner’ functionality like A/B testing in Email Studio and reporting is not easily displayed. However, it does allow Salesforce marketing cloud email specialists to split the population and send different versions of the email, say, with different subject lines.

Best Practices for SFMC AB Testing

These strategies can help you make the most of your SFMC AB Testing campaign:

·         Always have a valid hypothesis

·         Change only one element at a time

·         Ensure that the numbers you’re testing with are big enough to enable reliable (further) analysis. A test with fewer than 500 subscribers may not be statistically significant

·         If there are more than 50,000 subscribers, send to 5% per condition and 10% if the number is less than 50,000

·         Let your test run for long enough to get verifiable results. Wait at least 24 hours before declaring a ‘winner’

·         Don’t update the data source; keep the data static to prevent any problems with the test

Wrapping It Up

We hope this guide enables you to optimize your future email campaigns with email A/B Testing and achieve exponential results with your Email Marketing campaigns. Remember, we’re always rooting for you!

Did you like this post? Do share it!
The following two tabs change content below.

Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



Email Template

Transform your requirement into visually-appealing & high-converting email templates.


Focus on your business strategy; let us handle the day-to-day operation of your email campaigns.


Eliminate the woes of hiring and training for resources with our dedicated team of scalable email experts.


Get more from your paid marketing campaigns through conversion-driven landing pages and banners.