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Tips to Send Personalized Emails with SFMC and A/B Testing

4 Valuable Tips to Send High-conversion Personalized Emails with SFMC and A/B Testing

Four useful hacks to leverage A/B testing in SFMC to send personalized emails that impress and delight ...

Modern customers don’t like generic marketing. Rather, they want personalized marketing experiences with content that’s aimed at their specific wants, needs, or pain points. This includes email marketing content.

According to research, 99% of marketers say that personalization helps improve customer relationships, while 20% say that it improves email engagement.

The bottomline: Email personalization matters. The good news is that personalizing your email campaigns is neither complicated nor time-consuming – if you A/B test your campaigns before sending them. And for this, the right Email Service Provider (ESP) is crucial.

Keep reading to know how you can test your email personalization to reach the right subscriber with the right content – with Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) and A/B testing.

Do You Need A/B Testing?

Black text or blue?

Squares or circles?

“Learn more” link or “Read more” button?

“Hello subscriber” or “Hi John”?

Send the email on a Wednesday morning or a Friday afternoon?

A/B testing can help you find the answers to all these questions. Specifically, it can show you which version of an email is the most likely to get the maximum number of opens, click-throughs, and conversions.

When you perform A/B testing, you send different versions of the same message to a different group of recipients. The version that generates the max clicks or opens is your “winning” version, i.e., the version that’s most likely to garner great results from your actual campaign.

With A/B testing, you don’t have to wonder or guess which color text to use or whether your design will be better with squares or circles. Instead, the test will provide a powerful, data-driven method to help you quickly create campaigns by implementing incremental but significant changes. You can also:

  • Set up CTAs that more subscribers engage with, leading to increased conversions
  • Use responsive, mobile-friendly designs to ensure the email displays on all kinds of devices
  • Show relevant information in images to users who can’t see these images due to disabilities or low Internet bandwidth

In short, A/B testing allows you to create amazing email campaigns that are most likely to resonate with subscribers and provide great customer experiences.  

But what does this have to do with email personalization?

A/B Testing and Email Personalization

Have you ever received – or sent – an email with this greeting: Hello [First Name]!

Or a message that’s full of GIF images and blinking links that you can’t see?

If you’re a woman, how would you feel if you received an email with the subject line: Get 50% off on our male-pattern baldness shampoo!

All of these are examples of poor or missing personalization in email messages. If you A/B test each email campaign in SFMC, you can avoid such mistakes that annoy subscribers and can even push them towards the “Unsubscribe” link or “Mark as Spam” button.

How A/B testing powers email personalization

With A/B testing, you can find issues that affect your campaign’s personalization qualities and turn off subscribers. For example, you may find that the merge field wasn’t set up properly, which is why your salutation shows up as Hello [First Name]! instead of Hello Matthew.

A/B testing is also a great way to understand your target audience’s expectations. For instance, you may find that half your subscribers prefer black text and the Learn more link, while the other half prefers blue text with the Read more button. This knowledge will help you match your emails to such personal preferences, increasing the chances of a positive email experience for them and more opens and clicks for you.

You can craft more personalized emails by addressing each subscriber by their first name, either in the email body or in the subject line (or both!). With SFMC, you can even segment your subscriber list and create hyper-targeted content that addresses the specific needs of each segment and impresses them by talking to an “audience of one”.

4 Tips to Leverage SFMC and A/B Testing for Impactful Email Personalization

With SFMC, A/B testing your email campaigns is very easy. All you have to do is set it up in Email Studio, choose test recipients and winning criteria, and schedule a test deployment. Once the test results are available, you can pick the winning version and send that out to your audience. For a more detailed, step-by-step guide to setting up A/B testing in SFMC, click here.

And now, on to the tips and hacks to leverage SFMC and A/B testing for impactful email personalization!

1. Segment your audience and define a hypothesis

Audience segmentation and personalization go hand-in-hand with A/B testing, so make you segment your subscribers into relevant groups based on criteria such as:

  • Location
  • Gender
  • Purchase history
  • Preferences or interests
  • Buying stage
  • Opt-in frequency
  • Tendency to abandon shopping carts

It’s important to do this segmentation early on because it will guide your efforts to create a well-formatted, impactful email template for A/B testing. It will also help you define your testing “hypothesis”, i.e., a theory about why Version 1 of Campaign X is more likely to do better than Version 2.

Another good practice: always define a hypothesis before you start A/B testing. It will help you focus your efforts and take more data-driven – and therefore more effective – decisions.

2. Test the subject line

SFMC is so versatile that you can test many elements to pick the winning campaign version. These include:

  • Subject line
  • CTA
  • Content
  • Graphics
  • Links
  • Offers
  • Send times

You can even test various personalization elements, such as first names in the greeting, offers, and tailored body copy, to connect better with each subscriber. For best results, make sure to test only one element at a time. Although you may have to run multiple A/B tests to create the final winning version, the time and effort will be worth it.

You should definitely A/B test your subject lines. Including the subscriber’s name can increase opens by 14%, while experimenting with the length and word order can help your email stand out in a crowded inbox – which will also impact opens and clicks.

3. Test the content and visuals

Content personalization takes a little more effort than simply personalizing the subject line or send times (use SFMC Einstein Send Time Optimization for this). However, it will also generate great results in terms of more opens, click-throughs, and conversions, as well as a more engaged subscriber base that rewards you with their loyalty, repeat purchases, and referrals.

With SFMC, you can easily test your email content for:

  • Length: Minimal or detailed
  • Tone: Casual, professional, to-the-point, humorous, motivational, etc.
  • Layout: Number of columns, a mix between textual and graphical elements, text colors and fonts, graphical placements, etc.

You can also test and personalize graphical elements. If most of your subscribers live in a low Internet penetration area or are visually challenged, they may prefer simpler emails with fewer graphics. Younger subscribers or more active shoppers might prefer messages with lots of graphics interspersed with text and links/buttons. Don’t guess – A/B test!

4. Test offers and CTA

If your email campaign is sales-y, say, because you want to promote a new product line or an upcoming limited-time sale, you should also test the offers you will include. Remember our example about male-pattern baldness shampoo? If your subscribers are mainly women, they are unlikely to buy the product when they receive an email shouting, “50% off on our male-pattern baldness shampoo!” This is why A/B testing is crucial.

A/B test your campaigns and any included offers in SFMC after segmenting your audience and choosing test recipients. Also, check that you have set up the winner criteria in SFMC and selected the duration after which SFMC will declare a winner among your test versions.

If possible, also test your CTAs. The right CTA encourages action from the subscriber, whether it’s a sign-up on your website, an agreement to fill out a survey, or a click to your online store.

A/B test every CTA to choose:

  • Between links and buttons (buttons generally get more click-throughs than links – something to think about!)
  • Placement and repetition
  • Copy length
  • Copy or button color


In the U.S., 90% of consumers find personalized marketing content ”appealing”, while 80% are more likely to buy from brands delivering personalized experiences. If you make an effort to personalize your email content, you can tap into many opportunities to engage with customers, delight them with tailored content, and enhance their brand experiences.

With Salesforce Marketing Cloud and A/B testing, you can add more personalization to every email campaign, including transactional, relational, engagement and re-engagement, and automated campaigns. Build on these learnings to build relationships with customers, increase conversions, and earn their loyalty and advocacy.

Contact Email Uplers to know how SFMC, personalization, and A/B testing can work wonders for your brand’s email marketing program.

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    Chintan Doshi

    Chintan is the Sr. Manager Email Marketing & CRM at Email Uplers. He loves email marketing and has been in the industry from last seven years. His track record of email marketing success covers building email programs from scratch and using data-driven strategies to turn around underperforming accounts.



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