A/B Testing An Email — The Body Issue

This is the second post in a 3 part series about A/B testing an email. The first post was about making a good first impression.

After an Open

You’ve spent time, effort, and money in crafting a compelling subject line and preview text that persuaded your customer to open your email. What’s next?

If you want to iteratively test on the design of an email you need to design scalable templates and instrument your email code in a manner that is easily testable. One approach is to identify areas in the email body that can be leveraged for experimentation. It is important to remember that specific levers may work well on some populations while they may not on others.

Scalable Design

Take a look at these examples from the New York Times. The following emails are all part of an email campaign to win back a former paying customer. Do they look similar to you? How about if you got them about once a week — would you think they are different enough?

A win back campaign from the New York Times

Unpacking the design

I’ve marked up two of the emails above using my own names for the purposes of describing the design. You can see that they are broken up into exactly the same parts.

What's important to note here is that the design is built to test any of the defined levers . Testing these levers at scale in a high-frequency campaign could be rewarding. At the very least you will learn about what matters to your audience.

In the example above the design is able to support two very different tactics.

Headline 1 for the message on the left is a FOMO play where the fleeting nature of the offer is highlighted — just 24 hours. The message on the right, however, is leaning on a value proposition of the newspaper — clarity.

In both cases, the hero image is easily extended to make sense for the main tagline. The template design is scaleable as it can support visual and tactic variations.

Finally, the text-heavy module on the bottom is used to support the theme of the message.

In the message on the left, the text is reiterating the Subscribe Soon tagline, whereas the message on the right teases that the paper will provide clarity around purchasing a car without regrets.

A note about Footers

Most businesses use footers to advertise their social channels and provide customers a way to manage their email preferences. Footers tend to get bloated over time to account for various nuances of an email marketing program. You can see everything from legalese to app download and social media links.

Whether or not you plan to experiment in this area, you should invest in creating scalable footers across the various dimensions of your messaging program (account, marketing, etc).

If there is one thing that is absolutely important in the footer, it is to give your customers a one-click unsubscribe experience. Nobody wants to enter their email again on your preferences page or “click ok to confirm”. If customers are not engaging with your email, you really want to know right away so that you can adjust your messaging program.


There are a few levers within the body of the email that can be A/B tested. It pays to invest in a scalable design upfront if you are keen on building an iterative testing approach for your messaging program. If you have a large audience, this becomes all the more important since you will need the ability to move fast and try many things.

In the next post in this series, we will discuss the landing experience from an email.



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