Finding the Sweet Spot: Multivariate Testing in Email Marketing

Finding the Sweet Spot: Multivariate Testing in Email Marketing

Email marketing isn’t a guessing game. It’s constantly reviewing important metrics, like click-through rate or open rate, to determine the most successful options to use in your future campaigns. Multivariate testing in email marketing gives you the opportunity to test different combinations of elements in your emails to find what works best for your audience.

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Multivariate testing vs. A/B testing

A/B testing is a common experimental approach that lets marketers test two similar emails to determine what performs better. For example, A/B testing might include the same subject line and body copy, but use a different CTA to see what drives more action from their audience. A/B testing is a great way to get a broad look at where your campaigns are most successful.

While most commonly used for landing pages, multivariate testing in email marketing provides more detailed information on how to create perfect messages. Rather than testing individual email elements, multivariate testing helps you better understand which details work well together by testing multiple elements.

For example, A/B testing may have helped you narrow your email body copy to a strong message that drives engagement. You can then use multivariate testing to see which subject lines and/or images pair well with that copy, helping you piece together an optimized message.

Why use multivariate testing for email marketing?

You want email marketing to be as successful as possible in increasing engagement and ultimately increasing revenue. Testing emails can give important insight into if your campaigns are driving the growth you want to see. While there are a few different methods, multivariate testing lets you take different key elements of your campaigns, e.g., subject line, body copy, images, personalization fields; and combine them in different ways to see which version generates the success you want.

While A/B testing focuses on a single piece of the pie, multivariate testing lets you take a granular look at your email marketing to fine-tune what combination of elements resonates the most with your audience, informing a data-driven strategy.

How to define success

How you define success should align with your email campaign goals. If your KPI is conversions, you’ll want to focus on your click-through rate. For increased engagement, the metrics you’ll want to pay close attention to are the open rate and unsubscribe rate. It’s important to remember that not every combination will be successful and you’ll need to make adjustments along the way.

Multivariate testing does have limitations to consider. Because it offers a larger number of options than A/B testing, you’ll want to make sure your audience is large enough. With a small sample size, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull meaningful data from your testing like you could with A/B testing. It’s also important to think about your timeline. You’ll want enough emails to go out to capture accurate data before making any testing adjustments. Pay close attention to trends and how long they track to best inform your future campaigns.


Testing is a vital part of successful campaigns. By clearly defining your multivariate testing process and email marketing goals, you can find and analyze the most accurate and important feedback for future campaigns.

In a similar vein, marketers need to test and understand what the right email frequency looks like. Learn how to finetune your frequency capping strategy with rules based on subscriber behaviors and preferences.

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