What’s multivariate testing? When & why you need to use it

We recently published an article on A / B testing in marketing – also known as a split test – where you can experiment with two versions of the same marketing tactic. Now we are going one step further with multivariate tests (as part of email campaigns).

With multivariate tests, you can experiment with detailed variations on the same email and find out which variation is more effective. It is best used to identify the right tactic for a smaller segment of your target audience, not your entire contact database.

The goal of multivariate testing is to improve target audience engagement and conversion rates, and to increase revenue generation from your digital marketing efforts. Let’s start with the basics.

What is multivariate testing?

Multivariate email testing involves a complex and advanced approach to tactical email assessment. You can test several combinations of the same email. With the ability to swap email subject lines, email text copies, pictures, sender name or address, airtime, and more, you have plenty of options to play around with. Here it deviates from a very similar approach, A / B testing.

How is multivariate testing different from A / B testing?

A / B test experiments with two elements of an email. Multivariate test experiments with up to four items in an email in multiple combinations to determine the combination with the best performance.

For example, you can use Insightly’s multivariate testing functionality to compare four variables in up to eight versions of the same email. You can test subject line 1 with e-mail text 2, sender name 3 and send time 4. This is just a combination, and you can play with eight to get deeper insights and fuel future email campaign success.

In some scenarios, A / B testing is all you need, while other scenarios require multivariate testing to generate deeper, actionable insights (more on this below).

How do you do a multivariate test?

Similar to A / B testing, you can choose two options of the same email item. With multivariate testing, you can choose from several options. Ultimately, it all happens in your marketing automation solution and is quite easy to do.

It’s pretty easy to set up. We’ll use Insightly Marketing to help explain this. When you choose the multivariate testing option for an email campaign, system workflows guide you through choosing which elements to test and let you choose what each combination of elements looks like.

Once this is set up, all combinations will be sent to a test group of your target audience. In the case of Insightly, the system automatically monitors the engagement levels of each version of the email sent to the test group. It then examines the resulting metrics, determines the “winning combination,” and pushes that version to the rest of your audience, assuming the best results are achieved.

Since the process is automated, just select the combinations that you want to test. Then sit back and wait for the results to come in. Your unified CRM with marketing automation does it all while you focus on strategy.

What do you need to do your test?

First and foremost, you need the right technology. When you use a unified CRM that includes both sales and marketing automation capabilities, all of your data is stored under one roof and the process is exponentially easier.

If not, you at least need a marketing automation solution that can run this type of test. Without the right software, multivariate testing is practically impossible.

In addition, you need to know what insights you want to gain from your test and what problem or challenge you want to solve. Below are some tips and questions to ask yourself in order to gain the insight you need to make an effective test.

Tips for effective multivariate testing

Multivariate tests are used to solve a problem or to fix poor performance in a specific area. When planning and setting up your test, it is important to:

  • Identify the problem you want to solve or the question you want to answer
  • Define your hypothesis
  • Decide which combinations you want to test
  • Calculate the correct sample size to get statistically accurate results
  • First, run a fake lead test to make sure that any automated, triggered action is set up correctly
  • Monitor the test as it progresses with real leads to make sure there are no unexpected hiccups

Ask questions before you start

A great way to get the most out of your multivariate email campaign tests is to ask yourself a few preliminary questions. Here are some good questions to ask yourself during the planning phase. These will help you to put yourself in the mental test mode.

  • Does my audience prefer creative or short, direct subject lines?
  • Does asking a question in the subject line lead to more openings?
  • Are recipients more likely to click a call-to-action (or image) than hyperlinked text?
  • Rather, open an email from [Company Name] as a person?
  • When is the best time to send emails to my target audience for higher open and click rates?
  • Are concise bullets more effective than paragraph-style text when clicking through?

I could go on and on, but you get what it’s about. It is important to approach multivariate testing with a curious mind. Digital marketing has to adapt to changing customer expectations and testing new tactics is a great way to adapt.

When should you use multivariate testing versus A / B testing?

A / B testing provides broad generalizations about the effectiveness of any particular element of an email (or other marketing asset). This is a high-level insight that is usually general and will bring about big changes in your digital marketing strategy.

On the other hand, multivariate tests offer more detailed insights into a tactic. Use this option when you need to fine-tune smaller items as they relate to a segment of your audience.

In short, if you want to know how effective a tactic is for your entire audience, A / B testing is the way to go. If you want to find out which tactic will best appeal to a particular, targeted segment of your target audience and why, consider doing multivariate testing.

Ready to do your own test?

We strongly encourage you to do so. If you don’t keep evolving your digital marketing practices and doing experimental, disruptive marketing, you are likely to be overtaken by the competition. Fortunately, with today’s marketing automation, it’s easier than ever to do multivariate testing and A / B testing.

Eventually, with this technology, you no longer have to rely on the guesswork to find the most effective digital marketing tactic. It is becoming easier and easier to use data instead of intuition in making business decisions. Get the right tools, the right mindset, and see what your experiments reveal.

Want to learn more about how multivariate testing can help you accelerate your digital marketing efforts? We would be happy to provide you with further details and answer your questions. Just request a free demo and we’ll provide you with the information you need.

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