Testing Your Copy for Best Results

A few weeks ago in this space, we presented you with a pop quiz. We asked you to take a look at email-marketing tests conducted by e-marketer Digital Impact and Reflect.com, an interactive “boutique” where women customize their own beauty products. Well, the results are in, and guess what you passed.

Okay, so everyone passed, but don’t let that prevent you from giving yourself a pat on the back. The underlying purpose of the column was to get you thinking about all the variables that go into email marketing and give you an idea of what tests might be valuable for your company to conduct.

There were some measurable results that gave Reflect.com important insight into its consumers and that may give you a better understanding of Internet shoppers in general. Some of those results were surprising. (In other words, I flunked some of the questions.) To see how your answers stack up, read on:

Question 1: What style of copywriting works best for your company?

Hannelore Schmidt, the director of marketing at Reflect.com, notes that copywriting is subjective, and each site is different, but she found what worked for her customers.

“The copywriter whose style was best received was one who was very direct, direct with a playful approach,” Schmidt says. “We don’t know why that plays well with our audience, but perhaps women are tired of being maneuvered into things. They say, ‘Just tell me what I want to know, and don’t beat around the bush.'”

Of the six messages, the one that was best received began, “You already know that sun exposure causes skin damage from burns to wrinkles to skin cancer. But did you know that every little dose of sun, even just walking to work or running an errand, damages your skin?”

The one that was less well received (it placed five out of six) took longer to get to the point: “Did you know that UV damage to your skin can happen after just 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure? Just because you’ve stopped laying out at the beach doesn’t mean you’re safe from the sun’s damaging rays. Short trips around the block, even walking from your car to the store they all add up to sun damage over time.”

(And yes, I didn’t show you all the options in the previous column; I displayed only three. In case you’re curious, the first one we showed you came in second, the second one we showed you was fifth, and the third one placed fourth.)

Question 2: What happens when you put product prices into an email message?

Drum roll please… the answer is…

Nothing. Yes, absolutely nothing happened. Including the price in the email message for the clarifying shampoo changed neither the click-through rate nor the purchase rate.

Schmidt theorizes that perhaps it’s because the purchase price was in the range of what women would expect. When Reflect.com rolls out a customized fragrance in the future, however, the company will test this again. The consumer perception is that customized fragrances are expensive, the theory goes, and therefore showing consumers a reasonable price in the email message will encourage some who might not otherwise click through to the site.

Question 3: Are Internet consumers last-minute shoppers, and, if so, should a message’s subject line appeal to that aspect of their personality?

The subject line of message A was: “Still in time for Mother’s Day,” and that of message B was: “Something unique for your Mom.” The messages were sent out three days before Mother’s Day and promoted a Reflect.com gift certificate, so delivery time wasn’t a factor that could have discouraged procrastinators. Still, B won hands down, with a 9 percent higher open rate and 29 percent higher click-through rate than A. One possible explanation is that women tend to plan ahead.

Question 4: How do users respond to email saying they’ve abandoned their shopping carts?

(Oops, tricked you. That wasn’t the original question. It was “How much information is too much information when sending personalized emails to customers?” But Reflect.com is still analyzing those results.)

“Very positively,” Schmidt says. Despite potential “Big Brother” issues, she says, those messages got about a third more click-throughs than normal, and the purchases were double Reflect.com’s average. “We got a lot of emails to our concierge service that said technology issues caused them to drop off and thanking us for contacting them.”

Extra credit: Reflect.com has conducted two other tests since I last spoke with them. Take two subject lines, one with the word “free” and the other with the word “complimentary.” For a site that markets to more upscale consumers, I guessed that “complimentary” would get better results, but I was wrong; open and click-through rates were the same for both.

And for those of you who learned in direct mail classes that a P.S. message is important, think again when sending email. The click-through rate of those messages went down a percentage point. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the first lesson keep your message short and to the point.

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