Digital Marketing Tests to Run in the Runup to the Holiday Season

July 25, 2023 | 4 minute read
Clint Kaiser
Head of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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The back-to-school season, Labor Day, and Halloween represent great opportunities to better align with your ever-changing customers before heading into the all-important holiday season, when digital marketing misalignments are most costly. 

  • Is your branding strong?
  • Are your offers clear and focused on what’s in it for your audience?
  • Are we making it easy for our audience to do what we want them to do?
  • Are we differentiating ourselves in the inbox?
  • What words and imagery are your customers responding to most? 
  • Is your audience feeling the pinch financially or spending freely? 

The way to answer these questions and others is to experiment and run A/B tests. Now. 

Pre-Holiday Tests We Recommend

In no particular order, here are 8 digital marketing tests we like to run with our B2C clients:

1. Test variations in your sender name, such as using email from name extension strategies to differentiate your various automated emails from each other as well as from your promotional campaigns

2. Test subject line and messaging tactics, such as:

  • Front-loading it with important keywords, since not everyone will read the entire subject line as they scan their inbox.
  • Adding urgency with phrases such as “Don’t wait,” “Limited supply,” “Will sell out,” “Last Chance,” and “Today only”—being careful not to overuse this tactic and being careful not to create false urgency by, for instance, claiming a deal is “Today only” and then extending it. Also, be mindful that “Ends in 2 days” doesn’t create urgency anywhere on the same level as “Ends tonight!”
  • Variations in tone, such as helpful, positive, excited, or empathic
  • Exploring different motivations or appeals, such using cause-related messaging (i.e., aligning with charities), providing exclusivity (e.g., early access for loyalty members), or appealing to trend-forward consumers.
  • Using different offer types, such as a percentage off vs. amount off vs. buy one get one (BOGO).
  • The scope of the deal or discount, such as a sitewide deal vs. a category deal.
  • Teasing a list with subject lines like “Top 10 deals for cyclists” or “The 7 Best Buys for Frequent Travelers.”
  • Leaning into the bigness of the season with phrases like “Our biggest sale of the season” (provided it’s true).
  • Referencing the holiday vs. not, to see how much seasonal context makes an offer more or less attractive or relevant to your audience.

3. Test product imagery, such as whether your subscribers prefer lay-flat presentations or seeing it on a model, including in appropriate settings for the product.

4. Test call-to-action wordings, styling, and positioning, which has become extra critical in the wake of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), which is driving brands to only optimize their CTAs and also look for ways to drive more email clicks in general. Among other things, consider testing:

  • “Buy now” vs. “Shop,” so you’re matching increased shopper intent during peak selling seasons.
  • Lower-consideration CTAs for high-priced and complex products, such as pairing a “Buy now” CTA with a “View it in action,” “Watch demo,” or “Help me decide” CTA.
  • Button style, size, and color choices, such as using a full-width button, more padding around buttons, or higher contrast text on background color.
  • Placement of your primary CTA above the fold, below the fold, or in both positions.

5. Test the appeal of mystery sales, where your audience has to click through to see the offer. As with urgency, you don’t want to overuse this tactic, but many of our clients have found good success with mystery sales in their email campaigns in the wake of MPP, which has made getting clicks a higher priority.

6. Test running channel exclusives and drawing attention to that in your messaging by saying, “SMS exclusive” or “Email exclusive deal.”

7. Test ways to promote loyalty program signups, such as promoting it in your shopping cart and checkout abandonment emails as a way to get free shipping on their purchase, and promoting it in your transactional emails by offering non-members points for their purchases retroactively if they sign up.

8. Test seasonal navigation bar links, in your top nav bar as well as your bottom nav bar, if you have both.

For more than 80 additional A/B test ideas, get our Website Optimization Ideas checklist via free, no-form download.

Drill Down with Segment Testing

Many of these tests, it will make sense to A/B test across different segments or personas to see how they respond differently. Some key segments to test into are:

  • Your best customers vs. the rest of your audience
  • Your deal-seeking shoppers vs. full-price shoppers
  • Your customers who have purchased in kids product categories in the past year vs. those who haven’t

All of that is to stress that your A/B testing may not have a single winner that you use across all of your messages. Instead, you’ll likely uncover messaging tactics that appeal strongly to particular audience groups.

For a checklist of more than 170 persona-building criteria, get our Segmentation & Personalization Ideas guide via free, no-form download.

The Right Holiday Prep at the Right Time

A/B testing during the late summer and fall is just one example of our year-round approach to holiday prep. Our philosophy is that the holiday season doesn’t have an off-season. That means that during every month of the year, there are steps brands can take that put them in a stronger position when the holiday season finally arrives.

For a quarter-by-quarter guide to getting ready for the holiday season, get our latest Holiday Marketing Quarterly via free, no-form download.

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Need help with your creative testing? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers and employees, even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Our award-winning specialists can handle everything from creative and strategy to content planning and project management.

For help overcoming your challenges or seizing your opportunities, talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or email us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Clint Kaiser

Head of Analytic & Strategic Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Clint Kaiser is the Head of the Analytic & Strategic Services team at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. His background in the email marketing space includes 20 years of experience with ESPs and digital agencies. His analytical approach to driving change in digital marketing is reflected in his quantitative approach to improving clients' business outcomes.


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