June 22, 2022

How to leverage experimentation for audience targeting

Since companies want to hit the bullseye in their marketing campaigns, they leverage experiments for audience targeting. How do they help?

Optimizely Team


In marketing, you want to hit the bullseye. You have a set budget and need to obtain the maximum results. One way to achieve this is with experimentation for audience targeting.

Do you place ads on social media or focus on email campaigns? Perhaps content marketing such as blogs and videos is the way to go. Until you test for audience targeting, you won’t know which solution will drive results.

First, we need to understand two concepts: audience targeting and A/B testing.

Key takeaways:

  • Audience targeting takes your entire audience of potential customers and separates them into groups based on unique criteria.
  • Audience targeting enables a business to deliver personalized experiences more effectively based on customer expectations and interests.
  • A/B testing compares two web page versions to determine which one delivers better results. The original page is the control, while the one containing a minor tweak is the variation.
  • Three areas to perform A/B testing for audience targeting are on your website, social media ads and email campaigns.

What is audience targeting?

Audience targeting takes your entire audience of potential customers and divides them into groups based on individual criteria. These criteria include:

  • Demographics: Companies can separate their customers by age groups, location, the industry they work in and income level.

  • Psychographics: Do your customers like to attend social events or prefer a quiet night at home? Do they enjoy playing an instrument, or would they rather play video games?

  • Intent: How likely are they to buy a product based on browser activity?

  • Online behavioral characteristics: Do they spend a lot of time on a particular social media platform or a specific page on your website?

Audience targeting is a continuous process. You gather customer data, build personas, segment audiences, perform experiments, create marketing campaigns and evaluate the results.

Audience targeting enables you to deliver personalized experiences more effectively based on customer expectations and interests. It guarantees you reach the right people at the right time and place. You don’t need to spend resources on audiences that won’t deliver a high return on investment (ROI).

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What is A/B testing?

A/B testing compares two web page versions to determine which one delivers better results. The original page is the control, while the one containing a minor tweak is the variation. A company can see if a small change, like a different color button or a larger font, resonates more with customers and causes them to perform an action the company wants. 

During the experiment, you show the control page to some visitors and the variation to others. Then, you observe which page leads more to the desired results. If you determine that the variation is more successful, it can become the default page for 100% of visitors.

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3 areas to perform experiments for audience targeting

Now, let’s look at three places where you can conduct A/B experiments to optimize your marketing campaigns: your website, social media and email. 

There are four prerequisites for any audience targeting test:

  • Determine your niche audience.
  • Define the goal of the experiment. Do you wish to increase traffic to your website or generate more sales? Do you want to have repeat visitors?
  • Decide the timeline for the experiment.
  • Establish the metric for success. Is it the increase in page views, click-through rate or sales?

1. Website testing

Say you have a website that focuses on health tips and products. You can create several niche audiences for A/B testing: vegans, cross-fitters, those searching for topics on diabetes, etc. Once you have your group, here are some A/B scenarios:

  • Headline variation for the subscribe campaign:
    “Want to know the latest breakthroughs for insulin control?”
  • Body text variation for the subscribe campaign:
    “We provide vegan-friendly recipes and insights.” You could also have no body text and only a headline.
  • Call-to-action (CTA) text variations:
    “I want in!” or “Sign up for free.”
  • CTA button variations:
    Use a larger-sized button or try a different color. Sometimes the font style, size and color make a difference.
  • Campaign placement:
    Whether it’s the subscribe, push notifications, offers or other campaigns, you can test on which page it should appear. Should visitors see it on the homepage or, perhaps, on a blog post?
  • Campaign trigger:
    When should the campaign appear? As soon as the page loads? Perhaps the visitor responds better to a timed delay or a user action such as scrolling down or hovering over an element?

While we used the example of a health website, these principles apply to any market.

2. Social media testing

With over 3.6 billion social media users globally, this is an excellent place to concentrate optimization efforts.

The niche audience will determine your choice of the social media platform for A/B testing. Once you have the platform, here are some tips for creating variations:

  • Headline (25 characters max): Does a statement, imperative or a question work better for your audience?
  • Hashtags: Have one hashtag in the control and a different one for the variation. Or one hashtag vs. two?
  • Link description: Should you use emojis or leave them out? What should your tone of voice be? Friendly? Objective? Informal?
  • Media: Try a different image for the variation. What about using one picture vs. a carousel? How about image vs. video? Use GIFs (animated images) vs. JPGs (still images)?

3. Email testing

Did you know that 4 billion people read emails daily? So, what should you test when it comes to your email campaigns?

The subject line is the most essential aspect of the A/B test for email marketing. The subject line determines if the user will open the email. You can play with the word length and order. For instance, you can try “Today only! 50% off on fitness apparel!” or “50% off on fitness apparel! Today only!” Also, some subscribers love seeing their name in the subject line. But you won’t know unless you test.

Streamline your A/B tests with Optimizely

Conducting successful experiments requires targeting the right audiences. Optimizely’s Digital Experience Platform (DXP) helps businesses do just that and easily track experiment KPIs from mobile apps, websites and social media campaigns. 

Want to know more? Contact Optimizely today!

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