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With or Without the Personalized Message?

WhichTestWon's Analysis: (Click back to see versions A & B)

– Case Study –

By: Deborah O’Malley | Jan. 10, 2018


World Wildlife Fund, the leading wildlife conservation organization, conducted this powerful personalization test in-house.

Test Background & Goal

In September 2017, the wildlife organization held an online membership drive. They had hoped to get 3,000 people to sign-up to become members by September 30th. However, by the morning of September 28th they were still about 950 members away from their goal.

The testing team wondered if they could increase conversions by:

  1. Reframing the campaign goal to make the target seem more achievable. Rather than stating they were 950 members away, the team thought it might be more effective to enumerate the number of members within each U.S. state needed to join in order to reach the campaign target.
  2. Creating a personalized campaign that addressed recipients by their first name, the state they resided in, and how many other members from within that state would need to join to reach the campaign goal.

Test Details

To test the effectiveness of the personalized campaign message, the team split traffic 50/50.

Half of visitors received a reframed, personalized message with the preview pane text, and opening email copy, stating:

<First name> if <number of people> from <name of your state> join WWF, we could reach our Membership Month goal. Please join today and help change the world for the better.

The other half of visitors saw a similar message, but instead the copy did not contain any personalized information about the reader’s geographic state, or an enumerated campaign membership goal. Instead, it said:

<First name>, if you join WWF today, you’ll help us reach our Membership Month goal! Please join today and help change the world for the better.

The email test ran 1 day and was sent to hundreds of thousands of email accounts across the U.S. Luminate Online was used to monitor campaign results.


The team suspected reframing the campaign goal, by stating the number of members needed to join within each state, would motivate more people to preview the email text, open the email, and ultimately become a member.


Winner: Version A – with the personalized, enumerated location information increased the donation/open rate by a strong 61.41%, compared to the generic version, at 99.9% confidence.

Additionally, the winning version led to a 21.08% lift in open rate and 109.3% rise in response rate, compared to the control.


The results from this study show how both personalization and the psychology of numbers can greatly impact conversions.

According to Adobe, a personalized approach makes people feel more understood, valued, and connected. In the words of Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, personalization increases message relevancy – which helps boost conversions.

Addressing individuals by their name and state created a personal touch that likely made potential donors feel more involved and motivated to join and contribute.

The winning variant also reframed the ask by breaking the number down, from 950 to a much smaller, digestible goal. For example 19 members, in the state of New York.

Parsing the number by state made the goal seem more attainable — and, consequently more desirable — because individuals felt like they, themselves, could make a difference, right in their hometown.

According to psychology and marketing expert, Nick Kolenda, tailoring numbers in ways that people can relate to the numeric value to personal experience can help conversions.

In fact, a 2014 study found people prefer prices that have the same letters as their name, or birthday. For example, if your name starts with an “S” you may gravitate towards the number six, or dollar amounts that contain the number 6. Similarly, if your birthday is on January 14, you may be drawn towards prices containing the number 14, like $14.45.

This behavioral tendency is known as implicit egotism – the idea that we gravitate towards people, places, and things that resemble us.

Looking at World Wildlife Fund’s A/B test through the lens of implicit egotism, it’s clear that when the reader saw their name with the state they resided in, there was an implicit and personal connection that made the information seem more relevant, increasing the desire to take action.

As icing on the cake, reframing the campaign goal into a smaller number made the action seem attainable. Donors likely felt their drop in the bucket could truly help make a difference.

And it did! The campaign exceeded the membership sign-up goal.

Congratulations to the World Wildlife Fund who won the Judges Choice Awards for this test as part of the recently held Best-In-Test awards.

Actionable Takeaways:

  1. Personalize. When crafting copy, create an approach that increases relevancy, making people feel more understood, valued, and connected to your offer.
  2. Parse. Many times bigger may be better, but not when it comes to parsing information into smaller, more digestible, bite-sized pieces, steps, or actions. Think about your ask and how to make it seem more attainable, or manageable to your audience.
  3. Prime. Prime your audience — not just with prime numbers — but also with numbers that are intrinsically appealing to them, based on their geographic location, name, or birthday, if that information is available to you.

Tell Us Your Thoughts:

Why do you think the personalized, parsed down version won?

Let us know by tweeting @BEHAVEdotorg.

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By: Deborah O’Malley, M.Sc.

Deborah is the Director of Digital Development at She holds a master’s of Science (M.Sc.) degree with a specialization in eye tracking technology and is Google Analytics certified. When not helping optimize websites, she’s busy in the kitchen making homemade fudge, or burning it off at the gym.



Winning Version


Reader Guesses:

Which Test Won?

  • Version A
  • Version B
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