Thought Leadership

Step up Your Email Personalization Game

Five strategies to try today

To give your email marketing program a competitive edge by improving relevance, leverage timing and consider location.

Many brands struggle to move beyond basic personalization tactics, such as the use of the recipient’s first name in the body of a message. In fact, only 37 percent of consumers say that the personalization they receive from marketers is adequate, according to a recent Yes Marketing study. On top of that, consumers see more and more emails in their inboxes every day. About 269 billion emails were sent each day in 2017, and analysts predict that number will grow to almost 320 billion by 2021.

The sheer number of emails in subscribers’ inboxes, consumers’ changing preferences and expectations as well as the profitability of the email channel are but a few of the reasons you should step up your email personalization game. Your competitors are already out there making it happen. Now is the time to figure out how you can keep your customers excited to see (or better yet, look for) your messages among a sea of needy brands.

5 Personalization Strategies to Try Today

Before we dive into personalization strategies that can give your email marketing program a competitive edge, it’s important to touch on “why” the strategies below are powerful. While it sounds simple, all of these strategies focus on relevance. 

1. Use real-time data to trigger emails

You can use real-time data like location, weather, or other events to increase relevance by targeting subscriber segments at a time when the email content is most relevant to them. Major events like sports, community initiatives and weather (snow, heat or rain) can elevate your content and boost engagement. The use of real-time data helps marketers take advantage of the moment, and relate to each subscriber through his or her current surroundings and potential mood.

GrubHub does a great job of this when they send emails informed by weather data. They know the demand for food delivery increases when it’s raining, snowing or abnormally cold and they send emails that capture these weather moments. Dunkin Donuts uses a similar approach by mentioning home team sports wins in subject lines paired with a local offer to capitalize on an energy moment.

2. Incorporate subscribers’ email activity

You have a wealth of data about your subscribers’ email activity; you know when they first subscribed, how many emails they’ve opened in a row and what they’ve clicked on. Leverage this data in creative ways to keep your subscribers engaged.

For example, brands should send personalized emails to subscribers to celebrate significant milestones in the relationship (e.g. the anniversary of when they first subscribed), or to re-engage them if they haven’t interacted with the brand in a while.

TheSkimm, a daily newsletter with millions of subscribers, puts this idea to work in an awesome anniversary email. The email informs subscribers about their personal histories with the newsletter, such as the date they first subscribed and how many minutes they’ve spent reading it.

3. Personalize based on psychographics

Marketers can also use psychographic data such as consumer interests, lifestyle, hobbies, beliefs and attitudes, to inform email personalization. This type of data can help marketers identify images and content that are relevant to specific audience segments.

West Marine does a good job of using psychographic data to personalize subject lines, product recommendations and email images for sailboat enthusiasts. These subscribers receive emails with subject lines that specifically mention sailboats, messages that feature images of sailboats and product recommendations that relate to this hobby.

As a part of the opt-in process or welcome series, all marketers should expand their preference centers to ask relevant questions that uncover subscribers’ specific interests and help execute similar personalization strategies.

4. Take a new approach to the first name

It’s easy for marketers to collect subscribers’ first names and personalize subject lines and email content accordingly. Savvy brands use subscribers’ names in much more creative ways to create a deeper connection with their products.

 A great example I saw in my inbox was from Lands’ End. The retailer incorporated subscribers’ first names in product imagery, which helped the customer feel a more personal and emotional connection around the holidays. Land’s End promoted its personalized stockings, showing each subscriber what a stocking would look like embroidered with his or her name.

5. Give your purchase confirmation emails a new twist

 If you’re like most marketers, you send order confirmations/purchase receipts via email. While most marketers categorize purchase confirmation emails as the ‘set it and forget it’ type, these communications present a major opportunity to engage on a more personal level and get subscribers back to the website to re-purchase.

Walgreens donates a portion of its proceeds on certain items to people in need and uses purchase confirmation emails to let consumers know that their purchase has made a difference. These emails are personal thank-you notes that provide more detail about how the subscriber’s purchase helps others. The subject line, hero image, and dynamic content blocks mention the subscriber’s name and his or her purchase while promoting the brand’s community-focused efforts.

Warby Parker uses personalized purchase confirmation emails to give subscribers a reason to continue engaging with the brand. The brand sends these emails after the customer receives his or her purchase, and they contain relevant and helpful information about how to clean or adjust the recently purchased glasses. Warby Parker is smart to embrace emails like these since glasses aren’t an item people buy often. The helpful tips in these messages keep Warby Parker top of mind when it’s time to buy another pair of glasses.

As inboxes become more saturated, marketers need to do everything they can to stand out or risk declining engagement rates. Take advantage of the data you have at your fingertips to implement one of the ideas above and send more creative and relevant emails to your subscriber base.

If you’re still personalizing based on name only, you probably already know it’s time to step up your game.

Author Bio

Kyle Henderick

As Senior Director of Client Services, Kyle is responsible for helping major clients implement new programs, processes, and data-driven strategies to create campaigns that drive revenue. With a passion for technology implementation and a background in database, email, web, and social media marketing, Kyle turns his real-world experience into actionable tactics that help clients see incremental revenue, subscriber engagement, and customer retention. A lover of all things Chicago, when Kyle is not reading up on latest marketing practices or focusing on improving client programs, he can be found enjoying the city’s great restaurants or wearing his heart on his sleeve while rooting for all Chicago-based sports teams. A curious individual willing to try any and every food that does not include raw onions, he is always looking for exciting dining options and new adventures around the city.