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This is a guest post from Bamidele Onibalusi at Writers in Charge.

How often do you feel that your email marketing is missing something important?

That deficiency manifests in low open rates, high unsubscribe rates, and meager conversions. All of these are symptoms of one major malady: subpar email personalization.

Companies that do personalize see quite the opposite. According to a 2019 study by Monet:

  • 93% of businesses that use advanced personalization increased their revenue last year.
  • 77% of the top performers who exceeded their revenue goals also had a documented personalization strategy in place.

There’s even more data proving the immense power of personalization, especially when it comes to ROI. But, rather than focus on the outcomes too much (for now), let’s administer the treatment.

6 Personalization hacks

If your email marketing needs an effective ROI cure, here are six actionable personalization hacks worth using.

1. Use email quizzes to capture content preferences and boost engagement.

Comprehensive customer data is the pillar of personalized marketing.

But how do you collect it without the dreaded customer surveys and feedback forms?

One word: quizzes. Luckily, quizzes are nowhere close to losing their popularity, and they’re easy to implement.

When BuzzFeed’s data science team perfected the formula for viral quizzes, the company’s website traffic grew nearly three-fold:

Source: Business2Community.

What does this have to do with email marketing? Quizzes can help you poll and segment your audience in an entertaining, interactive manner.

The best part? You can also see the results of your audience’s replies and use those to guide your product and content recommendations.

In short, quizzes do several great things for your email marketing:

  • Help collect customer feedback and gauge preferences
  • Show you what types of content/deals/promos hit the mark
  • Serve as an interactive method for micro-segmenting your list
  • Boost engagement stats, thanks to the interactive component

Case in point: one wedding-planning company decided to improve its product and content recommendations. After prospects signed up for the newsletter, the company prompted them to visit a dedicated landing page and indicate their preferences:

This Paperstyle quiz is an example of simple email personalization hacks

Source: Whereoware.

Based on the selection, they moved the customer to the appropriate list and sent them a personalized drip campaign.

The results were fantastic: open rate grew by 244% and click-through rate increased by 161%.

If you already have a good sense of customers’ general preferences, you can also use an email quiz to help them with further product discovery.

Harry’s email is a great example of how this can be done (with a bit of humor).

Interactive quizzes make for great data: use them in your email personalization hacks.

Source: Really Good Emails.

2. Add personalized price-drop emails to your email mix.

Everyone loves a good deal, and few people can resist clicking on that sweet price reduction. Especially when it’s for a product they’ve eyed for a while.

Listrak research found that price-drop alerts had the highest open and click-to-open rates among all types of transactional emails:

Add personalized price-drop emails to your list of email personalization hacks. This graph shows benchmarks.

Also, be aware that 69.57% of shoppers will abandon their purchase. That’s a lot of revenue left on the table.

Retargeting them with a quick price-drop alert can help you recoup some of those unspent dollars. Ladder says that a well-executed price-drop campaign generates a 16% increase in ROI.

Here are several best practices for price-drop emails:

  • Timing is everything. Alert the shopper once the discount expires.
  • Target users who’ve clearly shown interest in a particular product (added it to favorites, placed it in the cart, or accessed the product page multiple times).
  • Split test different micro-copy, CTAs, and visuals to see which formulas perform best.
  • Don’t mash several price drops into a single email. Focus on pitching the particular product the user’s been eyeing, and briefly mention other discounted goods in the same category.

Here’s a nice price-drop example from Etsy that highlights the discount and instills a sense of urgency with a quick disclaimer that the deal may be gone any time:

Source: Pinterest.

3. Let users personalize their email marketing settings.

No one wants to admit this, but email fatigue is real. An average professional dispatches and receives 121 emails per day.

The volume of traffic passing through personal inboxes is enormous too: Over 111.1 billion consumer emails go in and out every day.

So here’s a bit of unconditional advice: Sometimes slowing down with your email marketing might be the right thing to do.

Take a look at Spotify and their glorified user preferences center. Instead of introducing double opt-ins, they were among the first to let customers personally choose what type of communication they want to receive:

Source: Spotify.

Allowing users to select when, how, and how often they want to be emailed reduces the likelihood of unsubscribing.

Also, it allows users to stay in control of the relevance of emails. This, in turn, helps you with segmentation and can ultimately lead to higher open rates.

From a tech standpoint, enabling custom email preferences isn’t that hard either, as a lot of email marketing services will sort things out for you.

And here’s some inspo from Bespoke Post on how to inform subscribers about their new notification options:

Source: Really Good Emails.

You can learn more about setting up an email preference center from our previous post.

4. Introduce dynamic email content.

Dynamic email content isn’t a new trick in marketing books. But it’s still one of the most effective ones. According to a OneSpot report:

  • Sixty-five percent of marketers name dynamic content as their best email personalization tactic.
  • Sixty percent also said that introducing real-time data to emails (i.e., location or weather) proved to be highly effective.

The biggest appeal of dynamic content is that it suits companies of any size, at any level of email marketing maturity.

You can start experimenting with basic tactics and gradually build up to more sophisticated campaigns, incorporating several personalization hacks at once:

Source: Venture Beat.

Here are several actionable ideas from our big guide to dynamic content:

  • Adding a customer’s name to the email subject line can boost open rates by 26%.
  • Personalize visuals to the customer’s location and, perhaps, the season. Imagine how your Australian customers feel when they’re receiving yet another snowy and frosty email before Christmas.
  • Pitch different types of informational content based on customers’ past actions on your website. One of your prospects recently compared different car models? Follow up with a “First-Timer’s Guide to Buying a Car.”
  • Companies with higher data maturity should experiment with sending dynamic product recommendations. Airbnb recently improved its act and now follows up users with personalized itineraries for their upcoming trips:

Source: Really Good Emails.

5. Show your customers the VIP treatment.

One of your best personalization hacks is exclusivity because it has an almost toxic pull, and some brands are readily using it. The brand’s entire sales strategy is built upon waitlists and discreet selling to the most dedicated brand fans.

But you don’t have to be a luxury brand to play the exclusivity card. You can try to appear as one by making your most loyal and engaged customers feel truly special.

Setting up an exclusive email list generates several benefits for your business:

  • You create a tribe of highly engaged shoppers who are ready to not just spend more with your brand, but also spread the good word.
  • You can launch time-sensitive campaigns that’ll create the urge to buy and help you move on your stock.
  • Lastly, you can run targeted marketing tests on the most engaged part of your audience to gauge what offers work best before introducing offers to everyone else during the general sales.

This email from BaubleBar illustrates how you can pack a punch in one email and entice a customer with a 12-hour discount and free shipping:

Source: Really Good Emails.

Here’s a quick strategy you can use to create a VIP email workflow:

  • Segment customers with the highest loyalty status and lifetime-value spendings to a new list.
  • Set up dedicated campaigns for them, offering personalized discounts, unique access to certain content/events/promos, etc. Leverage the data you collect to personalize the offerings even further.
  • Start scaling the program and offer VIPs personal referral codes to share with their friends, so that both can claim a discount. Empower your customers to become your brand’s best advocates.
  • Set up a landing page for those referred users explaining to them the benefits and unique perks of joining your VIP program, as well as basic eligibility requirements.
  • Keep nurturing all your fans with personalized email campaigns.

6. Invest in personalized micro-copy.

We’re biased to instantly like people who appear similar to us. A sociological study carried out in 2018 explains why:

  • Meeting people who share our interests and preferences reinforces our confidence in our own attitudes.
  • We find interactions with similar-minded people to be more fun and enjoyable.
  • Learning that a person shares something in common with us makes us feel more positive about ourselves, and we transfer that feeling to the other person.

As an email marketer, you can learn to mimic customers’ language to build that attraction and create a 1:1 rapport with them.

Starbucks does this particularly well. This year, the company deployed a new AI-powered email personalization engine that churns 400,000 variants of hyper-personalized emails each week.

The engine captures individual customers’ behavior and past preferences to craft 1:1 offers in real time.

As a result, Starbucks has seen a:

  • 3X increase in marketing campaign effectiveness
  • 2X increase in email redemptions
  • 3X increase in incremental spends via offer redemptions

Andrea Xue, an independent data scientist, also analyzed data from Starbucks’ rewards app to estimate how effective its personalized offers are for different customer segments.

Spoiler alert: they convert big time.

Source: Towards Data Science.

Less tech-savvy brands can also follow Starbucks’ cue and personalize email copy based on:

  • Customer’s age
  • Gender
  • Sizing
  • Loyalty status
  • Shopping preferences

You don’t need fancy AI for that. Campaign Monitor’s personalization tags will do the trick. Show that you’re not a faceless company, but another human being who listens and cares about your customers’ interests and preferences.

Wrap up

Email personalization is expensive to ignore. Generic email blasts are burning your marketing budgets, bringing little to no ROI in return. What’s worse, every irrelevant email in your customers’ inbox pushes them closer to unsubscribing.

Making your communication more personal, timely, and relevant isn’t that hard, with the right tools. To maintain a strong email marketing beat (with occasional ROI spikes), use the following strategies:

  • Segment your lists with quizzes.
  • Add triggered emails to your marketing mix.
  • Give users tools to personalize their communication preferences.
  • Experiment with dynamic content.
  • Collect more granular data for personalization.
  • Split test different types of messages and offers.
  • Rinse and repeat what’s working best

Need more personalization hacks? Check out Campaign Monitor’s ultimate guide to email personalization, covering all the nuts and bolts of building a 1:1 rapport with your audience.

Bamidele Onibalusi is a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Writers in Charge. He has been featured and published on top publications that include Forbes, Fast Company, Digital Journal, and The Huffington Post.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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