Published July 2018, updated July 2019
More than ever before, brands are using personalization to create compelling interactions for customers and subscribers. In fact, many businesses have gone beyond basic personalization, such as using a first name, to extreme personalization, such as personalized product recommendations.
Click-through rates improve by an average of 14% when using personalized email messages. (Aberdeen)
74% of marketers say customer engagement is increased by targeted personalization. (eConsultancy)
Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. (Experian)
With dozens of other findings to encourage your personalization efforts, there’s plenty of reasons to begin implementing dynamic content. But how can you quickly put it into practice without spending hundreds of hours crafting emails? The answer is dynamic content.
Three easy ways to use dynamic content
Personalizing your emails using dynamic content can be easier than you expected (depending on what email service provider you’re using, of course). While a lot of your personalization abilities will be contingent on the data you collect, there are definitely some basics that can get you started.
1. Dynamic content based on demographics
A great way to begin engaging your audience in more meaningful ways is to send messages based on basic demographic info. Simple demographic info you can collect include:
- marital status
Adjusting your messaging based on demographics will change based on what data you have for your list, as well as how your product or offering relates to different types of people. But let’s look at an example.
In the email above, Sephora ran a giveaway for their subscribers to win a trip to Paris.
While that may sound luxurious and exciting for people around the world, Parisians may not be as interested in this contest. This is a great opportunity to use dynamic content based on location.
For the majority of their worldwide subscribers, Sephora could send messaging with the Paris contest. Using the same exact campaign, the Paris sections of the email could dynamically be replaced with sections showing another glamorous destination—Sydney, perhaps. Now the offer changes dynamically, appealing to subscribers that are interested in a trip abroad rather than their own city.
In a study of our own, we found that using dynamic content based on location increased click-through rates by 29%. Try powering your own email engagement by changing content based on your subscriber’s location.
2. Dynamic content based on preferences
Another creative way to boost engagement is by sending content based on preferences.
A lot of brands offer a preferences center where subscribers can choose the type of content they want to receive. You could ask your audience to choose their preferences in your welcome email series, or offer a link at the bottom of each email that allows readers to change their preferences.
When you create dynamic content based on what your subscribers want to see, that content instantly becomes relevant.
In this example, Banana Republic sends an email announcing new arrivals.
This email is great if the subscriber prefers seeing new arrivals. But what if they prefer to see something else, like upcoming sales? This section of dynamic content could change to announce a sale or offer to keep the subscriber engaged with content they’re interested in.
3. Dynamic content based on email data
Using your email reporting to dictate dynamic content can be extremely powerful. If your email service provider can track opens and clicks, you’re already on the right track. Now it’s just a matter of putting that data to work.
What your readers choose to open, click on, and view gives you direct insight into their interests. If your previous emails contained various forms of content (e.g. infographics, blogs, videos) or various topics, your next email could implement dynamic content based on your audience’s clicks.
For the readers that tend to engage with videos, you could change your dynamic content to include more videos. For those that have opened up checklists in the past, you could serve up more checklists when appropriate.
This is also a great time to recycle old content. By segmenting people who didn’t open a previous email, you can change your dynamic content to show content certain people may have missed.
Examples of real-life dynamic email content
There are always new trends for email design, and dynamic email content is no different. That’s one of the things that makes dynamic content itself so effective. It changes and evolves, just like the rest of digital marketing.
Marketers who have dealt with dynamic content before may have seen the standard strategies. The key to making great content lies in going above and beyond for your subscribers, delighting them with new experiences delivered straight to their inboxes. Marketers must move beyond basic ideas based on user behavior and preferences to make dynamic content even more personal.
Here are some examples that do that and do it masterfully.
StubHub knows what users like and brings it to them
Source: Really Good Emails
The average user on your list probably changes some of their favorites or preferences by the week—maybe by the day. Emails that capitalize on favorites in short time frames are especially useful in being adaptive.
This one is a dynamic email because it talks about the user’s picks for the week based on their previous activity. Notice how the use of language throughout is centered around making sure the user knows they’re getting a personal experience. Combine this with the balance of text and images, and you have a great template for your next email campaign—both in layout and copy.
iFit keeps its users in the loop at every step
Source: Really Good Emails
There’s nothing more interactive and adaptive than a transactional email. A person who has made a purchase or completed an order provides a great opportunity to send them a series of adaptive content to help keep them in the know every step of the way.
In this example, shipment tracking is the service being offered. This email could be one in a long series, depending on how far the item has to ship (or if there is any unexpected delay). Let’s say the person begins using the tracking option via the email’s CTA. This could be set up as a trigger to provide a check to make sure the package did arrive, then later on a request for a product review.
AARP gives personalization a splash of variety
Source: Really Good Emails
Email marketing is often based on location, but this example takes the location-specific approach to personalization to the next level. In conjunction with the seasonal layout, this email presentation is exciting. It feels special. What’s more, it feels relatable, because it’s literally close to home.
An email like this highlights fun activities relevant to the reader’s area, making it an easy topic to become invested in. Dynamic content in email is always centered around the user’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean their preferences can’t give way to some variety.
Even in this one email, where content is all tied together by both the location and the season, it offers multiple suggestions about what to consider next. These suggestions may not all be relevant to every reader. But since the content is already personal enough, offering some variety here actually increases the likelihood of email engagement.
Combining dynamic content with automation
Now that we’ve looked at personalizing dynamic content, you can combine these ideas with an automated journey to deliver relevant, engaging content for your audience.
Using dynamic content in a welcome email series is a great place to start. Instead of delivering a broad welcome series to every person that’s added to your list, try inserting more relevant content based on the way they subscribed.
In this email from Help Scout, they send a blog post to welcome their subscribers.
This post gives a lot of insight into how their company works and invites the subscriber to engage with their content. Win-win, right? Definitely—but this is also a missed opportunity.
This type of email is great to welcome a variety of subscribers. But if a subscriber signed up through the blog, this is a great chance to get a different type of content in front of them. By showing them a different facet of your content, you not only educate your reader but engage them on a deeper level.
A re-engagement email is another good place for dynamic content. Re-engagement emails are typically used to pull your subscriber’s attention back to your emails.
To make these campaigns more relevant, you can use dynamic content based on the last email or content piece they interacted with. Customizing the content to make it similar to what the lost reader is interested in will maximize your efforts to get them back on track with your content.
St. Jude uses this email to try to re-engage a lapsed donor, which is great if this subscriber has viewed patient stories in the past. If this subscriber has previously engaged with stories about the staff or doctors, this would be a great place to dynamically replace the patient stories with other fieldwork stories to provide content the reader is bound to enjoy.
Including dynamic content in your emails can increase relevance and engagement. Using a few details that you already know about your subscribers, you can deliver extremely relevant content to every person in your audience. Combining dynamic content principles with automated email journeys can supercharge your content marketing and drive more interaction with your content and business.
To understand more about how to use dynamic content in email, consider combining it with interactive content.