Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all messaging. Consumers have come to demand and expect relevant and personalized content and experiences both online and offline.
To meet those demands, marketers are striving to leverage email personalization to move from 1: many messaging toward 1:1 experiences that not only meet, but exceed consumer expectations and set them apart from the competition. That’s why it’s not surprising that when asked to prioritize one capability that will be most important to marketing in the future, 33% of marketers answered: “personalization.” Furthermore, 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement, and they see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized experiences.
To help marketers slay their email personalization challenges and goals, we created a comprehensive guide that covers basic tactics like personalizing an email subject line, to more sophisticated techniques like using dynamic content or behavioral data based on how consumers are engaging with your brand. Marketers at every level and ability can reap the benefits of sending more relevant and personalized messages that get results.
What is email personalization?
Personalization, in the context of email marketing, is the act of targeting an email campaign to a specific subscriber by leveraging the data and information you have about them. It could be information like their first name, the last product they bought, where they live, how many times they log into your app or a plethora of other data points.
Personalization is a broad term, and it can vary in sophistication. Basic email personalization includes tactics like using a subscriber’s name in the subject line, while more advanced tactics can include changing the content of the email based on a subscriber’s gender, location or other things you know about them.
Personalizing your email campaigns is a proven way to increase your open and click-through rates and can have a measurable impact on your ROI and revenue. In fact, studies have shown emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened than those without and Rich Relevance found that revenue is 5.7 times higher in emails that employ personalization.
This is because personalized emails are more relevant to subscribers. Instead of receiving a campaign with generic, one-size-fits-all offers and messaging, your subscribers will receive an email that is targeted directly at them, includes their name, and shows offers (products, promotions, etc) that are relevant to their individual interests. Think about your own preferences and actions. Wouldn’t you be more likely to respond to a message that resonates with you and speaks to a need or desire you have versus a generic offer that may totally miss that mark?
What can be personalized?
Using professional-grade email marketing tools like Campaign Monitor, almost every part of your email marketing campaigns can be personalized, using tactics that range from the simple to the more advanced. We’ll cover each of these tactics so you can understand the realm of possibilities. And, it’s entirely possible to start simple and work your way toward more advanced tactics as you go along. The key is to use personalization in big and small ways to add value to your customers’ experiences.
Basic Email Personalization Tactics
Most marketers using basic personalization tactics are looking to do 1:many /email newsletter type marketing. They may not have the resources or bandwidth to focus on email personalization, but there are some basic tactics that can help them get better results from their efforts and increase their engagement metrics.
The From Name is one of the most prominently displayed elements of your campaign when it arrives in your subscriber’s inbox.
On many desktop and mobile clients, it’s displayed with a larger text and heavier font to help people quickly identify who the email is from.
Given its prominence, it’s probably not surprising that 68% of Americans say they base their decision to open an email on the From Name.
To appeal to these people and get more of them to open your campaigns, you can personalize the From Name of your emails so that different subscribers see different names.
A common use case for this is sending your marketing campaigns from the individual sales representative or account manager that is currently working with a particular account.
Dubsat does a good job of this in their promotional campaigns, dynamically changing the From Name so that the email campaign appears to come from the account manager the client regularly deals with.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can do this easily using Personalization Tags.
As you create your campaign, you simply enter the Personalization Tag you wish to use in the From Name area. Then, when you send your campaign it will automatically be replaced by the information you have stored in your email list (i.e., the name of the sales representative who is working with the account).
After the From Name, the subject line is the second most prominent element in the inbox.
On most devices, the subject line is formatted with darker, heavier text in an attempt to make it stand out among the other details of the email.
Given its prominence in the inbox, it’s inevitable that your chosen subject line will have a significant effect on open rates, and our own research shows that using the recipient’s first name in the subject line can increase open rates by 26%.
Converse does this well in their email campaigns, adding the subscriber’s first name to the subject line to help the campaign stand out in the inbox and get people to open.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can do this using Personalization Tags.
When writing your subject line, simply click the ‘Insert Personalization’ button and you’ll see a list of the different Personalization Tags you can insert into your subject line. Then, when you send your campaign it will automatically be replaced by the information you have stored in your email list (i.e., the first name of the subscriber.)
Medium Sophistication Email Personalization Tactics
Marketers that are utilizing medium sophistication personalization tactics are starting to develop deeper relationships with consumers, and are moving from 1:many toward more of a 1:some marketing that is more targeted and fosters even higher levels of engagement.
Beyond just the From Name and Subject Line, there are also a number of ways in which you can personalize the body content of your email campaigns to make them more relevant to subscribers and increase the chance they’ll click-through.
If you have your subscriber’s first name, company or even t-shirt size stored in your email list, then you can easily use that information to personalize the text in your email campaigns.
The most common example of this is adding a subscriber’s first name to the email, like this example from Sephora who include the subscriber’s first name to address them more directly.
While first name personalization may be the most common example, it is far from the only thing you can do.
In fact, using custom fields you can store literally any piece of information you choose on your subscribers (e.g., gender, t-shirt size, birthday, etc) and then use it to personalize campaigns.
Dropbox does an excellent job of this, including the subscriber’s company name to take the personalization to a new level and increase the relevance of the email for the reader.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can personalize your copy directly in the drag-and-drop email builder.
Simply select the ‘Insert personalization’ drop down and you’ll see all the different Personalization Tags available. When you send your campaign, the tags will be automatically replaced by the information you have stored in your email list (i.e., the first name of the subscriber.)
Beyond just text, you can also dynamically change the images in your email marketing campaigns to better appeal to specific subscribers.
This is a powerful way of increasing your email click-through rate. In fact, in a recent campaign, we tested dynamically changing the images to match the subscriber’s individual location. We created different images for people in the UK, USA, and Australia and tested them against a generic version (with just one location-agnostic image) to see if personalized images worked better.
The results? By making the images in our email campaign personalized to the subscriber’s location, we were able to increase our email click-through rate by 29%.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can easily do this in the email builder. Simply select the images you wish to personalize, and then select the segment of your list you want it to show for (i.e., subscribers in Australia).
Dynamic Content Offers
Savvy brands are using demographic and geographic data to personalize the offers that are delivered to each consumer. You can dynamically change entire sections of content within your email to make the entire campaign more relevant and more appealing to subscribers.
A common use case for this would be showing menswear to your male subscribers while showing womenswear to female subscribers.
Adidas did this in their email campaigns for the Originals series. By dynamically switching the products being promoted based on the subscriber’s gender, they ensured each subscriber saw the most relevant and appealing products that would entice them to make a purchase.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you can easily do this in the email builder. Simply select the section of content you wish to personalize, and then select the segment of your list you want it to show to (i.e., male subscribers).
With personalization, you can use email marketing and automation to encourage customers who have already engaged to come back.
For example, St. Jude Children’s Hospital automatically sends a reminder to donate to re-engage their past donors. Six months after making a donation, they’ll automatically receive a message reminding them of St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s impact, encouraging them to donate again.
To re-engage these subscribers, you can send a re-engagement campaign asking inactive customers if they still want to hear from you. You can send a special promo, a thank you note, or actively ask for their feedback. Keep in mind this should be a pull-out-all-the-stops, best content, best offer kind of email because this may be the last chance you have to impress.
St. Jude powers these emails with data that they collect at the time a donation is made making the data collection process simple. That data is then fed into their email marketing and automation provider making it effortless to power the related customer journeys that follow. By proactively sending a reminder email, St. Jude increases the likelihood that a donor will make a repeat contribution and stays top-of-mind with their audience.
Advanced Sophistication Email Personalization Tactics
Marketers with specific use cases who may be utilizing customer journeys and automation, as well as other more advanced tactics, can employ personalization techniques using data from other sources to create a highly personalized experience. They may be capturing data about consumers via their email service provider, CRM, e-commerce platform, website behavior, and other third-party applications.
Marketers with this rich data can employ behavioral segmentation creating dynamic segments that are based on a consumer’s engagement with their brand via multiple channels.
This a game changer for more advanced marketers because it takes the constant, manual data management aspect out of email segmentation and personalization. It’s the foundation for a highly personalized strategy.
Now let’s take a look at some use cases and examples of more advanced personalization tactics you can use to deliver highly relevant messages and experiences to your subscribers and customers.
By integrating a customer’s recent purchases or browsing history into their email marketing, marketers can leverage customer behavior to create relevant, engaging email campaigns that boost purchases through cross-sell and up-sell product recommendations that are merchandised to each unique recipient in your Campaign Monitor email list.
Retailers and e-commerce sites can now easily create real-time, one-to-one targeted content that speaks right to the individual in order to create a long-term relationship and increase the lifetime value of that customer.
A simple example is this section of an order confirmation email from Nordstrom that contains a section at the bottom of the email displaying product recommendations based on recently viewed items that the consumer did not purchase.
Another example is from Brooklinen who sends an email based on website behavior of images of the products the consumer recently browsed but did not purchase reminding them that the sheets they looked at are still available with an easy call to action button. They include a free shipping offer to sweeten the deal.
Sephora, a cosmetics company, uses marketing automation to automatically send a series of special offers to their best customers once they’ve reached VIP status, which is triggered by a spending threshold.
Sephora, a cosmetics company, uses marketing automation to automatically send a series of special offers to their best customers once they’ve reached VIP status, which is triggered by a spending threshold.
Using automation, they take their customers on a personalized journey that is tailored to each individual subscriber’s behavior. For instance, if a customer reaches VIP status they receive a different email than a customer who doesn’t reach the spend threshold.
Sephora then continues that journey based on how the customer engages with each message. This kind of segmentation allows marketers to deliver the most relevant message to each subscriber, driving stronger engagement and revenue.
You can use integrations with systems like Shopify to leverage the powerful customer data to create targeted, timely email marketing campaigns.
Every online retailer and e-commerce company knows that just because someone puts an item in their shopping cart, doesn’t mean they’ll purchase it. In fact, the digital shopping cart abandonment rate is 74.3% worldwide. That roughly translates to only 1 in 4 carts gets “checked out.”
Whether the consumer had second thoughts, got distracted or simply ran out of time, it’s nice to know that you can still try to get the customer to come back using email marketing and automation.
Take retailer Birchbox. By tracking their customers’ website behavior and tying that data into their email marketing platform, they are able to know when someone begins the checkout process but doesn’t complete it and abandons their purchase. When this happens, Birchbox automatically sends an email reminding them that they still have items in their cart. It encourages the customer to go back to the site to complete their purchase and includes images of the products left behind.
Travel company Flight Centre compiles data from their email, social properties, and back-end systems. With that data, Flight Centre creates highly targeted segments based on customer interests, behavior, and engagement with their marketing properties. Then using those segments, Flight Centre triggers automated customer journeys with personalized vacation offers to incent higher bookings.
For example, here’s an email that showcases dynamic imagery for a particular persona (someone interested in cruises) with a personalized offering. This email features:
- Personalized imagery and lead in content
- Deadline driven to create urgency
- Personalization: first name, consultant worked with in the past
After implementing Campaign Monitor and behavioral segmentation Flight Centre saw a huge impact to their metrics.
How to get the necessary data
If you want to personalize your email campaigns, then you first need to have information like their name and location stored in your email list. The data you have about your subscribers allows you to segment your audience which is the key to creating more targeted emails.
If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, any lists you create will automatically be set up with fields to store subscriber’s first name, last name, and email address. However, if you want to capture more in-depth data on your subscribers (like their location, gender or birthdate), you can also setup custom fields to record these attributes.
Once you have your custom fields setup, it’s then a matter of capturing the right information and sending it into your Campaign Monitor account. There are a number of ways to do this:
1. Using Your Email Subscribe Forms
By adding some extra fields to your email subscribe forms, you can capture extra details about your subscribers that allow you to personalize your campaigns.
Topshop does a great job of this with their subscribe forms, capturing the subscriber’s date of birthday, location & work status along with standard details like name and email address.
2. Using Integrations
If you primarily send email campaigns to your existing customer base, then integrating your email marketing tool with your CRM, eCommerce platform or accounting package can be a great way to obtain extra details about your subscribers that allow you to personalize your campaigns to them.
Email marketing tools like Campaign Monitor have deep integrations with popular tools like Salesforce, Shopify & Magento which will import not just the name and email of your subscribers, but other information such as their location, status, total number of orders, total spent & more.
With detailed information on your subscribers coming in through your subscribe forms and integrations, you’ll have everything you need to start personalizing your email campaigns and driving increased open and click-through rates.
3. Using Third-Party Apps
A lot of customer data is often stored in third-party apps that may not have a pre-built integration. Leveraging an API opens up a world of possibilities for integrating your email platform with your third-party software to create effective segmentation based on customer data. With Campaign Monitor’s robust API, you can connect all your core business apps to meet your unique email marketing and automation needs.
4. Website Behavior Tracking
As mentioned, by tracking browser activity on your website or e-commerce platform, you can collect massive amounts of behavioral data about the interests and preferences of your customers. This data can be invaluable in crafting emails with product recommendations, purchase abandonment reminders, limited time discounts, and dynamic content that resonates on a personal level. While several third-party apps track web behavior, Campaign Monitor can also integrate with Google Analytics to provide data on the website visits and clicks of your email audience, and leverage that data in both the building and sending of emails. It’s an integral way to move towards a one-to-one email marketing strategy.
Marketing Automation & Personalization
Marketing automation uses “customer journeys” that begin with a trigger – like signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or sharing an email. These journeys are designed to be more relevant to the recipient than just a mass email blast. They’re easier for marketers to execute since journeys are set up once. This style of email marketing is also valuable because it creates an ongoing conversation with your subscribers and customers, and builds brand loyalty. But the bottom line is the bottom line – marketing automation generates ROI, revenue, and results.
B2C and B2B companies all use marketing automation to send more personalized, timely, and relevant messages that result in higher engagement and revenue. No matter what tool or platform is used, marketing automation can be distilled to three core components: triggers, rules, and content.
As marketers use automation to deliver personalized messages at scale, they need to consider the messages they want to send, who they want to send them to and when, and the data that is needed to power these sends. The data can be used as a trigger for a particular message or journey to begin sending to a segment of subscribers.
Nissan auto dealerships automatically send new car buyers service reminders six months after their purchase which results in new sales opportunities – all without any manual data entry or manipulation. This is a perfect example of using the data they have about their customers to send relevant messages that deliver revenue again and again. That’s the beauty of marketing automation and personalization working together seamlessly.
Another excellent example of using marketing automation comes from jewelry retailer Monica Vinader knows that birthdays are a great way to generate revenue, so they collect this data point as part of their checkout process and sync it right to their Campaign Monitor list. Then, when their subscribers’ birthdays roll around, the retailer uses marketing automation to automatically send an offer for 10% off.
By recording the customer’s birthdate, Monica Vinader can send out an automated birthday email that reminds customers to engage with the brand, which can lead to more ROI and revenue for the brand.
Personalizing your email campaigns is a proven way to deliver incredibly targeted and relevant content to your customers and prospects adding value to their experience all along the way. In return, you can drive increased ROI and revenue for your growing business.
By collecting the right data at the right time and using powerful, yet easy to use tools like Campaign Monitor, personalization has never been easier and more accessible than right now.