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September 25, 2012

Is Personalization the Holy Grail of Email Marketing?

Email can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool to drive conversions and profits, yet it is grossly underutilized. If you’ve read any of my previous columns, you have no doubt figured out that email RELEVANCY is a soap-box subject of mine. So… I’m going to expound a bit more on that subject here…

So few marketers use personalization in their messages – less than 10% in fact. And of those, a majority utilize less than 5 points of personalization. Personalization used properly will make your emails stand out from the clutter, increase your response and conversion rates, and ultimately drive sales. A study done by YesMail showed response rates triple when the number of personalization elements were increased from 1 or 2 to 7 or 8.

So, is personalization the Holy Grail of email marketing? Well, that depends… I’m not referring to simply saying “Dear First Name” in an email salutation – even spammers can do this today. Effective email personalization incorporates information you know about the recipient and his/her behaviors, thus making the email more relevant.

Successful personalization involves more than just “Dear First Name.” Let’s take a look at some proven ways to implement personalization and relevancy in an email…

Recent Purchases. Integrate purchasing behavior into your email campaigns. Wouldn’t you pay attention to an email that read: “Thanks, Deb, for purchasing your Tecnica Ski Boots last season. Perhaps it is time for a new pair of the latest skis?” And, of course, a coupon in the email with a discount on my next purchase couldn’t hurt…

We expect you’re almost out of… If I purchased a two-month supply of a favorite product, a friendly reminder would be a welcome email in my Inbox. Something like, “Based on normal usage, we expect you’re almost out… buy now at a special price!” This would be especially beneficial for ongoing prescriptions, but so few pharmacies utilize this effective technique.

Past Purchases. My car dealership would score points with me if they were to proactively send an email to me offering discounts on oil changes, tire rotations, etc. Let’s really spruce up the email with a photo of the exact make and model of the car I purchased from them! And, based on typical driving patterns, include service reminders and allow me to schedule an appointment to bring my car in by simply clicking a link in the email to their scheduling system.

Expiration Dates. With all of the auto-pay options we have setup these days, I can’t easily remember who needs to get updated (and how) when I have a credit card about to expire. Receiving a reminder email from each of them with a link to their online system asking that I update my credit card information because of an approaching expiration date would be very helpful.

Seasonal Reminders. It’s those activities that we don’t do regularly that we often forget about. I think it would be great if my gardener sent out a reminder about turning on/off my sprinkler system in the spring and the fall, wouldn’t you? How easy it is to forget things like this! Think of the potential revenues to these vendors from these simple email reminders!

Related Items. You recently purchased a new duvet cover from a department store’s website. After you’ve enjoyed it for a couple of weeks, wouldn’t it be fun to receive an email with a picture of your recent acquisition with coordinating items that you can purchase online (with an offer of free shipping, perhaps) or at the local store (with the address and map included in the email)?

People Who Purchased This Also Purchased That. I know of no other site that does this as well as Of course, it takes a very robust database and a huge product line, but this technique has proven very effective for them.

Subscriber That Has Indicated Specific Areas of Interest. If a sporting goods store has surveyed their customers effectively, these responses should be leveraged in subsequent communications. For example, if they know that I’m interested in skiing in the Rockies, then perhaps they should include information such as snow reports, equipment reviews and sales, and info on ski trips for store customers in my emails. If they were to send more than a couple of emails on the latest fly-fishing equipment (something I have NO interest in), it wouldn’t be long before I unsubscribed from future emails.

There are so many ways you can take your email communications to the next level. I hope this list has inspired you to get started. My clients have seen a TREMENDOUS increase in their email responses by incorporating one or more of these effective techniques into their online communications… and their customers appreciate it, too!

Deb Daufeldt is Founder and Principal of Second Story Solutions, LLC, an interactive
marketing agency that provides website usability enhancement and search engine marketing, as well as email marketing strategy, design, development, copy writing, and integration services. Deb can be reached at 303.662.1888 or