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November 6, 2017

6 E-Mail Personalization Best Practices to be Successful

Ever come back from a long weekend only to find your inbox inundated with marketing e-mails? If so, you are not alone. But why do marketers continue to focus so heavily on e-mails? Because they work!

A study by Custora, a predictive analytics firm for eCommerce companies, states that customer acquisition via e-mail has quadrupled in the last four years and accounts for 6.84 percent of customer acquisition, whereas Facebook and Twitter stand at 0.17 percent and <0.01 percent respectively.

Considering the value of a lifetime customer, analytics prove that those who are acquired via e-mail marketing tend to give more value to business. That is 12 percent higher than Facebook (which is a diminutive one percent) or Twitter (23 percent below average).

If you are a marketer, you’d definitely choose personalized e-mail campaigns over social media based on these facts. This is exactly why there is an increase in the perceived importance of e-mail personalization best practices for marketers.

Having said that, referring to my opening line…would you really be OK to sit and clean out your inbox every single day? I personally detest those emails that I’m least interested in, but I like to check one or two e-mails on fashion trends each day. Why? Because that’s what I like.

Like me, 80 percent of e-mail readers find it useful when e-mails feature recommended products based on past purchases and online browsing behavior (71 percent); value online retargeting ads featuring products previously viewed on a retailer’s website (69 percent), and product recommendations on a retailer’s website while they’re shopping (67 percent).

A December 2013 survey of U.S. digital shoppers conducted by Harris Interactive found that the majority of recipients of e-mails containing personalization—based on previous shopping behaviors and preferences— would be likely to purchase more as a result.

In fact, 81 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat likely to make additional purchases, either online or in-store, as a result of personalized e-mail campaigns. Eighty-two percent of those polled were at least somewhat willing to accept the increased e-mail volume.

A majority of consumers were ready to share information about their shopping preferences with retailers in order to improve the types of messages they would receive. Now that’s positive.

Are you on track with the trend, getting the most out of personalized e-mail? If not, you are not alone.

Conversant released “What’s Driving Marketing” in 2014, a report that found 77 percent of marketers agreed personalized e-mail campaigns work better than bulk messages. Yet nearly half don’t think they have the expertise to implement personalized programs.

You can jot down a few of the below e-mail personalization best practices to start off:

Define your goals and objectives

Now that you understand the importance of personalizing your marketing strategies, you need to define what you want to achieve in the process. Do you want to increase your e-mail open rates, gain more subscribers, increase conversion rates, better understand the buyer persona, etc.? Once you identify what you want to achieve, you can better direct your e-mail marketing efforts.

Here’s a scenario; Your company released a new product and wants to establish a market for it. Your goal, as a marketer, is to raise awareness and create a niche for your product. You cannot send personalized e-mail campaigns around this new product to your entire marketing list—you need to first identify what features are enhanced in this product, and match it to those prospects that have shown interest in those features.

Get the right data

How can you collect the right data? Once you have it, how will you use it? A study by Janrain found that 73 percent of consumers were fed up with being presented irrelevant content. What you can do is better understand the history and interests of the customer and suggest targeted content based on that.

Using forms to gather lead data is also important. Sometimes, when you ask too many questions on the same form, you risk losing prospect’s attention. To solve this, try using progressive forms and ask for only a small chunk of information at a time. Each time the same person comes back to another of your forms, the system should know how to ask new questions to get data it does not yet have.

You can also draw generalizations from behavioral data. How long are prospects staying on your site? What links are they clicking? What triggers them to share your content on social media? What are they uploading or downloading and at what times? This information lives in your CRM and can be used to better understand your prospects’ interests and tendencies. Once you have this data, use it to send targeted, personalized e-mails to segments of your audience.

Be Creative

Having the data is a great first step, but that’s not the end game. Even when the content is relevant to your audience’s interests, you still need to be cognizant of how many e-mails you’re sending, otherwise, customers might still feel bombarded.

Instead, it’s time to get creative. Hit on the emotional triggers of your prospects.

Include positive social media feeds of your company or product in e-mails, to create awareness among new customers of your reach in the market. “Live social media feeds in e-mails help overcome the traditional barriers that hold brands back from fully integrating e-mail and social content,” notes Blaise Lucey, the content marketing manager for Movable Ink.

Create Personas

Personas are imaginary characters created based on the needs, behavioral patterns, demography and goals of your potential customers. Creating personas help you in segmenting your audience, personalizing your approach and improving your product/ service.  E-mail marketing: Persona-based e-mail campaigns drives seven percent conversion rate with targeted content.

One of the case studies built by MarketingSherpa, told the story of Collegis Education, which created an e-mail campaign focused on retargeting. Soft inquiries were made by sending an e-mail and having the recipients self-select an option that best fit where they were in the sales funnel.

By identifying the main persona pathways, the Collegis team was able to create a strategy around providing highly targeted content to help prospects overcome their pain points. The results of this effort drove a seven percent conversion rate.

Dynamic e-mails help with this relationship building. On average, personalized messaging generates transaction rates that are six times higher than generic messaging.

Have personalized call-to-actions

Calls-to-actions (CTAs) are used to drive visitors to a landing page or other destination where you can convert them into leads. But how can you personalize your CTAs?

HubSpot talks about this in detail. Targeted CTAs had a 42 percent higher view-to-submission rate over untargeted CTAS. HubSpot refers to them as Smart CTAs.

Personalized CTAs can be used to show different CTAs to different users, based on factors like where the user came from (referral), what pages they visited, what other offers they downloaded, what newsletter they subscribed to, etc.

They are also used to display content based on a visitor’s country, device type, referral source, lifecycle stage, or contact list membership.

Dynamic content, the term used for a website or e-mail that changes based on a website visitor’s profile data or history of interactions with a company, helps you in personalizing the CTAs. Dynamic content helps in creating an experience unique to every user. Apply the same concept to CTAs in your e-mails.

E-mail List Segmentation

Segmented e-mail campaigns have an open rate that is 14.32 percent higher than non-segmented campaigns, according to Mailchimp, 2016.

Segmented e-mails are list messages you send to specific customers or prospects in  your database. While segmenting, you might want to refer to the subscriber information you asked for in your sign-up form and the data provided in your e-mail analytics (city, opens, e-mail provider, etc.).

You can even look into demographic data such as gender, age, levels of education, and marital status while considering segmentation. For instance, if your clients are primarily young people, you can make advertising choices to reflect their interests.

Others can be; based on location, population density, rural versus urban living, or climate to name a few. You can also segment them by domestic and international groups. Based on identifying product purchasing history which products they buy, how often do they buy (if they visit only during big sale season or all through the year), how they purchase each product (on the computer, on their phone, or at a physical store).

Everyone has different customer profiles. Not all customers are same. Identify what key factor(s) set one apart from another and segment your users accordingly. It could be any of the above. Once you understand that, you are better able to target messaging, develop your products to fit prospects’ needs, and drive value for both the customer and your business.

Let us know which of these practices worked for you.


Rohit Prasanna brings in about 14 years of digital marketing experience and has been an advisor to software start-ups in the mobile and SaaS areas. Before getting into startups, Rohit worked in various marketing, and product management roles at Unisys, Dell, and IBM. Specialties: Digital marketing, building and growing companies, marketing, business development, M&A.