What’s Tripping Up Our Efforts to Make Email More Personal?

email personalization

Remember when email personalization meant all you had to do was include the subscriber’s name in the subject line? It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Now that tactic fails to impress the savvy (or cynical) even through it’s still effective.

Today, personalization can mean sending emails based on opens or clicks, website behavior like browsing or buying, emails triggered by abandoned shopping carts, and far, far more sophisticated tactics.

Being able to compile all of that data into one single view of each customer and deliver laser-targeted relevant messages as a result, now that is modern personalization.

But…most of us are still not there yet (unless we’re a big huge brand like Amazon, of course). Despite all of the talk about and desire for that level of personalization, many are still tripping along the path—not running smoothly along. Why? Oh, a couple of reasons.

Silos…still

I can remember reading about the evils of silos of data decades years ago, and not much has changed. Our data still exists in silos, and we still struggle to get those isolated pieces of information gathered together in an integrated and usable way. Marketers have access to plenty of data that could enable personalization, but it’s stored in too many different and disparate places. According to eMarketer,

Senior executives polled in North America said their companies were using an average of 36 different data-gathering systems and vendors—and some used more than 100.

The same report says executives are trying to get data sources integrated and streamlined, but they lack that single customer view and the personalized messaging it could offer if they did have it, in part because they lack the resources to make that kind of integrated, digestible data happen. They’re working on it. But they aren’t there.

Rushing it…and getting it wrong

Obviously, personalization is not something you wake up one day and decide to master, and this is another thing that trips us up: Rush it, get it wrong, and end up looking stupid. If you’re going to do personalization, you need to do it right rather than right away because otherwise it’s not personal. As David Baker has so eloquently points out, personalization shouldn’t be rushed for fear of it going awry. It can be complicated and complex. Take that into account. (Of course, it can’t ever be as bad as the world’s worst email.)

Is it worth it? Of course!

Many are still tripping over technologies trying to get personalized messages into our subscribers’ inboxes, but it is worth it. Although results depend on your industry, study after study shows personalized messages outperform those that aren’t by a wide margin. For example, according to MarketingProfs recounting the performance of emails in 2013, “Personalized promotional emails sent during 2013 had 26% higher unique open rates and 41% higher unique click rates than non-personalized mailings.”

Yeah, we’re still tripping. But as long as we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, learn and improve, we’re going in the right direction.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind Indiemark, BlackBox and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

One comment

  1. Your first point on silos of data – Yes! Just having well sorted data is so hard because you’ve got so many different parties with their own views on the data – the dev team who need to construct the database for the website, the sales team who are inputting customer data and then there’s the email marketing team who have to make sense of it all. So tricky to please everyone and have that “perfect” set of data for personalisation.

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