Personalization

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.

The Power of Personalization in Email Marketing

Don't be that guy.I recently took my 9 year old daughter to Justice, a children’s apparel retailer. From the onset the manager bombarded me, at 5 minute intervals, with product recommendations and promotions. This continued for 30 minutes until I was forced to school her on customer insight and preferences.

A bad email program is much like an ineffective sales person. Instead of having to read the disinterest on the faces of your customers, feel the negative impact on sales, or in my case, hear the harshness of their words; email marketing can tell you almost everything you need to know about your customers and help you to sell more.

Going Beyond “Hi FNAME”

The insight required to make your email program more profitable is already at your finger tips and it’s inexpensive. It comes to you in the form of data. I don’t mean open and click data, although that will tell you a lot, I’m talking about data that will allow you to personalize the experience for each of your customers.

Sure, personalized greetings are often well-received but as I mentioned in a recent Chief Marketer article, this year’s standout Valentine’s Day campaigns were those that used deeper data, such as purchase history and customer profiles, to make their offers more personal and therefore more relevant. In the article, I was speaking largely about retailers but service companies too have a slew of easily accessible data to track (or even predict) the purchase intent of their customers as well as identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

What Do You Have to Work With?

The sources of actionable data are seemingly endless, but here are few categories and specific examples:

Profile: Imagine you run a travel agency and I’m your 65 y/o prospect, do you think I’d respond better to an offer that reflected the most popular senior destinations? Now imagine that the images in the offer were those of the silver-haired persuasion. Or perhaps I’m on west coast time and your webinar is schedule for 1pm eastern, would I be more likely to reserve my seat if the email read 11am pacific?

Purchase History: If I bought gifts in or around today’s date, two years in a row, might I want to buy another again this year? What if the new gift recommendations were in line with my previous purchases of those of other gift buyers? Conversely, what if I’ve already purchased your primary product, do you think that I want to hear about how much money I could have saved, if only I’d waited? Instead, wouldn’t I rather know about your secondary offerings?

Activity: Maybe I’ve downloaded three sequential white papers in 30 days, but I’ve yet to make a purchase, would it be a good idea to invite me into a discussion about my specific needs? Or maybe I haven’t responded to your offers in some time, am I perfect for a reactivation offer or satisfaction survey?

Preferences: Imagine that you have 10 different products but I’m a reseller that’s only interested on products 1-5. Shouldn’t I be put into a segment with other resellers? What if I’m a direct user but I only want to receive educational information, as opposed to promotional, I’m more likely to remain an enthusiast and share your information if I only get what I really want?

It’s Easy and Inexpensive To Execute

I’m always surprised when SMB marketers say that using data at this level is only for the big boys. That may have been true in the years past, but today any ESP that’s worth their salt integrates easily with your CRM or E-commerce solutions and web analytics. All you have to do is integrate it and most importantly test it.

– Scott Hardigree | Indiemark