The information age has been a dream come true for those working in the marketing field, and nowhere is that more true than it is for email marketing. As a form of marketing that already has a phenomenal ROI, there are very few reasons not to make use of it if you’re serious about online marketing. But good email marketing is far more than simply using a template, making an email and sending it out to thousands of subscribers. There are a great many factors that need to be taken into consideration, and countless ways in which you can give your email marketing an edge over the competition.
One of those edges is, without a doubt, email personalization. Research has shown that effective use of personalization increases open rates by as much as 20%, and a staggering 139% increase in clickthrough rates.
The question, then, is not if you should make use of personalized marketing emails (you should), but how best to make use of them. Personalization isn’t as simple as just throwing the recipient’s name into the subject line (though this should be done, of course). Contemporary personalization tactics are myriad, and your company should make use of as many as possible if you want to maximize your email marketing ROI.
What is Email Personalization?
At its core, personalization is using subscriber data to tailor each email to that individual subscriber. It doesn’t just begin and end with addressing the subscriber by name; it can also be used to send out emails on dates important to the subscriber (their birthday being the most obvious one), or it can be used to send out responses to customer habits such as purchase history, prolonged inactivity, or abandonment of shopping carts.
Why is Email Personalization Important?
Simply put: personalized emails make your subscribers feel unique and important, rather than subscriber #2,453. And subscribers who are made to feel like people, rather than numbers, are subscribers that are more likely to engage with your brand.
Further to this, there are several advantages that come with email personalization:
Higher Open Rates
As pointed out at the beginning of this article, personalization equals higher open rates. Remember that your open rate boils down to how engaging the subject line is; this usually means using the subscriber’s name, but the subject line can be personalized in other ways.
According to a Campaign Monitor report, personalized emails increase revenues by an astonishing 760%. That’s not a typo – 760%. With those kinds of increases, it’s a no-brainer – personalized marketing emails are the only way to go.
Another benefit of the so-called “VIP treatment” that comes with personalization is increased engagement. It’s not just a cynical marketing ploy; personalization means showing subscribers things that they want to see. Combine this with the fact that subscribers, by their very nature, want to be receiving your emails, and you’ll see engagement skyrocket.
Email Personalization Tactics that go Beyond Names
Putting a subscriber’s name in the subject line is such a tried-and-tested tactic at this point, it’s a cliché. You probably have a number of such emails sitting in your inbox right now, in fact.
That’s not to say it doesn’t work (it’s a cliché for a reason, after all), but there are far more innovative email personalization examples that your company could be making use of in 2023. Let’s look at some of the most creative and effective.
Make Use of Subscriber Browsing History
When it comes to email personalization, the ways that user browsing history can be used are almost without number. Did the subscriber view four different kinds of laptop, but stop short of making a purchase? Send them a list of similar laptops that might pique their interest. Did they leave a review praising a product that they recently bought? Send them a thank-you note and a link to similar products.
When done right, personalized emails based on browsing history can show the customer that you value them and their activity on your website – and encourage more such activity.
Segment your Mailing List
A huge part of personalization (one might say essential) is list segmentation. Segmentation means separating your overall mailing list into subcategories that share commonalities. You might segment by age, for example, or by gender, purchase history, browsing history, email response history, or any other number of factors.
List segmentation makes personalization that much easier, particularly when used in conjunction with an automated emailing marketing platform such as HubSpot or MailChimp. Such platforms can automatically send out personalized emails and even automatically segment subscribers based on pre-selected triggers.
Collect as much Data as Possible
You can’t segment your list without having data to facilitate this. That’s why it’s crucial you take every opportunity to gather information on your subscribers.
The simplest way to get started on this is to include a questionnaire with your email signup form. That way, you’re killing two birds with one stone – acquiring a new subscriber for your list, and also collecting key data on that subscriber that will assist in figuring out what sorts of emails they will respond to.
This is made even easier if you allow subscribers to sign up via social media accounts such as Facebook. It’s quick and easy for subscribers to simply click a button that allows you to access their social media information, which is great for them. But what’s invaluable for you is the wealth of information that you’ll be granted access to – information that will assist immeasurably when it comes to email personalization.
Send Emails from a Personalized Address
Everybody knows that you should use the subscriber’s name when sending a marketing email (we may have mentioned it once or twice). But what about the name of the sender?
People are more likely to trust other people – rather than faceless, monolithic companies – and this holds as true in email marketing as anywhere else. When using a real person’s name (rather than a company name or generic email address), clickthrough rates can increase by as much as 0.25%. This doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but it makes a difference if you’re sending thousands upon thousands of emails.
Make Use of Automated Triggers
One of the nice things about automated marketing platforms – in addition to the ease of segmentation – is that it provides an easy source of automated triggers.
What are automated triggers? It’s an action taken by a subscriber that results in an automated email being sent out. These actions can include joining your mailing list (which will typically trigger a welcome email – or welcome email series), abandoning a shopping cart, or completing a purchase.
Automated triggers are a quick and easy way of making customers feel catered to and cared for, and they’re not particularly labor-intensive. It’s therefore well worth taking advantage of this highly effective feature if you’ve signed up for an automated email marketing platform.
Send Emails out on Important Anniversaries
Another marketing email cliché – which is a cliché because it works – is to send a ‘happy birthday’ email out to subscribers. It’s a simple yet effective email personalization measure that makes the subscriber feel valued.
However, birthdays aren’t the only anniversaries worth keeping track of. A simple one to recognize is the user’s anniversary with your company. This needn’t (and shouldn’t) be as simple as acknowledging that they’ve been with you for a year, or two years, or three. Rather, it should be a reflection of your time together, perhaps with some relevant statistics that highlight the nature of your relationship.
A great example of this is Spotify’s “Spotify Wrapped”, in which the music-streaming giant sends users statistics regarding their use of the platform throughout the year. It’s personalized, informative, entertaining, and eminently sharable. All of which you should look to emulate in your own email marketing.
Make Use of Dynamic Content
Dynamic content is a marvel of modern marketing that means that individual elements within a given email can be altered based on the recipient. Offering a competition in which subscribers can win a trip to New York? What if the subscribers are from New York? With dynamic marketing, that particular portion of the email can be switched out for another city that will appeal to New Yorkers (Paris, perhaps).
Dynamic content can also be used in conjunction with previously expressed subscriber wishes, to make sure that they’re being shown the kind of things they want to see – without having to design dozens of different emails in order to cater to that. Dynamic content is, in short, a fantastic way of personalizing content without having to pump hundreds of man-hours into it.
Talk Like a Person – not a Business
Nothing is quite as off-putting to people as that “faceless monolith” impression we talked about earlier – and one way of conveying that sort of cold, impersonal approach is to talk as businesses talk.
Avoid this by using informal and friendly language, and addressing the subscriber by name as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to use humor and jokes, as these are very effective tools in humanizing you and your business to the subscriber. Finally, things like abbreviations (“lol” or “ttyl”) and emojis, both traditionally frowned upon, are increasingly accepted in the marketing world precisely because of their ability to break through that business-customer barrier and establish a friendly rapport.
Something that can perhaps fall under dynamic content is the use of different imagery depending on the subscriber. Rather than simply using the same generic images for every email you send, try to include pictures and GIFs that speak to people on a personal level. You can vary these images by location, age, purchase history, or whatever other criteria you deem relevant to increase email personalization.
Mixing up imagery really does yield results. Research has suggested that it can increase click-through rates by as much as 29% — so it’s well worth experimenting with this to see if it has a similar effect for your company.
Pay Attention to Timing (and Time Zones)
It’s vital that you think about when different subscribers are going to receive your emails. Research indicates that people are far more receptive to emails that they receive in the morning, since that’s when the vast majority of people are likely to check their emails. In addition, it sounds so obvious it’s almost not worth pointing out, but time zones matter. Sending out a batch of emails at 7am EST is not going to work for those on GMT, and they should be segmented accordingly.
The best email marketing automation platforms can actually account for this on your behalf, and send out mass mails accordingly. All it takes is the click of a button.
Re-engage with Lost or Disinterested Subscribers
If you have a subscriber with a consistently low open rate, it can be tempting to simply write them off as not interested, and perhaps even remove them from your mailing list. But before doing that, consider reaching out again – after all, there’s a reason they’re on your mailing list in the first place, and it’s not because you forced them to be.
Such subscribers could have simply succumbed to email fatigue, particularly if your emails are samey or unengaging. Treat them as an opportunity to learn, rather than a lost cause, and send a personalized email that re-engages with them. Restating the benefits of being on your mailing list, or offering a one-time discount, can both be very useful in bringing disinterested subscribers back to the fold.
Similarly, the sort of automated triggers that we mentioned before are of great use when it comes to re-engaging certain subscribers. These include those who ‘lurk’ on your website (e.g., look but don’t buy) or those who add items to their shopping cart but don’t follow through. A personalized email might be all that takes to remind them of a lost opportunity, or even incentivize them to consider a product or service that they missed the first time around.
Leverage Customer Loyalty
Just because you have a consistently loyal customer, doesn’t mean that you have a customer for life. The relationship requires maintenance, and a huge part of that is that you ensure the customer knows how much you value them.
By responding to frequent purchases, or consistently high amounts spent on your goods or services, you can ensure that loyalty continues. Automated triggers can be set up to send loyalty emails upon certain purchase milestones, offering invitations to exclusive events or VIP clubs or other such ‘thank-you’ rewards.
Examples of Effective Personalization
Below are a couple of email personalization examples that demonstrate just how effectively it can work when done well.
DAVIDsTea: Milestone/Anniversary Email
This email is the perfect example of a milestone email, precisely because it checks all the boxes: personalized stats, interesting and unique information, and eminent shareability.
The email reminds the subscriber of the date they signed up, how much they’ve purchased, and what their favorite products have been. All of this is framed in an intimate, personal way that addresses the subscriber as if they’re a friend, rather than a customer. An excellent example of the anniversary/milestone email.
Asics: Abandoned Cart/Browsing History Email
This gentle reminder for a subscriber to reconsider purchasing a pair of sneakers they were looking at is highly effective, both at urging the customer to complete the purchase, and also to consider other products. Some of those products are replacement suggestions, and some are good purchases to make together with the sneakers (like the socks).
The email is also peppered throughout with effective CTAs (such as the ability to quickly proceed to checkout, or to view other items) and is formatted to look exactly like Asic’s own webstore, making the transition quick and seamless should the subscriber choose to click through.
Meetup: Abandoned Action
This email is a fantastic example of personalization – it addresses the recipient by name, it’s unique to his/her location, and it uses informal, chatty language to set an intimate tone. It’s also from an individual, as opposed to a company, and the individual in question even finishes “on a personal note”. Though it’s quite text-heavy as far as marketing emails go, it works nonetheless because of the great attention to detail when it comes to personalization.
As we’ve seen, personalization is a powerful tool when it comes to driving engagement and reaching subscribers on a level to which they’ll respond. Though there’s no manual for how to effectively personalize emails for every situation, we nevertheless hope that this guide has been illustrative in demonstrating just how important email personalization is in the modern world.