The Latest and Greatest in Email Personalization

Once a quarter, we invite clients, colleagues and friends to TrendyMinds for Studio Sessions to talk about the latest marketing trends over a shared lunch. Led by our Marketing Services team, we recently covered the latest in email marketing. Here's what we explored about using personalization in email strategy.

According to Microsoft, the average person has an attention span of eight seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds in 2000 and a full second shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. For marketers, that means each of your subscribers could spend eight seconds or less looking at or interacting with each email.

How do you build emails that capture your audience’s attention?

One key to combating the ever-shortening attention span in email is personalization. The key to personalization is building experiences based on what a brand knows about its customers, not around whatever messaging the brand wants customers to know. The foundation of a successful email marketing program is about sending the right message to the right audience at the right time for the right reason.

Why does personalization matter in email?

When used correctly, incorporating personalization into your email strategy can be what takes your marketing to the next level. Brands have reported impressive insights when they’ve opted to personalize their email campaigns, including:

  • 760% increase in revenue (DMA)

  • 60% higher click-through rates (Litmus)

  • 25% increase in conversions (Litmus)

Conversely, not personalizing can hurt your brand:

  • 69% of people will close accounts and cancel subscriptions because they don’t like the messages they receive. (MoveableInk)

  • 57% of consumers cite “sent emails that weren’t relevant” or “sent too many emails” as a reason for hitting the “report spam” button. (Litmus)

How do you use personalization to build engaging email experiences?

“Email personalization is hard work. It’s not an add-on, but rather requires an obsessive understanding of each segment of your audience. It requires time, and in full transparency, is nothing that can be mastered in some average ‘ultimate how to…’” – John Bonini, Litmus

Those are impressive statistics, sure, but how exactly do you put email personalization into action? The short answer is to leverage your data to create highly-targeted subscriber experiences. This means you should deliver personal and relevant experiences to your subscribers based on:

  1. who they are (demographic data)

  2. what they do (behavioral data)

  3. where they are (contextual data)

Using demographic data: Who are you talking to?

The most basic form of personalization uses demographic data. This kind of data answers questions about who people are. When you receive a marketing email that uses your first name, for example, the sender is using demographic data to personalize that email experience for you. Demographic data can be used for rules-based personalization, merge tags and targeted dynamic content.

Demographic data is generally readily available but provides limited information about the subscriber’s motivations. It includes facts such as:

  • name

  • gender

  • account preferences

  • industry

  • income bracket

Brands using demographic data to personalize email experiences:

TrendyMinds

Studio Session Keynote 036

Hey, that’s us! This is the email invitation we designed and built for our Studio Session. It was developed include each recipient’s first name, one of the most basic forms of demographic data. If we didn’t have that information, the template defaulted to more general copy, saying, “Join us for lunch and a presentation.” Addressing recipients by name is a small example of personalization using data collected by a subscribe form but one that is immediately noticed and appreciated by subscribers. (Side note, the margarita is interactive!)

Lyft

Studio Session Keynote 038

Lyft uses data from its own app to target users by location. It compares prices for their service to those of conventional taxis to and from specific locations the user will recognize. This data allows the price information to be much more accurate than just a general estimate. This makes for a much more personalized and relevant user experience. 

Using behavioral data: What are they doing?

Behavioral data provides significant insight into current subscriber needs and wants. It is the most reliable indicator of what a subscriber is interested in right now. Brands can collect this information by integrating with third-party software or by using automation services. It includes information like:

  • web browsing data

  • abandoned cart

  • purchase history

  • content download

  • search history

Brands using behavioral data to personalize email experiences:

Delta

Studio Session Keynote 048

In this example, Delta uses an individual traveler’s purchase history to personalize the email experience. It shows what stage the recipient is at in his journey — in this case, “prep” — as well as flight information and links to helpful resources for upgrading his seat and pre-purchasing wi-fi for the flight. These links are based on the each traveler’s history, so if this person had already upgraded or had VIP status with the airline, the information offered would be different.

West Elm

Studio Session Keynote 049

This email from West Elm, a popular furniture and home decor retailer, goes to subscribers who have recently viewed but not purchased an item on West Elm’s website. It uses the recipient’s browsing history to prompt him or her to take a second look and also makes recommendations for similar products.

Using contextual data: Where are they?

Contextual data offers perhaps the most precise targeting opportunities, because it uses real time data to make the subscriber’s experience relevant at the actual moment he or she opens the email. It is collected by third party software that pulls data at the time of open. Contextual data can be used to incorporate live data and content, live polling, time targeting and more into your email campaigns. It includes data such as:

  • device

  • geolocation

  • weather

  • current events

  • timers

  • live feeds

  • data and time

  • store hours

  • current inventory

Brands using contextual data to personalize email experiences:

Detroit Pistons

Studio Session Keynote 059

This impressive example from the Detroit Pistons combines time targeting, device targeting and live data to create a fully dynamic experience right inside the email. Team stats, the game score, final results and game area traffic all update in real time leading up to, during and following the matchup.

Litmus

Studio Session Keynote 058

This example from Litmus also uses dynamic data capture to incorporate a live Twitter feed into the email itself. The feed is refreshed every time the subscriber reopens the email.

Contextual data helps recipients stay up to the minute on information relevant to them, from news (e.g., a Twitter feed) to product availability (e.g., tickets to a show) without any interruption in the customer experience.

It’s worth noting, that using contextual data to drive personalized, dynamic email experiences is still a fairly new capability in email marketing, and it may take some time before consumers really begin to see email as medium they can return to for live news, updates and app-like interfaces.

Email is a crucial arm of any marketing strategy with an eye toward the future. Depending on your brand’s larger marketing goals, email can be used to inform, nurture leads, drive consumers to action and even convert into sales. The future of marketing is personal. At every level — demographic, behavioral and contextual — leveraging data is the key to building a personalized email experience for your brand’s audience.

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