Personalized promotional campaigns return 41% higher unique click rates than non-personalized campaigns. It’s no secret that personalization can be a major game changer for your digital marketing strategy. While any boost in clickthrough and open rates can be significant to your bottom line, personalization can result in double-digit improvements to performance.
This article and supplemental materials were designed to help you leverage the tools available in Delivra to strengthen your email performance through personalization. After reviewing this material, marketers at every level can implement one or more tactics to start reaping the benefits of sending more personalized emails.
What is personalization?
Email personalization is the use of information about a subscriber to customize their experience with your brand through email components like subject line, content, and more. Personalized emails are great because they are specific to the recipient, instead of generic, “mass-produced” emails that accommodate every recipient.
The subscriber information you use in emails could include names, important dates, the last products they purchased, the last pages they viewed on your website, where they live, when they last used your app, and much more.
Why use personalization?
When you use subscriber information to acknowledge important dates, milestones, and activities, you're building a relationship. You’re telling the subscriber that they are important to you. You can build relationships with your audiences through:
- Use of subscriber data to remember anniversaries and other important dates. Whether this information is of a personal or professional nature does not need to matter, a birthday email is just as personal as a post-purchase email.
- Acknowledge user milestones with a congratulatory email for completion of a profile or after they’ve logged into your app more than 10 times, (or some other business process) which reinforces their behavior.
- Send related content or recommendation emails to visitors who have browsed specific products or services on your website.
Email personalization allows you to authentically connect with your subscribers to build relationships. The purpose of personalizing emails is to make your subscribers feel like VIPs, that they’re not just an email address in your database. If subscribers don’t feel like they matter to your brand, then most likely your brand won’t matter to them.
Three key benefits to incorporating email personalization into your strategy:
- Increase your open rates.
Personalization in the subject line is an excellent way to increase your open rates. Personalized subject lines can actually improve your open rates by a whopping 29%, according to a study by MarketingSherpa.
- Drive long-term engagement.
Another reason email personalization should be part of your email marketing strategy is that it drives engagement. When you show your subscribers that they’re a valuable individual, they’ll engage with your emails more often and for the long term.
- Increase your revenue.
According to Campaign Monitor, email personalization has been proven to increase revenue by as much as 760%. The simple reason being that people would rather spend money where they’re appreciated.
Common types of personalization
Litmus recently surveyed their subscribers about email personalization, asking what tactics they use in their email marketing strategy. Here are the top 5 answers:
- Text in the Subject line or body of an email.
- Dynamic Subject lines.
- Preheader / Preview text.
- Imagery in body of email.
- Footer content.
Another tidbit from that survey was that 40% of the respondents said that improving email personalization was their #1 marketing goal.
Checkout these statistics that support the importance of email personalization:
- Using the recipient name in the subject line of an email reduced the likelihood of unsubscribe by 17% according to a study by Stanford Graduate School of Business.
- Direct Marketers Association reports that 58% of all revenue is attributed to segmented, targeted, and personalized emails.
- Results from a study by Experian show that personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates.
- And MarketingSherpa reports that a personalized subject line can increase open rates by up to 29%.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what email personalization is and why it matters, let’s take a deeper look into each of the common types that email marketers use:
1. Merge Tags
A merge tag is a contact data field that is merged into your email. When merged, it automatically populates the value stored in the field. If you are new to email personalization, this is a great way to begin and it can significantly impact email performance. While common examples include merging a first name, you’re not limited to what data to merge; you have the freedom to be creative.
A study by Stanford Graduate School of Business found that personalizing your email messages can:
- Increase opens by up to 20%
- Boost sales leads by up to 31%
- Reduce unsubscribe rate by up to 17%
Take inventory of the subscriber information available to you.
- Learn how and where your company stores data for your contacts.
- Understand the source(s) of your contact data and the structure.
- Analyze the data available and identify which attributes are most important to your email marketing strategy.
If this inventory exercise reveals that you don’t have enough data to make personalization valuable to your organization or to your subscribers, I would recommend that you consider using Delivra subscribe forms and preference centers to build out your subscriber data.
Beyond merges of data into the subject line or body of the email, another common merge tag example is used in the From line. Insert a subscriber’s account manager name & email in the From line to make the message more personal as it’s from a person at your organization they likely recognize.
One final example for using merge tags could be that you merge rewards points, local office info, preferred restaurant location and more into the footer of the email.
2. Dynamic Subject lines
A dynamic subject line allows you to use known subscriber data or category information to display a subject line that is specific and relevant to the recipient of the email.
According to research by Invesp, personalized subject lines produce 65% higher open rates in the hospitality & travel industries.
An example of this technique could be to configure subject lines that display tiered coupon codes based on the individual’s transaction history.
While you’re brainstorming ideas for your dynamic subject lines, don’t overlook how the default subject line fits into the picture. Ensure that it makes sense for any subscribers who don’t meet the personalized criteria you build.
3. Personalized Images
Personalized images allow you to change the images in your email to appeal to specific subscribers. It works like merge tags; the hosted image path is stored as data in a contact field and merged into the body of the email.
Statistics show an 8x higher click-through rate when personalized images are used vs standard images.
And, Over 90% of consumers say the visual dimension is the #1 influencing factor for their purchase decisions.
- You can merge images into emails that reflect profile information & preferences, promotions, coupons, account manager and more.
- Social platforms and universities use personalized images to merge the subscriber’s photo, which is becoming a popular attention-grabbing technique.
- Product recommendations is another common example for this one. With our browse tracking integration, automations can be setup to send related items or recommendation emails with personalized images based on the products or services pages visited on your website.
4. Audience Segmentation
A segment distinguishes a group of subscribers by some sort of data that they have in common like identifying a customer from a prospect. Segmentation is another great way to start incorporating personalization into your emails. And, statistics show that 82% of digital marketers report an increase in open rates when they use personalized segmentation.
Popular segmentation techniques include defining subscribers by:
- Their status like being a customer or a prospect.
- Their location like city, state, region, or country to promote a local event.
- Their transaction data like the # of transactions or total order values to include tiered coupon codes or images.
- Their browse history to serve related products or recommendations based on the pages browsed on a website.
- Their reading environment to target subscribers based on the device they’re using when opening your emails.
5. Dynamic content
Dynamic content allows you to move beyond the one-size-fits-all subscriber experience. Send one campaign with customized content based on the data that is stored for each recipient. This technique is a powerful way of increasing your email click-through rate, in fact, 65% of digital marketers report that dynamic content is their most effective personalization tactic.
- Change content based on a subscriber’s industry, purchase history, preferences and more.
- Recently Campaign Monitor tested dynamically changing images to match the subscriber’s location. The location images were tested against a generic version to see if personalized images worked better. The results? Their email click-through rate increased by 29%!
Automation is not the focus of this article however it definitely deserves mention when we’re talking about personalization. Email Automation tools allow you to provide a personalized journey for each and every one of your subscribers. You can automate emails based on actions subscribers take on your website, subscriber birthdays, membership renewals, and a lot more. What better way to get personal with your subscribers than that?
You could use our automation tools to:
- Build Lead nurturing journeys
- Onboard new customers
- Send Post-purchase emails
- Re-engage subscribers who are inactive
- Send advanced notice of Contract or membership renewal dates
Next let’s cover a few practical tips for incorporating email personalization.
1. Use only trusted data
If you’re feeling like it’s easy for email personalization to go wrong, you’re right! I strongly recommend that you use only data that is trusted. If what you’re working with is old, or you don’t know the source, work to update it before using it. Also, you should be reviewing your subscriber data on a regular basis to spot any issues early. The following tips should help you collect and use subscriber data.
- Use the picklist feature for contact data fields in your Delivra account. Picklists are used to validate the data coming into the account. When values are coming in that do not match a value in the picklist, an error will be thrown.
- Use the default merge value for contact data fields in your Delivra account. The default value allows you to store a singular value to be inserted in the event a contact does not have data in that field.
- Consider utilizing Delivra integrations like Clickstream & Anonymous Browse Tracking to track website activity back to subscriber emails. This website behavior can be used in segmentation, campaigns as well as automation.
- And finally, I would suggest setting up a data feed to support your personalization plans. Delivra offers automated data services like FTP and API to push real-time data to support offers, recommendations, personalized news content, automations and more.
2. When in doubt, ask your subscribers
- If you don’t have enough data to add value, ask for it! There is no shame in collecting data directly from the source: your subscriber. Afterall, they know themselves best and you’ll eliminate the risk of guessing (and getting it wrong). The best way to collect data from your subscribers is to incorporate a preference center into your welcome messaging, footers, and content.
- If you’re already using our subscribe forms, consider giving them a refresh to incorporate the many form features we have released recently.
3. Test and test again
- Testing your emails before you send them is best practice and when you’re adding in layers of personalization, it’s even more important to thoroughly test before sending a campaign. Setup a few data scenarios to test, test to others on your team and test to accounts that are accessed on mobile devices too.
- In addition to campaign testing, use Delivra’s built-in previews in the design and preview steps to see merged data and dynamic content in action.
4. Be natural & Don’t Overdo It
- I know many of you are excited to think about everything you can do with subscriber data. However, just because you have information about a subscriber doesn’t mean you should use it all the time. Only use personalization when it makes sense. And, Be cognizant of how personalization may be interpreted to make sure your messaging comes across naturally. If it feels forced, your subscribers will notice.
Let’s take a look at examples from marketers that are really good with email personalization.
1. Gas Buddy
Gas Buddy utilizes personalized data points from profiles and behavior recorded by their app to send driving scorecards to their users. The emails include the specific driver’s habits, tips to improve, location specific data, and comparisons to other drivers. Comparison personalization is an up-and-coming technique to keep your eyes on, however, it requires very sophisticated data collection and processing.
2. Really Good Emails
Really Good Emails used a customized image technique to add a personal touch. To do this, they ran all of their subscribers' names through a rap name generator and created personal animated GIF images that were then merged into the email. Following best practices, they created a generic image for users that did not have first name data and asked them to come back to finish setting up their profile. Genius!
Grammarly sends a weekly writing update to their app users to provide information on proficiency, productivity, how to improve, and more. What I really like is the visual elements of displaying the users’ statistics in graphs as well as gamification of the users’ achievement levels.
And last, Lyft sends their app users monthly, year-in-review and anniversary emails. Lyft is solidifying their relationship with users by proving that they know alot with these personal and fun emails! I think the Ad Lib in the fill-in-the-blank moments is my favorite part of this email.
The tools you need
Beyond the personalization techniques presented today, I want to highlight the many tools you should be using in your Delivra account to execute successful email personalization. We’ve got you covered whether your plan includes merging data, displaying dynamic subject lines or content, or audience segmentation.
You should Setup custom fields in your account (beyond name and location). And when you have setup these fields, use these additional tools available:
- Setup a Picklist of values that can be stored in the field. This aids in data validation.
- Setup default values for fields you intend to merge. Ensure the default value fits into typical messaging and makes sense.
- Use Segments to create targeted email audiences. Not only can you leverage known data about your subscribers, you can target based on browsed information and reading environment to tailor the email experience.
- Insert custom field merge tags in your Subject lines and in your content with the click of a button.
- Configure dynamic subject lines in the first step of the create-a-campaign workflow.
- Setup dynamic components of content with our Who Sees This functionality in the drag-and-drop editor.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel with every send. Use Delivra’s email templates and Snippet tools to build & save reusable personalized content.
- And finally, Use our A/B test functionality to test your incremental changes. For instance, setup an A/B split campaign to test a dynamic subject line against your traditional subject line.
Build subscribe forms and preference centers to help make collection of subscriber data easier. If you’re already using subscribe forms, incorporate some or all of the major improvements we’ve released over the last 6 months like:
- Form Triggers that are used to control when a form displays on your website.
- Conditional form fields that are used to display form fields based on the information the visitor has input in the subscribe form.
- Progressive forms that are used to capture visitor information at strategic intervals over time.
There are so many reports available for you, let me highlight just a few.
- You should use the Mailing compare report. This report provides the ability to compare performance of two or more mailings in one view.
- You should be reviewing Form & Segment performance reports found in Analytics > Customer Overview. These reports provide insight to how your forms & segments are performing.
- If you are tracking purchase data through our clickstream integration, you should be using the purchase reports available in Analytics.
- If you are tracking website page visitors through our clickstream integration, you should be using the browse activity reports for your Contacts.
- Note that custom footers are available to the enterprise license or above.
- You should setup merged From lines so that when they are used it will reflect a recognized person to the recipient.
- Create a custom footer with merge tags to insert unique information for the recipient.
- Implement Delivra’s integrations for purchase and browse tracking from your website. I would recommend checking out the Integrations page to see other integration possibilities.
We believe that achieving great results with email personalization should be simple. With the techniques and best practices included here today you can immediately start grabbing the attention of your subscribers and increase email performance.
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Sources: Campaign Monitor, Litmus, Really Good Emails, Stanford School of Business, MarketingSherpa, Invesp, Experian, DMA