Table of Contents
Table of Contents
According to Experian Marketing Services study Personalized emails have 6 times higher Transaction rates. Isn’t that amazing?
They know that there’s plenty of data showing that email marketing personalization works. But they don’t understand how personalization improves email marketing strategy overall or how to apply it to their business specifically.
So they end up just using the same basic, marginally-effective tactics recommended by others — such as using the recipient’s name in the email intro and subject line. While these commonly suggested tactics work (to a degree), they often leave marketers disappointed when they fail to achieve the desired results – i.e. significant increases in revenue.
That’s because random personalization tactics by themselves aren’t enough. To create an effective personalization strategy, you need to:
- Develop a deeper understanding of how personalization optimizes your email marketing strategies.
- Build a personalization strategy that’s specific to your business.
- Employ the most effective personalization tactics.
In this article, we’ll cover all three of those topics, teach you how to build a revenue-boosting email personalization strategy, and use personalization examples from our clients and other businesses to illustrate each concept of email marketing.
What Is Email Personalization?
Email personalization is the tactic of using data you have about your subscribers to create targeted, hyper-relevant email campaigns.
Personalization can be as simple as using the recipient’s name in the subject line, or as advanced as sending different content to different customer segments.
But at its core, personalization is about sending the right content to the right people at the right time..
3 Steps To Creating Personalized Email Campaigns
Revenue-boosting personalization campaigns require careful planning. Use the following 3 steps to create a successful strategy for personalized email campaign management.
1.) Determine What Data You Need To Collect
The goal of personalized email marketing is to make your emails more appealing to subscribers, share info and products that are relevant to them, and add a personal touch. But you must first figure out what subscriber data will best help you do that.
Start by looking for similarities among your best customers, or among customers who buy certain products. Try to identify any data patterns that you can use to brainstorm and test theories. Some data you might collect includes:
Socio-economic data about the characteristics of your subscribers, such as name, age;, location, gender, income, race, education, marital status, etc.
Psychological characteristics of your subscribers, such as values; desires; goals; interests; lifestyle; attitudes; beliefs
Any information about subscribers that’s relevant to the products & services you’ll promote to them:
Example 1: Sephora collects data about the race & skin tone of their subscribers. They use this data to promote makeup that’s aesthetically relevant to them.
Example 2: Adidas segments their audience and emails based on gender so they know what kind of apparel to promote.
Example 3: Service-based businesses should collect data about subscriber pain points to learn which of their services to promote and how to promote them.
2.) Implement Data-Collection Methods
Once you learn what data is important, you must implement methods to collect it. There are many ways to collect this data, inlcuding:
When people subscribe to your email list, include a few key questions to help you learn more about them like:
- “What’s your #1 marketing challenge?”
- “What topics would you like to hear more about?”
Send surveys to your subscribers that will help you learn more about them, like what lists to segment them into and what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in.
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The jewellery company Rocksbox sends surveys to learn about their subscribers’ tastes and preferences. They use the responses to send jewellery promotions that are relevant to each subscriber.
Utilize Action Triggers
Action triggered emails are sent to subscribers when they take a specific action. The personalized email should share something relevant to the action taken.
For example: a software company might create a trigger that sends an email whenever someone uses a certain feature of their product. The email can share different ways to use that feature so the customer can learn how to take full advantage of it.
Utilize Tags & Progressive Profiling
- Email Tags are labels attached to subscribers based on their behavior or characteristics. They allow you to go deeper than email list segmentation by personalizing emails to individual users.
- Using tags enables you to progressively build a profile of each user so you can continually improve the emails you send them.
Example 1: If a user buys shoes on your website, they get labeled with a “Shoes” tag. You can then send them emails promoting more shoes or other complementary attire.
Example 2: If a user buys your marketing course, they get labeled with a “Bought Marketing Course” tag. This tag stops them from receiving any more email promotions for the course they already bought.
Incentivized Info & Loyalty Programs
Getting customers to share their personal info can be difficult. But if you offer an incentive – like a discount, free product, free shipping, or loyalty rewards – you can get more out of them & convert it into a personalized email.
With the Starbucks Rewards program, customers pay for their Starbucks items through an app and earn stars for every purchase. These stars can be used to redeem free drinks and food. In exchange for giving away free items, Starbucks can learn more about their customers’ purchase behavior.
Your customer service team is one of the best sources of customer data. They speak with real customers every day and know how your customers use your product(s), what pain points they have, and more.
You can use info gleaned from customer service to tailor your email messages, identify questions for customer surveys, and segment your audience.
3.) Brainstorm & Test Campaigns
Brainstorming and testing campaigns is a simple 4-step process:
Step 1:Use your data to come up with personalization theories that you can test.
You can start small – like adding subscribers’ names to Subject Lines and CTAs – or you can try bigger ideas – like creating different audience segments and sending unique campaigns to each.
Step 2: Test those theories on a small subset of your audience.
Start by testing your theory against the emails you’re already sending – your control group. Later, you can test different theories against other theories to see which works best.
Step 3: Study the results to see how well it worked.
If your theory was correct, implement it across the rest of your audience. If there’s no measurable change, scrap it and come up with new ideas.
In either case, always try to determine why your experiment succeeded or failed so you get an idea of how to move forward.
Step 4: Continue to create, test, and optimize your email personalization theories.
Your email campaigns can always get better.
The 3 Primary Objectives of Email Personalization
Email marekting personalization optimizes your strategy in three ways, each one leading to and reinforcing the next. Let’s start by breaking down each objective so you can apply them to your business.
NOTE: Some of these objectives may seem obvious or basic. While we recommend you review them to establish a full understanding of email personalization (that we’ll apply to the rest of this article), feel free to skip to the next sections on email personalization strategies and tactics.
Objective 1: Increase Engagement
The first goal of personalization is to increase engagement with your emails and your products/brand. In order for your email messages to have the intended effect on subscribers, they must open and read the email.
Each time they open an email, they are engaging with your brand (which is, obviously, what we want them to do) & increasing your email open rates.
The more personalized content your emails have, the more subscribers will engage with them – i.e. open them, read them, click on links, and take the desired action you want them to take.
For example, emails with personalized subject lines – i.e. subject lines that use a subscriber’s name and/or mention products and goals that are relevant to them – are much more likely to get opened than non-personalized ones.
But the bottom line is that you need subscribers to open and read your emails in order to…
Objective 2: Build Relationships With Subscribers
Every time subscribers engage with your emails, it contributes to their relationship with your brand. So after getting them to open your emails, your email messages must create a positive impression.
Random, non-personalized email content annoys people and pushes them away. They’ll feel like your messages and content aren’t relevant to them and that you don’t care about their needs.
But most importantly as per an email marketing agency when you personalize your emails according to your subscribers’ needs and interests, you’ll build a positive relationship with them by:
Making them feel like you care about their needs and experiences with your brand.
Showing them messages, products, and features that are relevant to them, which increases the chances that they’ll actually use your products.
It can be helpful to think of personalization as speaking your subscribers’ native language.
Imagine you move to France, start a business, and try to sell your products. If you speak to your customers in English, they won’t know what you’re saying and will probably feel disrespected that you didn’t bother to learn their language.
Well, a subscriber’s inbox is like their native country. And you need to speak their native language – which is personalization.
When SaaS businesses share personalized tips that help subscribers use their tool in a way that’s relevant to their goals, industry, etc, their users will use their tool more and be able to accomplish more with it.
When users achieve their goals with your product, they’ll like your product and your brand more. And they’ll stick with you longer. When eCommerce businesses personalize product recommendations, they share products that subscribers will actually buy.
When subscribers buy your products and use them, they’ll experience the benefits of those products and develop a positive view of your company. And the more products/benefits they experience, the stronger your relationship will be. Read more about 19 ecommerce email examples.
Under email marketing when service-based businesses tailor their pitch to their subscribers’ goals, they build authority with subscribers. Their audience will come to see them as the best solution to their problems, which grows their relationship and…
Objective 3: Drive Conversions (& Boost Revenue)
Building a better relationship with your audience provides two primary benefits:
Boost Marketing Potency: When subscribers have a positive experience with your emails, they’ll come to like you. When they like you, your messages will have a greater effect on them.
Boost Retention: The more positive experiences subscribers have with your brand, the more likely they are to continue reading your emails and using your products.
More importantly, if you want to grow business revenue, the best place to start is with your existing customers. Existing customers are more likely to buy from you than new customers. Focusing on existing customers – specifically by increasing average order value and customer lifetime value – will enable you to grow revenue more and quicker.
Personalized content increases both by getting customers to spend more on your products and stick with your company longer.
The Keys To Understanding Personalization
Rather than just throwing a bunch of different personalization tactics at you, (like most articles do), it’s better if we help you develop a more accurate understanding of what personalization technique is, how it optimizes your email marketing strategy, and how to execute it.
When you truly understand something, you can apply it more effectively and even get creative with it. With a proper understanding of what email personalization is and how it works, you’ll not only be able to apply our personalization tactics more effectively, you’ll be able to come up with personalization tactics of your own that are unique to your business/customers.
So let’s begin by reviewing:
- The best way to view it. (relevance)
- The three steps of email personalization.
- The core component of email personalization: data
Understanding Email Marketing Personalization
Personalization is all about one word: relevance.
Our brains are hardwired to find and pay attention to things that are more relevant to us.
For example, have you ever noticed how you always seem to spot cars that are the same make and model as your own? No matter what you’re doing or how much you’re paying attention, your brain picks them out and brings them to your attention without you even trying to.
Personalization Tactics That Increase Opens
To complete the first goal of getting your emails opened, you should personalize your emails in one of two ways:
- Personalize your subject line.
- Send emails when subscribers are most likely to see them.
Subject Line Personalization
- To personalize your subject lines, you need to include something in the subject line that is relevant to each subscriber.
- By mentioning something of relevance to the subscriber, you’re more likely to catch their attention and convince them that the email is worth opening.
There are 3 ways to personalize your subject lines:
Human beings are programmed to respond to our names. Think about a time where you were focused on something else (or otherwise not paying attention) and someone called out your name. You immediately looked up didn’t you?
While including the subscribers name in the subject line and email intro is an often discussed personalization tactic, its effectiveness is limited. It’s a great way to grab the subscribers attention as they skim through their emails – nothing more.
Still, name personalization can be effective when combined with other personalization tactics, like…
Mentioning a product that the subscriber is interested in is a great way to communicate relevance with your subject line. You can employ this tactic in several ways.
You can mention a product they browsed or abandoned on your website.
This is a great tactic for Browse Abandonment email and Abandoned Cart emails. By using the subject line to remind subscribers of the product they were recently excited about, you can reignite those feelings of excitement and use it to influence them to open and complete their purchase.
You can mention a product they already purchased.
This is a great tactic for getting subscribers to open upsell emails and/or get repeat purchases.
For example, after I purchased creatine from The Vitamin Shoppe, they sent me an email with this subject line:
You can mention a product that’s complementary to a recent purchase.
This tactic also works for upsells, as you can get subscribers to buy products that make their recent purchase better, more effective, etc.
The Vitamin Shoppe also sent me this email related to my creatine purchase.
People are buying your products or services in order to achieve a goal. One of the best ways to communicate relevance with your subject line is to mention that goal.
To learn subscribers’ goals, you can:
- Ask about their goals in your email signup form.
- Use purchase and browse behaviour to define parameters for labelling certain subscribers with certain goals. For example, if someone browses or purchases weight loss products from your supplement store, you can assume weight loss is their goal.
- Make educated guesses based on what you know about your audience. For example, if women under 30 are typically interested in weight loss supplements, then you can use weight loss as a goal in emails you send to females in that age demo.
- Our client Reflectly is a journaling app that uses artificial intelligence to help users develop a journaling habit and become happier.
We sent an email to their freemium users aimed at getting them to upgrade to premium. To grab their attention, we used a subject line that mentioned the goal of getting happier.
Charlie Houpert is an entrepreneur who makes courses about personal and business development. After I clicked on a link to find out more about his YouTube mastery course, he sent me an email with this subject line.
Send Emails When Subscribers Will See Them
Rather than expecting subscribers to operate on your time, you should personalize when you send your emails to their time. Send your emails when you know your subscribers will be checking their email so they’re more likely to see them.
There are several ways to personalize email timing:
Time Zones: Based on where subscribers are located, you can program your ESP to send the emails off at 9:00am their time, for example.
Open Times: If a subscriber regularly opens your emails around the same time each day, it’s a safe bet that that’s when they check their email. You can use this data to group subscribers into segments based on when they open emails, and send your emails to each segment at the optimal time.
We use timing personalization in the abandoned cart emails we create for clients. We often create abandoned cart series, sending a series of 5 emails over the course of a few days that remind shoppers to complete their purchase.
The email timing is as follows:
- Email 1: Sent 1 hour after cart abandonment.
- Email 2: Sent 24 hours after cart abandonment.
- Email 3: Sent 12 hours after Email 2.
- Email 4: Sent 12 hours after email 3.
- Email 5: Sent 24 hours after email 4.
In that series, cart abandoners receive 3-4 emails around the same time that they abandoned their cart. We do that because, since the person was shopping at that time, it likely means that they are usually online and in a shopping mood around that time.
While the first email gets sent out 1-4 hours after cart abandonment, the second email gets sent out 24 hours after cart abandonment.
Personalization Tactics That Increase Product Engagement
You can use email personalization to get your customers to engage with your products more. By sending personalized emails that teach customers how to better use your products to achieve their goals, you can help them get more value from your products.
The more value they get from your products, the more they’ll continue to use your products.
The more they use your products and experience its value, the longer they’ll stay with your brand (increased lifetime value).They key to increasing product engagement is understanding how subscribers use your products and what goals they hope to achieve, then sending them emails that facilitate product use.
1) Show Them The Products They Want/Use
This is actually a combination of several personalization tactics. And it works for driving engagement with your emails (getting people to read and click), engagement with your products (getting people to engage with the products they’ve purchased), and conversions.
Most eCommerce stores sell multiple products. Most SaaS products have multiple features. And most service businesses offer multiple services. Want to learn about Saas email marketing? Read here.
But most subscribers aren’t interested in all of your products, features, and services. They’re interested in the ones that apply to them and their needs/goals basically personalized emails.
To increase engagement with your emails, you should show images of the products, features, and services that are most relevant to each subscriber. When subscribers see that the email is relevant to their goals/needs, they’re more likely to read it, click on links, and make purchases.
And if they already own the product in question, they’re more likely to use it in the way being discussed in your email (or, in the case of software, they’re more likely to try out the feature being discussed).
So find ways to identify which products, features, or services are most relevant to subscribers and tailor your emails to display those relevant aspects of your business.
Our client BOIE sells ultra-hygienic, eco-friendly grooming products like face scrubbers, body scrubbers, and toothbrushes. But some of their audience segments are more interested in certain products than others, and some use the same products in different ways
To promote their face scrubber, we sent out an email that shows a woman using their a BOIE face scrubber to apply some type of cleansing or moisturizing cream to her face. Below the image, we included reviews from other women about how soft, gentle, and effective the face scrubber is. As you can see, this email has greater appeal to female audience segments than male segments.
2) Facilitate How They Use Your Products
The more you know about how customers use your products, the more personalized you can make your emails.
The best ways to learn about how customer use your products include:
- Ask Them: Send customers a survey asking them questions about how they use your product and what they hope to achieve.
- Study Reviews: Use customer reviews to identify patterns about how customers are using your products.
Once you’ve gathered info about how customers use your products, you can send them emails with content that:
- Positions your products in the best way in order to convince shoppers to buy them.
- Teaches them how to get more value from your products and achieve their goals.
We helped BOIE create the product-facilitating email below. Through research, we learned that many of BOIE’s customers like their products because they are portable and easy to travel with. So we sent this email to subscribers that position BOIE’s products as the ultimate travel companion.
Personalization Tactics That Build Stronger Relationships
While many relationship-building personalization tactics may not yield immediate conversions, their importance can’t be overstated.
The easiest and fastest way to grow your business is through your existing customers – i.e. turn them into repeat buyers, get them to spend more, and increase customer lifetime value.
Through email personalization, you can employ psychological tactics that deepen your relationships with subscribers and turn them into lifelong loyal customers.
Simple Thank You
Thank you emails are fantastic because:
- They show customers that you appreciate them, and, in turn, customers appreciate you for it.
- They’re cheap and easy to produce.
It’s a simple gesture that can yield dividends for your customer relationship. And… it’s just the right thing to do.
If you want to have a good relationship with your customers, you have to treat it like any other human relationship.
If your solicitations are the only interaction customers have with you, then they’ll come to think you don’t really care about your relationship with them and treat you accordingly.
But if your approach customer relationships like real human relationships, you’ll condition customers to do the same.
Bottom line: thank them.
Thank them everytime they make a purchase. Thank them for continuing to patronize your business. And thank them for taking any other action you want them to take.
Doing so will communicate that your relationship is real. It also conditions them to keep doing the things you want them to do.
The “Thank You” email we created for BOIE not only thanks customers, it refers to them as family.
In the interest of conditioning customers to do what you want them to do, you should also reward loyalty.
Imagine if you continued to do favours for a friend and they never returned it. Your opinion of your relationship would soon sour.
Well, customers are helping your business by remaining loyal. You should periodically reward them with
- Free gifts
- Special deals
By rewarding loyalty, you’ll incentivize customers to remain loyal.
In email marketing there’s another aspect of personalization that’s not often discussed – business personalization. By that we mean showing a human side of your business that subscribers can connect with.
Psychologically, humans have a hard time developing real relationships with nameless, faceless brands. It’s much easier to build a relationship with another human.
One of the easiest ways to personalize your business is to make someone in your organization the face of your company in your emails.
For our client Reflectly, we made a member of their marketing team, Martin, the face of their email communications. Each email is written from Martin, includes a friendly picture of him, and invites subscribers to reply to Martin if they have any questions or comments.
When subscribers read or respond to Reflectly emails, they’ll feel like they’re talking to Martin – not some cold, corporate brand – and it’ll be psychologically easier for them to feel a connection to him.
- Human personalization is even more important for service based businesses than others.
- Human personalization is even more important for service based businesses than others.
- When someone buys a product, it’s one and done – they’ll receive the product and likely never have to talk to anyone from that businesses team ever.
- But when clients buy a service, they’re entering into a long-term engagement with a person or group of people. So when you sell a service, you’re not just selling your skills or expertise – you’re selling customers on the idea of working with you over a period of time.
- In other words, you need to get them to feel comfortable with the idea of being in a business relationship with you. You can do that through your emails by showing the human side of your business.
Our client Rankings.io is a service business that does SEO optimization for law firms in order to help them generate clients. They need to sell clients on their expertise and the idea of working with them.
So in the emails we created together, we always included pictures of their CEO Chris Dreyer and encouraged subscribers to contact Chris with any questions. We wanted subscribers to constantly see Chris’s face and learn more about him so they’d feel like they had a relationship with him long before they scheduled a consultation. In one email, we even included a video of Chris explaining who he is and how he got into doing SEO for law firms.
Personalization Tactics That Drive Conversions
Now comes the real meat of personalization – driving conversions (though by now you should realize that each of the personalization stages/goals is equally important).
The key to using personalization to drive conversions is simple:
- Share the products that are most relevant to each subscriber and their goals/needs.
- Position those products in a way that taps into the subscribers goals/needs.
Behavior Triggered Emails
The Behavior triggered emails are the king of conversion oriented personalization tactics. Behavior triggered emails are emails that get triggered (i.e. sent) when a subscriber takes a certain action. The two most important and effective behavior triggered emails are:
- Browse Abandonment Emails
- Cart Abandonment Emails
Rather than using data to make educated assumptions about what products are most relevant to subscribers, your letting subscribers tell you with their actions.
And since those actions indicate a high level of interest, behavior triggered emails are inherently sent to people who are farther down your buyer funnel and more likely to buy.
Browse and Cart Abandonment emails work much the same way, so we’ll discuss them together.
Browse Abandonment emails are sent to people who look at a product on your site but don’t add it to their cart or buy it.
Cart Abandonment emails are sent to people who add a product to their cart but don’t complete their purchase.
Because they browsed the product or added it to their cart, you know that, at the very least, they have some level of interest in it. It’s likely that they want the product, but:
- They don’t feel they can afford it right now.
- They talked themselves out of buying it.
- They got distracted.
The point is, by sending them an email reminding them of the product they browsed/abandoned, you can convert some of these would-be shoppers.
To make these emails work, you need to set up marketing automations that automatically send these automated emails to browse/cart abandoners, and your emails must include a few key elements:
1) A Product Image:
Using an attractive, high-quality image works best.
2) A Purchase Incentive:
Give them more of a reason to make a purchase by incentivizing them with a discount, free gift, or anything else that sweetens the deal.
3) Objection Handlers:
Objection handlers are messages that neutralize any objections that shoppers may have about buying your product. This includes notices that inform them about free shipping, your return policy, your product warranty, etc. By hanlding their objections, you may be able to overcome whatever stopped them from making a purchase in the first place.
4) BONUS – An Image That Creates An Aspirational Association With Your Products
Product images are great. But images that associate your products with their goals are even better. Image based emails are a great example for them.
Our client Staccato 2011 sells handguns for law enforcement, military use, and personal protection. Their customers want to shoot like the pros and feel capable/protected.
So in the cart abandonment email we created with them, we included and image of men in military gear shooting handguns. The image subtly implies that customers could be like the men in the image.
Use Dynamic Images & Content
You never know when recipient’s will open your emails & it will affect your email open rates. But when they do, you want to be sure what they see and read is as relevant as possible.
Using dynamic content – content that changes based on time, recipient, and other variables – you can ensure your emails stay relevant to your recipient’s no matter who they are or when they read them.
The Chinese sports brand company Li-Ning used dynamic content to display products in their emails that changed based on the recipient’s gender and purchase history. This campaign led to a 49% increase in email-sourced purchases.