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The Email Personalization Guide You’ll Want to Bookmark

Email personalization has become the most run-of-the-mill tactic. Let’s try to get a new perspective into the topic. ...

The first thing that the professor teaches in the psychology class is the importance of addressing someone with his or her name. Despite the changing customer behavior, one thing that has stayed constant throughout the years is that we all still love being called by our name. After all, the sound of our own name is a heart-warming feeling.

That’s exactly the psychology behind email personalization. The only difference is that besides the first name, we consider several other parameters to impart a holistic personalized experience to the email subscribers.  

What is email personalization?

Email personalization is not just about using “Hey (first_name)” instead of “Hey there”. Personalized email marketing involves gathering relevant data of your customers and drafting exclusive messages that match their challenges and goals. It is about imparting a customized experience through every email and striking the right chord with them. 

“Data” is the key here. The effectiveness of your email campaigns relies on how satisfactorily you can collect different types of data from the users. Depending on the business type and industry, you must create different customer personas or avatars to reach out to them with relevant messages.   

What makes email personalization so important?

It takes quite a lot of effort to execute a fully personalized 1:1 email marketing strategy but it is all worth the hard work it takes. 

Here’s why:

1. It helps you to target different segments of audiences more effectively.

Personalization in emails allows you to reach out to different segments of audiences with relevant information that they would be interested in. For example: See how Nordstrom has personalized their email for the different segments according to their geographical location. 

Nordstrom email

2. Personalization helps to send out more impactful content.

Imagine searching for a red dress on Amazon and receiving an email sharing similar product recommendations. Wouldn’t it facilitate your decision making process? That’s exactly how personalization works. It helps you to cut through the noise of random batch and blast emails and leave an impact on the subscriber’s mind, thereby encouraging them to convert. 

3. Personalized emails will strengthen your relationship with the customer.

Personalizing your email marketing will show your customer that you care for them and not just your business. It will allow you to build a stronger rapport with the prospective clients as well as the existing ones. For instance: You can send out a personalized welcome HTML email to the new subscribers talking more about the services they have expressed interest in

4. Customizing your emails will impart a personal touch to your business.

Personalization is not just limited to the email copy. It also applies to your sender email address and subject line. This will give an identity to your company and show the human side to customers. Avoid a noreply address at all costs. Send the emails from an email address your subscribers can reply to in case they have any questions or grievances. It is a good idea to use an email address like kevin@uplers.com with the sender name as Kevin from Email Uplers rather than noreply@uplers.com

5. Personalization will allow you to send more relevant (and tempting) offers. 

By collecting customer information regarding their past purchases, kind of products searched for, and total purchase value, you can send out more relevant offers and recommendations. To illustrate: If a customer has purchased non-fiction or mythology books from your eCommerce store, you can send a personalized HTML email suggesting similar books. 

6. Personalized email marketing will skyrocket your sales and conversions.

As personalized emails offer valuable information that the customer might be looking for, they are likely to see improved click-throughs and a higher conversion rate. You must keep an eye on the customer behavior and send out emails that are best aligned to their preferences. 

How to personalize- Tips and tricks to Swear by

1. Start by asking the right questions.

The first question that comes to a marketer’s mind before employing personalization is: How to collect data.

The simplest answer is to ask the right questions to your subscribers. Ask them the reasons for visiting your website, what they are looking for, and what challenges are they facing. These answers will give you enormous information about the users.   

For example: If you are into the fitness industry, there might be several reasons why a customer signs up on your site. They might be looking for:

  • Weight gain tips
  • Ways to get rid of obesity
  • Actionable tips to stay fit
  • Specific “how to” guides to overcome a lifestyle disorder

Each subscriber must be targeted with a different message that matches their end goals. Therefore, you must ask what they are looking for, in the sign-up form itself. Sending out the same email template to everyone would hardly leave an impact or get you conversions. 

The same logic applies to all businesses, large and small. 

See how Brooks has tried to get all the relevant information through their onboarding email. 

Brooks email template

2. Segment your list and create customer personas (avatars).

According to the insights you already have, you must segment your email list. To start with, you can segment according to the basic parameters like age, gender, geographical location, and demographics. Gradually, you must try to get more information from them through subsequent emails. Once you have enough information, you must build customer personas by using a combination of preferences and actions taken by them. 

For instance: Suppose you have an online digital marketing training institute. To customize the experience of all the students, you must ask them the following questions:

  1. Are you a student, freelancer, solopreneur, working employee, homemaker, or a retired professional?
  2. What are the main challenges that you are facing in learning digital marketing or executing it?
  3.  After learning digital marketing, do you plan to pursue digital freelancing, affiliate marketing, digital marketing, or land a full-time job?

According to the user’s answers, you can create different customer personas. It will also help you understand your target audience better and craft a personalized experience for the users. 

customer personas

3. A/B testing is another smart way to understand your customer. 

Try A/B testing to understand what kind of emails do your customers like in the inbox. Pick a segment and divide it into two sets. Send different emails to both these sets and see which one performs the best. Just make sure that you use just one variable element so that it is easy to analyze the results. 

You must use the same tactic to figure out the best time to send your emails. Take into account the user’s geographical location while scheduling the emails, especially when you have a global target audience. 

While some customers prefer checking their emails in the morning, some others might like to do so in their lunch break or after office. A/B test by sending out emails at different times of the day to determine what works for you. Also, pay attention to the time zones of the subscribers to send the email at the right time. If you have personalized the email with the right message but it does not reach the subscriber at the optimum timing, all your efforts will go down the drain. 

4. Use triggered email workflows.

Remember that email by Grammarly that lands in your inbox when you have not used it for a couple of days? That’s a bot but it still imparts such a personalized experience to the readers. These emails serve as a great excuse to communicate with the subscriber and draw their attention to your products or services.

Grammarly logged out email

To send such emails, you need to track the user’s behavior and target them with helpful information that will get them to take action.  

The perfect example of a triggered email workflow that brings results is cart abandonment emails used by eCommerce marketers. Triggered emails are the most useful personalization tool that help you to ascertain how your customers are interacting with your brand. 

5. Personalize your landing pages.

Getting people to provide their information is quite a challenging task, more so because of the extremely competitive marketplace. Therefore, you must invest enough time in creating a landing page and sign-up forms that would entice the user to fill in the details and learn more about you. 

Make sure that your landing pages are personalized according to the user’s needs. For example: If you own a digital marketing agency and a user has clicked on the ad promoting your content marketing services, you must redirect him or her to the respective landing page rather than your website home page. You can even incorporate personalized videos in the landing page to further enhance the customer experience.

Besides, you must also bear in mind that your emails are aligned with the landing pages. That will render a consistent experience to the users and brighten the chance of conversions. 

6. Add a face to your business.

Time and again, I come across questions like: “What to do if I do not have access to subscriber information just yet?”

It is quite natural that when you are just starting off your business, you might not have access to enough data. In such cases, you must focus on building your brand and establish a personal connection with the users. 

You can introduce your team in the onboarding email or add behind-the-scenes photographs to add a personal touch to your emails. This will give a visual voice to the company. 

Use the first-person and second-person narrative like “I”, “we”, and “you” with a conversational tone. You will surely see a difference in the way your customers respond.

You will be able to see the founders of Food52 Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs in action, in their welcome email. 

Food52 email

Elements to personalize in your email campaigns

1. Subject line personalization

You must be knowing that the email subject line is the most important aspect when it comes to email open rates. In addition to the sender name, the subject line works as the deciding factor whether the user will be interested in opening your email or not. 

Subject line personalization comes into the picture here. 

Let’s take a look at some tips that will help you in personalizing your email subject lines.

First name

The most extensively used way to personalize the subject lines is by adding the subscriber’s first name in it. Amidst all that chaos in the email inbox, you are more likely to pay attention to the ones that have your name in the subject line. Your subscribers are no different. 

Interests and preferences

What if you receive a custom email with a subject line that has nothing to do with your interests and goals? In most likelihood, you will either delete it or simply mark it as read and move on. That’s exactly why it is important to consider the subscriber’s interests and past interactions while sending them emails and drafting the subject line. Make your email look like it is created exclusively for the reader. The subject line should reflect that the email has something relevant for the reader. 

Past purchase history

If a user has purchased home decor items from your eCommerce store, it is a great idea to send them a custom email with the subject line that focuses on similar products that they might be interested in. For such a user, it would hardly make sense if you draft an email subject line promoting fashion accessories. Again, the concept of multiple attributes and segmentation based on age and gender comes into play here. That’s the basis of effective personalization. 

Combine personalization with urgency

Sometimes I feel most of the purchases I make are impulsive in nature, driven by Fear of Missing Out. I hate to confess this, but I purchased a number of courses just because they sent me an email saying “Hey Kevin, only 5 hours left…”. 

That’s the power of using personalization along with an element of urgency. If you are in the eCommerce industry, you can use the same trick and create a subject line like: “Last 4 items to go” or “The offer ends today”.

2. Email copy personalization

Once you have collected the data that you would need, you are all set to send out personalized emails. Just like first name personalization in the subject lines, you can do the same in the body of your email too. However, be mindful of the fact that it can get creepy if you use it too much. It should appear friendly, but not forced. 

Now, let’s reiterate all the segmentation parameters before we understand how to personalize email copy:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographical location
  • Demographics
  • Past purchases
  • Total purchase value of the past transactions
  • Stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Resources downloaded
  • Products or services searched for
  • Events attended

You must choose the most suitable segmentation parameters according to your business type and industry. For example: Events attended is not a segmentation parameter for eCommerce industry marketers.  

Having said that, let us see how you can personalize your email copy. 

Offers

Your offers would be of no use to the email recipient if they are not in line with the interests and needs of the target audience. What if you offer the job of a business development executive to an academic or technical content writer? The same analogy fits here. Someone who has searched for crockery on your website would hardly appreciate discount offers on mobile phone accessories. Therefore, you must make sure that you send out offers that are most relevant for the recipient.

Product recommendations

Just like offers, your product recommendations must complement the previous purchases made by the customer. Suppose a customer has purchased dog food a couple of days ago, you can send out a personalized email featuring relevant recommendations like dog treats or toys. This would delight the pet owner and get you a happy customer again.

Features of the product or service they have purchased

Recently, I purchased LinkedIn Sales Navigator for my side hustle but I could hardly find time to use it to its maximum potential. So, LinkedIn sent me a personalized email sharing details about all the features that I was missing out on. Now, that is a great marketing tactic to win the customer’s trust and encourage them to continue using your service. B2B companies and SaaS owners can reap huge benefits of such customized emails. 

See how Grammarly uses the same tactic to win over their users. 

Grammarly email

3. Personalized Imagery

It is a proven fact that images or other rich media elements like GIFs leave a deeper impact on customers rather than plain text. Now, what if you bring together personalization and visual marketing? It will take the entire customer experience to the next level. Adding personalized images will draw the subscriber’s attention and pique their curiosity too. 

Here’s an example from Travelocity that uses the subscriber’s name in the hero image to grab their eyeballs. It will also get the users interested in what the email wants to convey. 

Travelocity email

4. Behavior-based triggered emails

Most of the businesses are using advanced CRM tools like Marketo and Salesforce these days. By using them, it is possible to integrate the customer’s data into the CRM system and set automation workflows according to the triggers. Whether it is your customer’s browsing history or the past purchases, you can add all this information into the database. You can send out more relevant emails by setting behavioral triggers in the CRM. 

For instance: As soon as a subscriber signs up to your email list, he or she must receive the welcome email (or a series of two to three welcome emails). 

If you are a B2B email marketer, the next step is to send them relevant lead nurturing emails that would convince them to purchase from you. Just make sure that you have segmented the subscribers according to their buyer’s journey. Otherwise, your drip email campaigns will be meaningless. Divide the customer’s journey into awareness, consideration, and decision stage, and accordingly, send out different emails to each set of subscribers. 

On the other hand, eCommerce email marketers must send out promotional emails, considering all the segmentation attributes. Don’t use batch and blast email marketing as it does not work anymore. 

Other behavioral triggers for eCommerce stores are cart abandonment, stock replenishment, and back-in-stock emails. 

The behavioral triggers that you can use for any and every industry are: Post-purchase feedback emails, survey emails, cross-sell or upsell emails, and re-engagement emails. 

These behavioral triggers are the best in bringing passive revenue for your business. Once you have set these workflows, it does not need any manual intervention. However, you must regularly monitor the performance of these emails and keep optimizing it for best results. 

You can also integrate your social media and email marketing to send out behavior triggers based on the engagement on social media posts. 

5. Occasion-based Emails

Take a look at this email by Office. They have sent this email as a part of their welcome email series to get the subscriber’s birthday. Again, it is a wonderful way to get customer data. 

office birthday email

You can send personalized birthday emails to the subscribers and make their day more special. 

In addition, you can also send out milestone emails that celebrate big days like the customer’s first anniversary with you or your company’s first 10,000 customers. 

Here’s an example to give you a better idea about how to do it:

readdle email

There are some Holidays too for which you can send out promotional emails. Just make sure that you do not mess up with dates. For example: Mother’s Day falls in the month of March in the UK, while the US celebrates it in the month of May. 

You would not want to see someone tweet like this about you. 

tweet

If you have a subscriber base in both these geographical locations, you must see to it that you impart an inclusive experience to them and send these emails on the right day. 

Understanding Different Data Components and Their Usage

  1. The contact’s name can be used in the subject line and email copy. 
  2. You can personalize your emails according to the contact’s first touchpoint.

For example: If a user has signed up to your website through the PPC ads promoting a discount, you can send out a welcome email with the same offer. On the other hand, if someone has visited your website through organic search results and then signed up for your emails, you can send out a welcome email without any discount offer. This is because the latter would have a higher purchase intent. Therefore, you can expect a higher margin on their first purchase. 

  1. Next comes the email engagement activity. 

You must consider the following points while utilizing the email engagement activity. 

  • First of all, define your active audience by setting a threshold of the open rate and click-through rate within a specific period of time. 
  • The second step is to determine the dormant leads for re-engagement. You must set a threshold for those subscribers who have not engaged with any of your past emails. According to your business type and industry, the time period for this can either be 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days, or more. 
  • Thirdly, use the click data to figure out what kind of products interest the subscribers the most. For example: Contacts who have clicked on discount or offer links in your emails would be more interested in learning about similar sale or clearance offers. You must retarget them with follow-ups regarding such offers. 
  • Lastly, you must keep a close eye on the open, click, and purchase data. It will give you an insight into the time when the users are most likely to convert. However, bear in mind that the times when the users open the email can be different from the times when they make the purchase. 
  1. Your purchaser data is also an important aspect to consider while personalizing emails. 
  • At the outset, you must define the active shoppers by keeping track of the past purchases. If a contact has engaged with your emails and also placed an order in the recent past, you can conveniently retarget them. Send out relevant product recommendations and entice them to make another purchase.
  • Make a list of the non-purchasers and add them to the segment that “needs to be nurtured”. You can modify your email marketing strategy and try incentivizing them to convince them to convert. An assertive approach, without sounding too pushy can help. 
  • Loyalty programs are also a salient feature that facilitates email personalization. Discover the common attributes and preferences of repeat purchasers. Also, analyze the favorite product categories and promotions that have brought maximum people to purchase from you. All these insights, combined together, will form the foundation of an effective loyalty program. 
  • You can set up an automated email workflow to create cross-sell offers with complementary product recommendations. For example: Someone who has purchased a mobile phone can be retargeted with an email recommending mobile accessories like earphones or screen guard. 
  1. Milestone data can be used most effectively in the celebratory automated campaigns. 

To illustrate, you must always send out a series of birthday emails. The first email should reach the user on the first day of the birthday month. The second email can be sent on the birthday, followed by the third email a couple of days later. 

You can also celebrate small occasions like purchase anniversary and create a re-engagement email campaign around it in case the leads get inactive. 

Advanced Email Personalization Techniques

All the strategies discussed above are quite easy to use and widely employed by marketers all over the world. Besides these, there are some advanced personalization techniques that you can use for your email marketing strategy. 

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In the previous section, we have gone through the conventional methods to personalize different elements of an email. 

Now, we shall see how you can employ AI to hyper-personalize your emails. 

Subject line optimization

While you might need the help of a copywriter to draft appealing subject lines personalized for each subscriber, an AI tool like Phrasee can generate engaging subject lines with the help of powerful algorithms. It uses NLP (Natural Language Processing) which unites the principles of AI, computer science, and computational linguistics. Through this technology, computers can understand natural human language and even recreate it at times. 

It evaluates the performance of every marketing campaign and then optimizes your subject lines with every analysis. 

Automated email workflows

Employing AI in emails is not just limited to email subject lines. You can also incorporate it in your automated emails. You can use AI-driven software to use pre-written copy, visual elements, blog post snippets, promotional offers, and curated content to bring a high engagement rate. 

Apart from improving the email campaign performance, these emails help to minimize human intervention, thereby allowing you and your team to focus better on business growth.    

Amazon and Netflix are two brands that have nailed this tactic in their emails. 

Take a look at this reminder email by Netflix, with the subject line: Don’t forget to finish Marcella.

Netflix email

2. Predictive Analytics

Another exciting technology is predictive analytics. It allows you to predict the most significant customer behaviors, namely:

  • Customer lifetime value
  • Popular products
  • Next purchase timeline
  • Purchase intent
  • Risk of churn

Let’s understand this concept better. 

i. Purchase intent

Understanding the purchase intent will allow you to customize the copy of your messages and their frequency. If someone has a greater purchase intent, a simple reminder might work better. On the other hand, some others would need repeated follow-ups and incentives to be convinced to make the purchase. 

ii. Favorite category

As I have mentioned in one of the preceding sections, record the product category that is preferred the most by every user. Based on this, you can produce tailormade emails, exclusive for those customers. For example: A company created exclusive emails for full figure shoppers and included images of plus-sized models which led to a 105% increase in conversion rate. This was possible with the help of preferred category data. 

iii.  Predicted date of next order

Advanced ESPs and CRM tools can give you a holistic view of your customers’ buying habits and anticipate the timeline of their next order. Subsequently, you can send out an automated email with relevant product recommendations at the right time. 

iv. Predicted lifetime value

You can predict the lifetime value of a customer by analyzing the customer’s purchase history, its frequency, and predicted date of repurchase. It will let you know which customers are more likely to purchase at a higher average order value (AOV). You will also get an idea about customer loyalty.

To illustrate: If a customer is predicted to spend $150 or less, you might have to incentivize them to drive conversions. 

Contrarily, if a customer is predicted to spend a much higher amount like $500, a simple promotional email with a gentle reminder will make them purchase from you.   

3. Lead Scoring Model

Lead scoring model allows you to track the prospect activity and optimize the marketing communications. You only need to integrate the lead scoring workflow with the marketing automation. 

Sendinblue, Marketo, and Salesforce offer such functionalities to their users. 

Here is a basic lead scoring example for you. 

lead scoring model

It means that if a user clicks on your promotional email, he or she will get five points for the activity. 

In other words, it goes to show that such users are keener to hear from you when compared to others who do not click. 

You can apply the same logic for your event invitation emails. A user who clicks through the email and registers for the event will get some extra points when compared to someone else who does not respond to the invite. 

4. Integration with Third-party Apps

You can send out hyper-personalized emails by integrating your email marketing tool with the eCommerce platform, CRM, or accounting software. This will help you in importing useful information like the total purchase value of the past orders and all other details about their previous interactions. All these details will play a crucial role in imparting a personalized experience to the readers. 

5. Preference Centers

Preference centers are another great way to retrieve data for email personalization. You can use them to determine the email frequency for every customer or advanced details about their purchase preferences. It will, in turn, help you send tailormade emails to every customer. 

6. Dynamic Content

You can make use of geographic and demographic data to add dynamic content blocks that change according to the individual customer. Consequently, every subscriber will receive offers and product recommendations most relevant to them. Campaign Monitor used this technology and improved the click-through rates by 29%. 

Dynamic Content in Adidas Email

Key Takeaways to Make Personalization More Powerful

  • Focus on data collection and try to get maximum relevant information from the user. 
  • Approach every segment of the subscribers with the right tone of empathy and make it look like a dialogue rather than a sales pitch monologue. 
  • Research well about what your customers would be interested in, according to the stage of their journey. 
  • Let the users set their own preferences. 
  • Make sure that your emails do not look like you are stalking the user’s activity. Subtle personalization is the key. 
  • Always test the email before hitting the “Send” button.
  • Monitor the results of your personalized emails and keep optimizing them for the best results.  
  • Needless to say, allow your subscribers to unsubscribe from your emails.

Wrapping Up

There is a lot that you can do to personalize emails. You can get enormous information about it on the Internet and we’ve attempted to collate everything in this article. 

That will save you the time of browsing through different websites across multiple tabs and give you a complete picture- all at one place.  

Bingo! You are now all set to send out hyper-personalized emails and up your email marketing game. 

Oh, and did you bookmark this guide? 

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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices.

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