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Next-level personalisation for super-effective email campaigns

Personalisation. Everybody knows they should be doing it, but no-one is.

That’s not an exaggeration: 94% of companies say personalisation is vital to current or future business success.

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But… Only five percent of companies are doing it!

That’s a pretty big disconnect. And it explains why so many email marketing campaigns stumble and slow, and why lists decay as subscribers lose interest in the same content.

Where’s the explanation?

Partly it depends on what you mean by personalisation.

Factor in sending emails that run “Hi , Just wanted to check in with you about your recent purchase of ,” and we’re looking at the 60% of businesses who say they struggle with email personalisation. But they should be struggling: first names in subject lines is to personalisation what demob suits were to tailoring. Great, I can choose from three styles.

Real personalisation drills down into customer data to deliver messages customers relate to on a personal level and respond to for personal reasons.

It’s time to take it to the next level.

First you need data – maybe from your customers

Who knows who your customers are, and what they like? They do. And who loves to talk about themselves? We all do. It’s the foundation of Facebook’s US$245-billion business model.

So the best way to get it is probably to start by asking. Your basic signup forms will usually give you a customer’s age, gender and location. These things do sometimes change but they’re pretty reliable most of the time, so you can just feed them into whatever email tool you’re using and let them roll.

There’s also preference data concerning the type of products or services that customer is interested in. Again, some sign-ups will capture this, but this is where the “ask them” rule starts to get complex. Those forms are filled in hurriedly; we don’t fill in sign-up forms because we’re interested, we do it to get the goodies, and that means the data can be inaccurate and will tend to decay faster as customers’ tastes change. One solution is to use extra data gathering in coupon drives or emails advertising events, and another is to synch your email tool as tightly as possible with sales data. This is easier in ecommerce than other businesses, but even there it requires a significant amount of data transfer.

Finally, back to Facebook (and Instagram, Twitter, and every other social media channel). This really is where customers go to talk about themselves, and you can use your social media accounts to data-gather.

Segmented behavioral trigger mails

Once you have data, you can use it to personalize emails in terms of customer behavior, by having emails triggered by customer activities including making purchases, adding items to their carts and even by browsing. Several highly effective email marketing campaigns have used this technique by responding to customer purchases or browsing with cross-sells or upsells, and it can also be effective if you’re seeking to handle cart abandonment in ecommerce.

The key is effective triggered emails in response to actions that customers take on your website – these are easily configured with email marketing software such as GetResponse. If you’re not collecting customer data from your website because you don’t do much – or any – ecommerce, you can run a similar data gathering effort by collecting email addresses at checkout and linking them to purchases, then following up with drips, offers, and upsells.

Dynamic content

At the beginning, we spoke about using names and products to personalize emails. Trouble is, that doesn’t really personalize the email; it just personalizes the email labels. Imagine you and your sister got the exact same Christmas present, but each with a tag, bearing your name, lovingly inscribed. How personal would that feel? Dynamic content gives you a gift that’s all your own.

It does that by changing the content of the email based on customer data. This opens up huge new fields of potential for personalization. For instance you can personalize dynamic content based on:

  • Location: Someone in Boston might want a whole different email than someone in San Francisco – especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Or they might want some of the same information, and a couple of paragraphs different.
  • Interest: You can tailor your email, not just the name and a couple of words, to the interests a customer has told you about. Have purchase data? Use it to segment customers by interest streams so people who bought rugged blue jeans get offers on leather belts, while floaty-dress purchasers get the offers on sunhats.
  • Persona or role: If you’re talking to a CEO, you’re dealing with very different demands as against a college students. Both might be customers, but to personalize an email to their interests and the demands on their time will require more than and a couple of . You’ll need to personalize the content they receive to take account of the fact that the CEO wants the bottom line, right now. The student? She might have time to read a think piece or follow a few links.
  • Lifecycle: How long has this customer been a customer? We tend not to be on as familiar terms with people we’ve known six months as those we’ve known for years, so have you been emailing this person since 2010 or are they a new signup? Don’t just address them differently; address different content to them.

Better than dynamic content? Open-time email

Dynamic content personalizes the actual content of emails, in accordance with the customer data you have. We’re already a million miles away from “Hey , here’s the same stuff everyone else got. Enjoy!” But we don’t have to stop there.

Open-time email is sometimes also referred to as live content or agile email (think Google Inbox). It’s about addressing people based on live customer information – where they are and what they’re browsing right now.

The difference between agile email and dynamic content is that dynamic content relies for its segmentation on CRM data, which is usually updated on a 24-hour cycle and could thus be a whole day out of date. In contrast open time email is targeted to be current at the time it’s opened – overwhelmingly within an hour of being sent.

Does it work? Yes. And how! The Canadian National opera achieved a 67% open rate with their emails, using precision timing and location data. True Religion used geo-targeted emails to gain a one percent conversion and 2.5% click-through rate on 65k emails.

Open-time email can be based on:

  • Beacon information: In a brick-and-mortar store, iBeacons can be used to gather data about customer proximity and even about where in the store a customer is. That data can inform which email the customer receives.
  • Countdown clocks: Countdown clocks to upcoming sales or events can be used to trigger agile emails aimed at customers interested in those products, warning them as the clock counts down.
  • Mobile triaging: This refers to emails designed to be opened on mobile devices, then returned to later on tablet or desktop to complete the transaction. This takes account of the fact that people tend not to buy on mobile devices.

Typically, agile email will use coding rather than large amounts of content to personalize emails, which means the emails don’t have to be written multiple times over and can often even be reused on subsequent campaigns. This does mean that while content changes, subject lines don’t, so they need to be written “comfort-fit” with plenty of room to move!

Personalise yourself

When you’re personalizing your email campaigns, don’t stop at emails. Remember that the better your email campaign works, the more recipients will be clicking through to a landing page to potentially make a purchase. Make sure that the landing page, their first contact with you, is personalized too!

Build emails into a personalised process

The user journey that starts with emails should continue through drip and sales contacts and website visits. Building a personalized user journey as far as possible will result in the benefits of personalization at each stage of the journey. This is where emails, landing pages and your website come together. The easiest way to ensure this is to make sure that content remains coherent in terms of offers, deals, prices and customer targeting right through the journey.

In conclusion

Brands that take personalized emails at face value and keep sending out swipe-file emails will eventually be forced to adapt just to keep up. As customers become channel- and device-agnostic, but increase their allegiance to brands, the smart move is to offer them more engagement and personalization every step of the way, and with multiple options for effective email personalization it makes sense to build campaigns that zero in on the customer.

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