Does Email Personalization Still Work?

Mitch Tarr

Email personalization is a topic you hear hotly debated in marketing circles

The argument goes like this - Using a person’s name in the email copy or subject line appeals to their inner brain and they can’t resist responding to it. It’s human nature. Salespeople have known this for years.

Alternately - The use of a person’s name in the email copy or subject line has been so overused by marketers that it is no longer effective. Take the high road, and you’ll do better in the long run.

Where do you stand? Both arguments are equally valid. And I’ve run enough split tests which have proved both sides of the argument. So which is it?

Well, let’s think about what drives you to actually open an email. Is it relevant content? A great subject line? Or a long-standing relationship with the sender?

Chances are that you’re impacted by a combination of these factors, all of which influence you to engage with the email. It’s not just about name recognition - it’s about being valued as a unique customer rather than being targeted with a one-size-fits-all strategy.

This is exactly the mindset you should bring to email personalization.

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But first, let’s back our claims up with some facts:

  • 31% of consumers say they wish their shopping experience was far more personalized than it currently is. - Infosys
  • 71% of consumers say a personalized experience would influence their decision to open and read brand emails. - Forbes
  • Message Personalization is the number one tactic used by email marketers to improve performance. - HubSpot
  • 74% of marketers have stated that targeted personalization increases their overall customer engagement rates. - eConsultancy
  • Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. - Instapage
  • Personalized email marketing is said to generate a median ROI of 122%. - Instapage

Now that we’ve made the case for email personalization, what is the best way to incorporate it into your email marketing strategy? Here’s the real truth of personalization. If you’re looking at just using a First Name for personalization you’re missing the big picture AND a big payoff. Here are a few ways you can implement personalization that go beyond using a customer’s first name:

1. By Behavior

Tapping in to your customers’ behavior is one of the best ways to connect with them, and this comes down to the data. As a brand, you want to know what products your customers are looking at, when they are active on your site, whether they have abandoned their shopping cart, and more. Why? Because these insights will inform how to effectively personalize your emails in order to prompt action. 

If a customer hasn’t logged on to your site in a few months, try pointing this out in your email copy to show that you’re still committed to the relationship. If a customer has abandoned their order, send them a reminder and promo code via email (ideally within 20 minutes) to drive conversion. And, if a customer has completed a recent purchase, follow up with some suggested items related to their interests.

A brand that does a great job of this is Netflix. 

Email Personalization

In this e-mail Netflix is not only addressing the customer by her name, but it’s also offering her with a valuable content recommendation based on her past viewing behavior. The point is, get creative with how you use your customer behavior data to build engaging email campaigns that actually work.

2. By Special Occasion

There’s no better way to build a relationship with your customers than to remember their important occasions. Birthdays are the easiest way to do this - in fact, studies show that promotional birthday emails tend to generate 324% higher revenue than standard promotional emails (campaignmonitor).

If your intake process gathers birth date information, then this is too easy an opportunity to pass up. For starters, consumers are more likely to spend around their birthdays, so positioning your brand as part of their celebration is a great way to build momentum with your customers. 

Email Personalization

Here’s a great example of a personalized birthday email from Chandon. The product itself lends itself to the topic of celebration, but the added touch of addressing the customer by name and offering a birthday discount takes this email to the next level. It’s also noteworthy that they extended the offer to the whole month instead of one day, as this gives the customer some flexibility to apply the code at a time that works best for them.

3. By Customer Milestones

Customer milestones are a great way to keep up engagement for products or investments that are more high-maintenance. Take cars, for example. Vehicles require regular maintenance in order to retain their value and functionality. Keeping this in mind, a smart way for dealerships to continue their relationship with past customers is to track maintenance milestones and send reminders when customers are due for their next tune up. 

Another example is a pet grooming business - customers are generally highly invested in the well-being of their pets and will appreciate brands that help them provide the best care possible. By tracking past appointment dates, pet grooming businesses can stay top of mind for their customers by sending reminder emails for upcoming grooming needs.

Email Personalization

Perhaps the most recognizable example of this is the yearly playlist that Spotify sends its users at the end of every year. These personalized emails have gone viral and mark a major milestone for music listeners all over the world who look forward to the breakdown of their listening habits over the past year. A big takeaway here is that customers are interested in their own behavior data, and sharing insights about themselves can be a great way to boost interest in how they engage with your brand.

In Summary...

Email personalization is way more than using a reader’s name. The real secret of personalization relies on your good judgement and creative use of data.

Mitch Tarr President ZinMarketing

About The Author

Mitch Tarr is the author of Email Marketing Mastery: Accelerate Your Business Using Email Marketing.