How many emails do you receive per day? Give me an average guesstimate. Now tell me, how many of them do you actually open and interact with? I personally open emails that are useful to me. But, how can you, as an email marketer, make sure you’re creating such emails for your subscribers?

You’re already aware of how important email marketing is for your business’s success. But, do you know it can be even more powerful if you know how to fine-tune your email campaigns? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. The answer to all of these questions is simple – email personalisation. 

“Instead of one-way interruption, personalised email marketing is about delivering value at just the right moment that a user needs it.” – David Meerman Scott

Some of you may think “Well yeah, of course, I know all about email personalisation”, but think about it carefully – is that really true? All of my research shows that email is 40 times more effective in acquiring new customers than any other marketing channel. But, do you think that using the simplest personalisation technique – adding the subscriber’s first name – in either the subject line or the email copy is what actually gets people to convert? I believe it’s a rather old, overused, tired and quite predictable trick. But hey, you’ve heard the saying “old but gold!” So, keep reading to find out about the most common email personalisation mistakes (how to fix them) and what are the benefits of using personalisation.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics on email personalisation:

  1. What is email personalisation?
  2. The benefits of using personalisation in email marketing
  3. The most common email personalisation mistakes
  4. Email personalisation examples

Ready to dive in?

Email marketing and personalisation are a perfect fit, just like Beavis and Butt-Head, peanut butter and jelly, and fish & chips. Without email personalisation, you’ll end up with your back to the wall and lacklustre results that will make you weep. 

Personalising your emails is an essential part of any (and all) email marketing campaigns. It is also the best way to ensure conversions. In fact, all the research I’ve done points out that personalised emails get 6 times higher transaction rates, boost open rates by 26% and revenue is almost 18 times higher.

Ah, did you know that 60% of B2B organisations are planning to invest in personalisation by 2022? How about the fact that 77% of marketers believe that personalisation is the key ingredient of a successful marketing strategy? But yet it seems that 70% of brands completely fail to personalise their emails. The reason: companies have no clue how to collect the right data in order to personalise their messages or they do, but have no idea how to use it. Either way, without the correct knowledge, the proper data and the right actions, email personalisation (beyond the basic use of the subscriber’s first name) would deliver quite disappointing results. 

Some email marketers may think that the perfect (or only) way to get people to convert is by using their first name in their emails and in some cases, it’ll work. But trust me, using only this personalisation technique is not the best way to win the personalisation game. Think beyond the first name.

Email Personalisation: Definition, How To Do It & The Benefits

Email personalisation is a technique that you, the email marketer, use to make sure every aspect of your email marketing campaigns – from the subject line to the email content – feels like it’s been tailor-made specifically for your subscribers. Personalisation is proven to boost your open rates and bring higher revenue rates because it helps you give your subscribers more individualised and relevant content.

How To Personalise Your Emails?

I already mentioned that the most commonly applied personalisation technique is the use of the subscriber’s first name. Yet, in email marketing, personalisation goes way beyond the first name. So, if there’s more to personalisation than only the first name, how exactly are you supposed to well… personalise your emails? I’m glad you asked.

Personalised emails consist of three main elements – 

a) Relevance

It’s natural for people to be drawn to their name. When someone calls it, you immediately turn around – at least I do. So, yes, you should use it to personalise your emails. But don’t overdo it. Your subscribers’ inboxes are cluttered enough with all kinds of marketing emails and often, most of them have their first name in the subject line. As attention-grabbing as the technique might be, there’s a catch. If you are first-naming your subscribers too much they will catch on and may even think it’s a bit weird leading to your email being either deleted or reported as spam. 

Furthermore, there is nothing special about it. I have tons of emails in my inbox with my name slapped across the subject lines. But do I read them all? Will you? Take your email personalisation to the next level by offering your subscribers useful, relevant content. Though, you have to know them first and creating buyer personas is the way to do it. Start collecting the right kind of subscribers’ data with the help of your signup forms. Ask about the readers’ location, DOB, occupation, etc. and make sure the whole process is short and sweet. Once you have this detailed information, you’ll be able to highly segment and personalise your emails as well as take a step back from mass-messaging. You’ll make the subscribers feel like VIPs with such highly personalised, relevant content that matches their interests and needs.

Ah, don’t forget to create a subscriber’s preference centre and include the link in your campaigns. It’ll further aid your efforts in getting to know what your subscribers want to see. As well as give them a sense of control over the inbox.

b) Timeliness

Another cornerstone of personalised emails is that they have to be timely. Now that you know enough about your subscribers, you know what kind of content they are interested in, when you should send them emails (daily, weekly or monthly) and also, at what stage of their customer journey they’re at.

Let’s say one of your subscribers is searching for a particular product or service or just an article on your website. Whichever it is, you will gain further insight into their needs and interests at this exact point in time and consequently, craft and shoot them a timely email

c) Personalisation

I know, I know – this entire article is about email personalisation. But in this case, what I am referring to is your email’s “From Name” field. Throughout all of my research (and it was extensive), I’ve seen enough proof that people are more likely to place their trust and relate to an email that’s coming from an actual person instead of a brand. Thus, using YOUR first name in the “From Name” field and putting a face rather than a business logo in your email will prove invaluable in boosting your open, click-through and conversion rates.

Ah, do you want to know the best part? With EmailOut you can personalise your email with just a few clicks and voila – all done.

Email Personalisation Benefits

Personalisation is the foundation of consistently achieving higher email marketing KPIs. Just look at the stats I’ve already given you. But, there’s more. According to a very interesting study I came across, 80% of subscribers who have received personalised emails are inclined to make a purchase. 

Furthermore, with highly personalised email campaigns your unsubscribe rates will be significantly reduced. Yes, we would all like for this particular email metric to be close to zero but unsubscribes are inevitable. Did I mention that personalised emails also do not create any operational costs? We’ve all gone through the time-consuming process of figuring out the right time, the right tone and the right words to use in our email campaigns. Not to mention preparing (or editing) individual email campaigns for various occasions. It is all exhausting and the amount of manual labour is somewhat frightening. But, there is a very simple solution – automated behavioural triggered email campaigns. With 75% of marketers considering email marketing automation as one of the top three processes that can be safely automated without reducing overall effectiveness or audience connection I think the lure is quite clear.

All of the stats I’ve given you so far prove how essential and beneficial email personalisation is for your business. It gives your subscribers a better experience with your emails, improves your relationship with them and causes your email marketing metrics to shoot through the roof.

Common Email Personalisation Mistakes

The easiest and most effective approach to acquiring new and paying customers is utilising email personalisation. However, there are three common email personalisation mistakes marketers need to avoid at all costs.

1) The “First Name” Mistake 

In real life, we’ve all been in a situation where someone greets us by our first name and we sit stunned trying to remember what their’s was – or we use the wrong one. It’s horrible and, to be honest, a bit embarrassing. However, when such a thing happens in an email it can be a disaster of major proportions. You will not only create a huge gap between yourself and the subscribers but also, risk losing them altogether. So, make sure you never use the wrong first name or forget to add a fallback option or use the wrong information.

Why is this mistake happening? When you are gathering subscribers’ data from more than one source, it is highly possible for the data to get mixed up or be completely missing or the import to have an empty space where the ‘first name’ tag should be. Don’t lose your marbles though. There’s quite a simple fix.

The Fix. If you are using a professional ESP, you can avoid this tragic mistake from happening by simply setting up a fallback option. With EmailOut, this process can be done in four simple steps. The marketer needs to go to Contacts > Data Fields > Select the “FirstName” field and then simply set up the default value – e.g. “there”, “traveller”, “friend” or anything else matching your brand’s voice accurately. 

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

Once the default value of the data field has been set up, whenever the “First Name” tag is missing, the subscriber will see the fallback option – e.g. “Hi Traveller” instead of “Hi _BLANKETY-BLANK_”.

2) The Incorrect Personalisation Gaffe

Do you recall the time when Pinterest accidentally sent single women a blast congratulating them on their marriage? It created quite the social media storm.

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

How about the time Shutterfly was congratulating women on babies they did not have?

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

Why are such mistakes happening? If you neglect to use your subscribers’ data correctly or simply can’t be bothered with getting personalisation right, you are risking burning a potentially prosperous bridge and alienating your subscribers. 

The Fix. Before you start personalising your emails make sure the data you’ve gathered is correct and you’ve crossed-referenced the information from all the data sources – e.g. company profile, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, sign-ups, purchasing history, etc. This is the best way to verify the legitimacy of the subscribers’ information. However, sending an incorrect email to the wrong mailing list can happen. Rarely, but as Pinterest and Shutterfly prove, it can. The best way to fix this is by owning up to your mistake, apologising and doing everything in your power to make things right. For example, offer them a product discount or a free month to use your services. As long as you recognise your mistake, you will prove to your subscribers that you are sincere. It also provides an opportunity to re-engage them.

3) The Missed Opportunity Sin 

Do you know that with all that subscribers’ data you’ve gathered you are sitting on a treasure chest? All the information is just lying there waiting for you to take advantage of and send relevant, timely and highly personalised email campaigns to your subscribers. 

People are begging for personalised information making them much more willing to share their data in return. Actually, stats point out that 63% of millennials and 58% of Generation X customers are more than willing to provide their personal information in return for discounts and personalised offers. But, some marketers are missing on the opportunity to target subscribers and give them relevant content.

The Fix. Knowing more than just the subscribers’ first name gives you the best advantage of all. You can use the additional information to craft excellently targeted, highly-personalised, extremely relevant email campaigns. So, without wasting any more time, make sure you have implemented data gathering techniques (or tools) throughout both your website and email campaigns. After all, knowledge is power or so the saying goes. I personally believe that knowledge on its own is nothing, however, how you apply that knowledge, now that is powerful.

Email Personalisation Examples

Now that you know what email personalisation is, how to do it like a pro and what are the most common mistakes to avoid at all costs, let’s take a look at some examples from different brands that have nailed email personalisation to a T.

1) Making subscribers feel like VIPs

Sephora absolutely nailed the email personalisation game. They use personalisation not only in the subject line but took it a step further by also adding personalisation in their campaign’s email copy. They simply went the extra mile and showed their subscribers they care about them and their preferences.

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

Personalising their email copy is not the only thing the brand proves to be excellent at. They’ve also set up rules and triggers allowing them to send personalised offers to their most loyal subscribers. For instance, they take advantage of a subscriber’s VIP status to send them highly-targeted emails with offers or discounts. 

2) Nailing the email list segmentation game

Adidas is yet another brand brilliant at catering to its subscribers’ interests and needs. As you probably know, the company’s two primary markets for their sport’s ware – men and women. With that in mind, instead of Adidas sending generic mass-messaging campaigns to its entire database, the brand segments their email lists based on gender. 

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

 It’s pretty cool when your favourite brand isn’t bombarding you with promotions that you have no interest in and cluttering your inbox.

3) Personalising follow-up emails

How does being each of your subscribers both a personal shopper and a salesperson sound? Pretty neat right? Well, with email marketing automation, you can.

Take a look at Asics, for example. They track customers’ purchasing history and then use automation to send them personalised follow-up emails.

Email Personalisation: Is It Only About The First Name? | - free email marketing software

You’re probably wondering why I’m using ASICS email as an example since they haven’t used name personalisation, aren’t you? Well, their email was sent to a woman who placed an order in the shopping cart for training shoes but didn’t proceed to buy it – this is the perfect example of a highly personalised email even without using the customer’s first name. This is exactly the type of email personalisation that will save your business tons of money in lost revenue.

Final Thoughts

Email personalisation is a massive player in the marketing game. Without it, marketers will be bombarding subscribers with impersonal, irrelevant and quite frankly, irritating email campaigns leaving a lasting negative impression. Not to mention dreadful open, click-through and conversion rates.

Don’t be like those marketers. Implement personalisation in your emails – from the subject line and email copy to the imagery itself – and keep them relevant and useful. After all, you do want people to convert, don’t you? Then take the right approach and go beyond the mundane use of only their first name. Use sign-up forms to gather the right data, personalise your subject lines to increase your open rates, create content relevant to the subscribers’ interests and needs, set up automated behavioural triggered emails and last, but not least, avoid any email personalisation mistakes – they’ll be the death of your email marketing strategy.

Let’s make things easier with a summarised list of email personalisation DOs and DON’Ts.


  • collect the right data
  • use the subscriber’s first name sparingly
  • personalise your subject lines
  • add personalisation to your email copy
  • implement segmentation
  • make sure your emails are relevant
  • personalise the “from name” field
  • leverage email marketing automation
  • avoid any (and all) email personalisation mistakes


  • ignore the subscribers’ data you’ve collected
  • overuse your subscribers’ first name
  • send irrelevant mass-emails
  • assume all your subscribers are the same
  • bombard subscribers with too many emails
  • forget to target the right audience
  • be generic
  • ignore what your email marketing KPIs are telling you

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Email Personalisation Tips
2) Writing Marketing Emails 101
3) Email Conversion Issues
4) Email Design Best Practices
5) Email Marketing and Content Marketing

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