On average, people send & receive over 120 emails daily. Yet, not all of those emails will get opened, how can you ensure that your email does?

Subscribers and consumers have come to expect – and demand – relevant, personalized emails. With competition for the Inbox at its highest, you need to do everything you can to stay ahead of the game. This is where email personalization comes into play.

“Personalization is not about first/last name. It’s about relevant content.”  – Dan Jak

The best approach to effective email marketing is implementing all concepts, tools and processes at your disposal. Yet, the truth is, many marketers get stuck in a “comfortable” email routine and stick to it overlooking one of the best tools that will ensure conversions – email personalization

This article covers the following topics on email personalization:

1. The importance of email personalization
2. Personalization beyond the first name
3. Email personalization techniques

  • Ask the right questions
  • Segment your email list(s)
  • Customize your sender details
  • Personalize your subject line
  • Give the email copy a personal touch
  • Utilise dynamic content
  • Take advantage of browsing and purchase history
  • Use behavioural-triggering
  • Utilise milestones
  • Craft customized landing pages

4. Email personalization stats

Ready to dive in?

Email personalization is not a trend. It is a marketing tsunami. 

In a world where subscribers and consumers are overloaded with information and bombarded with countless emails from brands, knowing which email marketing techniques to use to cut through the clutter and reach your target audience is imperative.

Isn’t email personalization a Herculean task? No, it is not. With the right email marketing software in your corner and the right data, personalizing your email marketing will be simple, easy and, most importantly, sophisticated. You will be able to make the connection with your target audience more personal, deliver relevant content (i.e. offers, promos, deals, etc.) and, subsequently, encourage more conversions.

Now, please indulge me and carefully read through two scenarios – 

Scenario 1: You’ve spent hours upon hours crafting an email campaign. You’ve added every possible offer or deal you can think of. The email copy is full of information that might be of interest. You unleash the campaign on your target audience. Recipients see it in their inbox and there is nothing to grab their attention. Their fingers are working overtime flagging the email as junk/spam without even thinking twice or opening it. You’ve got only 5.6 seconds to make an impact, make them count.

Scenario 2: You’ve utilised all email marketing tools available to you and crafted a highly-targeted, beneficial and relevant email campaign. The recipient sees something of significance and, just like that, you’ve got his/her attention because you’ve taken the time to send them a personalized email they actually want.

Which is the winning scenario? Hint: the one where email personalization came into play.

Why Is Email Personalization Important

In case it slipped your mind, email personalization is the email marketing process of leveraging subscribers’/consumers’ information (i.e. first/last name, location, occupation, company name, gender, last purchase, etc.) to create specifically tailored, highly-targeted email campaigns to make recipients more receptive to what you have to say and offer.

The purpose of email personalization is to make your target audience (i.e. leads, prospects, subscribers and consumers) feel like VIPs and not like just another email address in your list.

Why are personalized emails important you may ask?

Let me give you 4 crucial reasons – 

  • Revenue growth: Consumers are willing to spend more money with brands who appreciate them and deliver relevant, engaging and beneficial content. Marketers have established highly-personalized, segmented email campaigns deliver an uplift of over 700% in email revenue.
  • Improved engagement: Everybody loves a little special treatment. Personalized emails will help you make your target audience feel more valuable and precious (channelled Sméagol for this one!) which, in turn, will increase their engagement with your content.
  • Increased open, click-through (CTR) and conversion rates: Personalization, particularly in the subject line, is an excellent tried-and-tested technique to increase email marketing KPIs. Yet, remember, email personalization goes beyond just the first/last name or subject line. According to stats, personalized subject lines have 26% higher open rates and personalized emails generate a 14% increase in CTR and 10% higher conversion rates.
  • Better consumer satisfaction: 54% of consumers expect to get a personalized email with discounts/special offers within 24 hours of sharing their email address with a brand. According to stats, sending personalized emails will increase consumer satisfaction by 56%.

Interesting fact: highly-personalized emails make your target audience feel special precisely because of their tailored nature which, in turn, invokes a sense of consumer empowerment driving recipients towards the Holy Grail – a conversion

Email marketing and personalization fit together like Anthony & Cleopatra, Bonnie & Clyde and Batman & Robin. Without email personalization, marketers will end up with their back against a wall seeing dreary results that will make them cry a river.

Email Personalization Beyond The First Name

Did you know that 60% of B2B organizations plan to invest in personalization by 2022? Or that 77% of marketers believe personalization is the key ingredient to a successful marketing strategy? Yet, it appears 70% of brands completely fail at email personalization. 

Why? Businesses have no clue how to collect the right data to personalize their emails. Or, if they do, they have no idea how to use that data. Regardless, without the knowledge, the right data and the proper email personalization techniques, personalizing emails will deliver disappointing email marketing results.

One of the most common email personalization techniques is using the recipient’s first name. However, contrary to popular belief, email personalization goes beyond and deeper than addressing a recipient on a first-name basis. 

For an email marketer, successfully sending personalized emails means you need to know everything you can about your target audience. Every little bit of information you can obtain for each subscriber/consumer be it age, gender, occupation, interests, email preferences, past purchases, browsing history, etc. is crucially important for email personalization.

As marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin says: People don’t want email. They want me-mail.

In other words, getting a non-personalized email is about as exciting as receiving a Dear Occupant letter back in the snail mail era. 

What can be personalized beyond the first name?

Addressing a recipient by their first name is an email personalization ‘must’. Yet, some brands’ efforts stop at that basic email personalization technique. The real magic, however, happens when email marketers and brands implement personalization to the following email campaign elements – The: 

  • “From” name
  • Subject line
  • Email copy
  • Imagery
  • Offers, deals, special promotions, product/service recommendations, etc.

So many elements (pretty much your entire email campaign!) to personalize and yet, many brands either struggle or fail to use email personalization to its full potential.   

Do you want to know a secret? There are easy, relatively simple but sophisticated email personalization techniques that go beyond the first-name basis marketers can utilise to supercharge their email marketing.

Feeling the urge to get personal?

Indispensable Email Personalization Techniques

2020 saw over 306 billion emails sent daily worldwide with the number expected to reach over 376 billion by 2025. Impressive. 

But… how can you grab and hold recipients’ attention long enough to have them engage with your email campaigns?

Hint: combining basic and advanced email personalization techniques.

Ask The Right Questions

Personalized emails require data. Not just any data though. The right data. Thus, make sure you collect the proper information about your leads/subscribers/consumers that will help you craft highly-personalized email campaigns which deliver benefits to both you (the email marketer) and the recipient.

The best way to inquire about a person’s information is to ask them directly. The most common approach for collecting information is through a sign-up form.

I’ve filled in a sign-up form or two and most of them had one thing in common: only the default first/last name and email address questions. Hence, I receive tons of emails with my first name in the greeting or potentially (but rarely) the subject line. Do I engage with all of them? Will you if there was nothing attention-worthy? 

A sign-up form (with the right questions) will help you create a customer persona which, subsequently, you will use in your segmentation to personalize your emails. Ask about the subscribers – 

  • Date of birth 
  • Gender 
  • Occupation 
  • Location
  • Reasons for – 
    • signing up
    • purchasing
    • becoming a user
    • visiting your website
  • Interest
  • Email preferences
    • frequency
    • type of content

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

You may think people will be infuriated by filling in a lengthy sign-up form. However, 91% of consumers are more likely to engage and purchase from brands that deliver personalized, relevant content (i.e. offers).

How do you think you’d be able to personalize your emails if you don’t dig deeper and ask the right questions?

Sign-up form disclaimer: By providing this information [company name] will be able to deliver the best experience and the most highly-personalized, relevant, beneficial and helpful email communications.

Now everyone will know why you are asking so many questions.

Segment Your Audience

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

In my humble opinion, segmentation is one of the most significant things to happen to email marketing since… well, its invention.

Now, do you want to improve your email campaigns’ response and engagement rates?

Segment your email list(s). With the help of the right email marketing software,  you can group your leads/subscribers/consumers into segments based on similarities – i.e. gender, interests, occupation, location, link clicks, etc. 

By breaking down your email list(s) into different segments, you will be able to craft personalized, relevant, targeted and beneficial email campaigns which will significantly increase open, click-through and conversion rates, as well as decreasing unsubscribe rates.

Have you ever opened a marketing email and thought “eh, why did they send me this?” Of course you have.

I’m even willing to bet it made you less likely to open the next email that came through from that sender. On the other hand, if every email you receive from a brand feels like it has been specifically crafted for you, you’d be much more inclined to open and engage with every message. Well, that’s the power of email segmentation. It helps you target the right people at the right time with the right message.

The “From” Name

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

Who is the email coming from? An actual person? A company? A pet pug?

All of my research (which, believe me, was extensive), I’ve found enough evidence that people are more likely to place their trust and engage with an email that’s coming from an actual person rather than a brand. Hence, using YOUR first name in the “From” field will give your business a face and personality recipients can relate to.

Ultimately, the “From” field is the first most prominent element of your email that recipients will notice when scrolling through their inbox. Ah, personalizing the “from” field will also prove invaluable in increasing open, click-through and conversion rates.

Pro tip: On desktop and mobile clients, the “From” field has larger text and heavier font which helps recipients identify the sender before opening the email.

“From” field rule-of-thumb – 

Newsletter = your brand’s name
Sales email = an account manager’s name (or sales rep)
Company news/performance = CEO or CMO (if recognisable)

Different account managers for different clients? No problem, personalize the “From” field with the recipient’s account manager’s name and a ‘fall-back’ of your company’s name.

The best part. With professional email marketing software (like EmailOut), you can personalize your email with a few clicks and voila – all done.

The Subject Line

Do you know the formula for the best email subject line? I do.

Curiosity + Urgency + A Tempting Offer + Relevance + Novelty = The Perfect Subject Line

On desktop, you can see 60 characters (sometimes even more) of an email’s subject line, while mobile devices will reveal 25 to 30 characters. You must ensure that your subject line is neither too short (one word) or too lengthy with such limited space. Otherwise, you risk changing the message in ways that are either distracting and confusing or embarrassing and, sometimes, even funny. 

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

According to email marketing gurus, the recommended subject line length is no more than 50 characters. Obviously, with the length limitation, you will not be able to squeeze in all the elements in the formula. You shouldn’t even waste time trying. After all, you need to keep the subject line personalized, short and punchy.

27 Short, Sharp, Inbox-Friendly Subject Lines >>>

Your email’s subject line is the second most notable element of your email campaign. On most devices, the subject line is displayed in a darker, heavier text (similar to the “from” field) which makes it stand out amidst other details of your email campaign. Thus, use the recipient’s first name (see, it came in handy!) to further build trust and pique their interest.

Ah, did you know that 69% of recipients report emails as SPAM solely based on the subject line? Moreover, 47% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone. Additionally, personalized subject lines will inevitably boost open rates by 26%.

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

The Email Copy 

Your email copy is the conduit for conversations. You’ve heard of Catch-22, right? Famous novel/movie? Anyhow, take a look at this excerpt from the book – 

Dear Mrs, Mr, Miss, or Mr and Mrs Daneeka:

Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.

What stands out? Did you notice? No personalization of the copy. 

That’s why you’ve worked so hard to gather all those details about your audience from the get-go. To prevent impersonal, irrelevant, slightly (or hugely) frustrating email copy that will alienate your recipients.

With custom fields (merge tags in EmailOut), all stored information about your leads/subscribers/customers (i.e. age, gender, shoe size, location, birthday, etc.) can be used to personalize your email copy.

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

Pointers to keep in mind when crafting your email copy – 

  • be less formal – regardless of the industry you’re in, make your email copy friendly and personable but avoid jargon at all costs.
  • use humour – it’s an excellent ice-breaker and it will make your emails feel like they come from a friend.
  • be relevant – use the collected data to create content even the recipients didn’t know they needed. In short, deliver relevant info, offers, tips, etc. 

Pro tip: Be careful of the atmosphere you’re setting with your email copy. You don’t want to overwhelm your recipients or come across as too impersonal. Find a balance.

Dynamic Content

With the help of dynamic content, you will be able to make any changes to your email copy based on the leads/subscribers/customers information (i.e. preferences, age, gender, location, occupation, etc.) and personalize specific elements of your campaign such as the text, visuals and/or call-to-actions (CTAs).

Images, GIFs, illustrations and cinemagraphs are all important visual elements of any email marketing campaign as they compliment the email copy. However, it goes beyond just dumping relevant images into your email campaign.

Adding personalized imagery your target audience can relate to will add a personal touch to your campaign and increase your click-through rate by 29%

According to Neil Patel, “the call-to-action is the tipping point between conversions and bounces.” Personalized call-to-action (CTA) converts over 200% better compared to a basic CTA.

For example, “[First Name] here’s your free trial”  or “A free trial just for [First Name]” vs “Start YOUR free trial” will do wonders for your conversion rates. 

In short, dynamic content allows you to display different content for different recipients.

Pro tip: Image alt text is crucial, especially for your top image, since it’s what email clients may use as a preheader – if you haven’t crafted one.

Adidas’s Originals series email campaign is a perfect example of utilising dynamic content – 

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

The products promoted dynamically switch based on the subscriber’s gender ensuring each recipient will see the most relevant and appealing product that will entice them to convert.

Browsing and Purchase History

Assuming your website does not exist in some dark, forgotten corner of the internet, you are likely getting a fair, healthy amount of relevant daily traffic. The way visitors move through your website is essential data you can utilise to improve your email personalization efforts.

Take cookies, for example. You can utilise them to collect browsing data and send custom-tailored emails based on the products/services visitors viewed on your website. 

A customer’s purchase history is another crucial insight you can use to create an impactful personalized email strategy. You can leverage customer’s behaviour (i.e. purchase history) to craft relevant, personalized, targeted email campaigns that will increase additional purchases via cross- or up-selling product/service recommendations promoted to each unique customer in your email list(s).

Behavioural Triggering

Did you know that automated behavioural-triggered emails generate 70% higher open rates and over 150% higher click-through rates compared to traditional emails precisely because they are hyper-personalized?

Automated behavioural-triggered email (a.k.a email automation) is a mouthful and for some, it might even sound complicated and a bit frightening. Yet, it’s one of the most sophisticated methods for email personalization and not at all scary.

It is all about setting up triggers to automatically “activate” email campaigns based on the recipients’ real-time reactions.

For example, an email triggered by an abandoned cart, perhaps offering a discount or other perk for completing the purchase, brings people back into the customer journey.

This email personalization technique speaks to the recipient on an individual level at a specific time. However, establishing this process depends entirely on your choice of email marketing software.

Automated behavioural-triggered emails serve multiple purposes – 

  • welcoming new subscribers/customers
  • attracting new customers
  • re-engagement 
  • cart abandonment emails
  • purchase confirmations
  • better targeting and personalization
  • boosting ROI
  • improve conversions
  • increase brand awareness
  • reduces the potential for mistakes

When it comes to email personalization, a behavioural-triggered email is about as personal as it can get for brands and subscribers/customers.

Netflix is the king of this particular email personalization technique with its automated suggestion emails based on your “watched” history  –

Email Personalization Techniques | EmailOut.com

The Power Of Milestones

Competition for the inbox is fierce. Cutting through the email clutter has become harder. But, a well-timed personalized email campaign can spark interest and engagement. This is where milestone emails come into play. After all, who doesn’t like to celebrate?

From birthdays and anniversaries to holidays and special occasions, milestone emails will help you build even more personal relationships with your audience as they navigate from newbies, to seasoned and loyal subscribers/customers. 

By showing your audience you know more about who they are and what they like (beyond just their first name), you endear yourself to them. This will, undoubtedly, result in reciprocation in the form of higher open, click-through, engagement and conversion rates. 

Interesting fact: EmailOut’s CEO has two birthdays. I bet you’re wondering how that is possible. It’s quite a story. He was born in March in the 1970s which also coincided with Easter Day that year (you know, Christ’s rebirth!). Hence, he gets two birthdays and twice the opportunity to get milestone emails – if marketers are savvy enough to have noticed. 

Landing Pages

Have you ever wondered why some email marketing platforms offer landing pages as a feature?

They go together like peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cranberry, beef and horseradish, vegans and pulses. You cannot have a highly successful and profitable marketing campaign without merging email marketing and landing pages

The beauty of combining email marketing and landing pages is that you ALREADY have the email addresses and know enough about your audience – where they signed up from, perhaps previous purchases, products/services they viewed, demographics, and the like. Thus, the email landing page can be tailored and personalized to that information AND your email copy. 

When clicking through your personalized email, the recipient will have a certain level of expectation. Thus, it is crucial to keep your audiences’ attention on the initial email message by aligning the landing page experience with those expectations.

Furthermore, matching personalized emails with equally personalized landing pages will give the recipient a unified experience, making him/her more likely to convert.

Email Personalization Stats

From Netflix to Spotify and Amazon, subscribers and consumers are surrounded by email personalization. These inspiring stats will prove just how powerful email personalization is – 

  • 70% of consumers get disappointed and frustrated with brands that send impersonal, irrelevant email campaigns
  • 91% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized, relevant offers and recommendation
  • 63% of consumers will stop buying from brands with poor personalization practice
  • personalized emails deliver 6 times higher transaction rates
  • 53% of marketers state email personalization results in moderate to significant revenue impact
  • 58% of all revenue is generated from segmented, highly-personalized, uber-targeted email campaigns
  • 88% of consumers state they are more likely to favourably respond to an email if it feels like it has been specifically tailored (personalized) for them
  • 62% of emails get opened because of personalized email subject lines
  • 62% of marketers state email personalization is the most effective marketing technique for customer acquisition and retention
  • personalized email marketing generates a median ROI of 122%

Final Thoughts

Email personalization is all about telling your Jacks from your Jills and sending relevant, beneficial, highly-targeted, personalized content your audience would want to both receive and expect. Without it, email marketers will bombard their subscribers/customers with impersonal, irrelevant, generic and, frankly, frustrating email campaigns that will leave a lasting negative impression. Don’t get me started on the dreadful email marketing metrics that will follow.

If you don’t want this to be the future of your email marketing, utilising email personalization is the path to take. You do want people to convert, do you not? 

From your sender details and subject line to the email copy and imagery, make sure every element of your email campaign is specifically tailored for the recipient and goes beyond the mundane use of just their first name. 

Remember, it will take time to nail your email personalization strategy. Thus, always split test (A/B test) your campaigns to establish which email personalization tactics work best and have the biggest impact on your email marketing metrics.

Are you ready to get personal?

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Writing Marketing Emails 101
2) Email Automation: Busting Common Myths
3) Subject Line Mistakes To Avoid
4) 10 Types of Customer Engagement Emails
5) Email Marketing Campaign Checklist (PDF version here)

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