Best Email Personalization Techniques to Try Out in 2021

Email marketing is well alive in 2021 as a way to sell. It has evolved with time and, as many things in digital marketing, become more targeted. With stable data collection, marketers can understand their customers better and a set of techniques helps in that. This is where email marketing personalization comes into play.

What is email personalization

In email marketing, personalization is the process of sending targeted emails. Different people see different email content based on available data about them. More data means more ways to personalize. There are multiple ways to personalize but the basic principle is the same.

Imagine you go to your favorite grocery store and they have all you love waiting to be taken home: meat, fruits, wine, gummy bears (especially gummy bears!). All fresh, neatly packaged, bottles stored at the temperature you prefer. Maybe there’s a discount, too. They do it all for you.

If you love the place, you feel the urge to come back. It’s not just a random grocery store like many others, it’s one with an experience, a personal feel to it.

The analogy is not far-fetched. In email marketing, personalization works just like that — a way to keep customers happy by giving them what they need at the right time.

In this article, we’ll look at how it works in email marketing and which techniques help marketers achieve better results.

Why personalize emails

Let’s go back to our grocery store. For its customers, at the very least it feels good to be taken care of. If this relationship starts to bring them value, that’s even better. That’s the aim actually.

In email marketing, personalized emails are meant to bring people value. More precise emails hit the right spot. With the right data streams, marketers can customize their content and make it more targeted for their audiences.

Nowadays people expect marketing to be like that and here are some stats proving it:

  • 72% of customers only engage with emails tailored to their interests (SmarterHQ)
  • 80% of customers value both the product and the experience (Salesforce)
  • 42% of consumers are angry when content is not tailored to their interests (Adobe)
  • 760% increase in revenue in email marketing is owed to personalized emails (Campaign Monitor)

For customers, personalization improves the experience. The happier they are the more likely they are to repay with loyalty. For marketers, it directly impacts three crucial things in email marketing: CTR, sales opportunities and conversion rate. Here’s how it does.

Higher click-through rates

Shouldn’t we start with the open rates🤔!? Well, not really.

We can skip opens and there are two main reasons to go directly to CTRs: opens being a bit unreliable and the latest iOS update.

Opens are sometimes seen as a vanity metric as they don’t reflect the efficiency of a marketing campaign. For what it’s worth, some people just don’t like unread emails in their inbox so they open and instantly close them.

What nightmare looks like for those who hate unread emails
What nightmare looks like for those who hate unread emails

Opens will also no longer be counted correctly with iOS 15 so it messes with the data accuracy.

What are opens good for, then? What’s a good open rate in your industry? How to increase it and what affects opens? Turns out we have an article about it.

So, click-throughs it is. GetResponse found personalized email content leads to a higher click-through rate.

Emails Click-through rate
Personalized 2.48%
Non-personalized 2.33%

Even if the difference seems small, it will be significant for a newsletter with thousands of recipients.

For a newsletter with 20 000 recipients this means 30 more clicks through ― 496 against 466. Is this a lot? Well, this is significant in email marketing, an industry that returns $36 for every $1 spent (Litmus data). Make the most of it.

More sales opportunities

In many ways, sales opportunities are tied down to CTR: an increased click-through rate drives more visits to a website. Given that personalization boosts CTR, you have more opportunities to sell.

Personalizing a subject line is a way to start because it has a positive impact on the click-through rate.

Some personalization techniques create sales opportunities right in an email. Personalized product recommendations or location-specific offers save users a click and you practically sell from your customers’ inbox.

One that stands out is abandoned cart emails and these often employ personalization. The fact one receives this email is personalization.

According to Moosend, 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 21% of those get clicks through and 50% of those who click through end up purchasing. All math done, that’s around 5 sales per 100 emails, a 5% conversion.

Better conversion rates

Conversion rate is hard to calculate as it means the overall success of an email marketing campaign. How you measure it depends on your objectives.

In the context of personalization, it’s what you want to achieve by sending targeted emails. Most of the time it’s purchase-based in digital marketing.

Barilliance estimates that in 2021, the average conversion rate across all industries is 1.33%. That’s just slightly over one sale per 100 emails.

As we’ve seen with abandoned cart emails, they boost this number from 1.33% to around 5%. That’s a 3.7 times upturn in conversion. How nice!

Birthday emails are a way to go, too. They are often personalized (let’s start with the fact the birth date is known) and, as per Litmus, they bring in 3.42 times more revenue than generic promos.

What makes a good personalized email

Relevance

So, you’re in your subscriber’s inbox. That’s a good start, now keep bringing value.

Segment your audience as that’s a prerequisite for strong digital marketing. Segmentation splits your subscriber list into smaller batches by a given parameter. You can segment by age, location, date of last open and click, activity status and so on.

In Unisender’s segmentation tool, for example, you can segment by over 70 parameters.

Relevance

Timing

A common approach here is to consider time zones and holidays. For example, Super Office found that 3 pm is the best time to send an email while Campaign Monitor believes that Friday is when emails are opened the most.

Timing
Source: Campaign Monitor

Does this mean you should build your personalization around it and send emails only at 3 pm on Friday? No.

Take those studies into account but don’t blindly follow the numbers. Not even because the data are not industry-specific but because there’s another reason.

Ready?

The best timing for your newsletter is when your subscribers open it and click through the most. To find it out, do A/B tests

It’s also sensible to look at the timing in terms of a customer journey. In a way, it’s when relevance and timing combine.

With the right data, you can guess where your customers are in a sales funnel and, using email list segmentation, personalize more effectively.

What data do I need to personalize an email and how to get it

You need all the data you can gather. The best part about it is that customers are willing to engage. 83% of consumers want to share their data in exchange for a more personalized experience, found Accenture. As per the same study, 91% are more likely to shop with brands that make relevant offers to them.

For basic personalization, even knowing a subscriber’s name will do it. To make it more advanced, you’ll need to track customer behavior to offer dynamic content.

Dynamic content is interesting because it adjusts to individuals. It takes into account interests, purchase history, location and so on. Based on those, you can use it to send the most relevant stuff at a given moment. It effectively makes the most of a sales funnel.

Here are some resources to get user data.

1. Website registration form

Usually, only an email and name are required in a registration form. But if you can get more from a customer, so much the better.

Say, you sell clothes. To personalize, you’d want to know the gender or at least which clothes your customer is interested in ― male or female. Clothing companies love this method which is super logical.

Website registration form
Source: Asos

2. Analytics tool of your email service provider

Usually ESPs like Unisender can give you information about opens, CTRs, website visits, last visits and more metrics. You’ll see which emails your subscribers like, which ones they tend to ignore, which emails have the most conversion and so on.

With this knowledge, you can tailor your campaign for various audiences.

Analytics tool of your email service provider
Unisender’s analytics on location

3. Sign-up form before checkout

Some sign-up forms are impossible to skip. For instance, when you are about to complete a purchase, some websites will ask for more info about you than your name.

Sign-up form before checkout
When buying pet food on Orijen, for example, they’ll ask you to specify if you have a cat or a dog ― or both

“From” name: say who you are

In their study, Radicate estimates that an average person receives 121 emails every day. How do you stand out in such a crowd? By being familiar.

It’s so simple and reasonable to do so no surprise it works. According to Campaign Monitor, 68% of Americans base their decision to open an email on the name field.

You can try to be more personal and use the [name] from [brand] format. Interestingly, that’s how you personalize the sender, too. If your subscribers are comfortable with it and respond with clicks, more power to you.

“From” name: say who you are

Subject line: hook your reader before they open an email

A subject line is one of only three visible components of an email, the others being the “from” name and a preheader.

Subject line: hook your reader before they open an email

You have 60 symbols for desktop and only 30 for mobile devices so use this space wisely.

Get Response found that emails with a personalized subject line slightly edge out those with no personalization.

Subject line Click-through rate
Personalized 2.62%
Non-personalized 2.33%

That’s 58 more clicks per an email campaign of 20 000 recipients ― 524 against 466, to be precise.

Here’s how personalizing subject lines happens at its most basic level. It can’t be any simpler, can it?

personalizing subject lines

In our article about subject lines we go into details about emotions, tone of voice, use of emojis and offer tips

Remember, however, that addressing by name is risky. If the automation takes a day off it’s a disaster in the making.

Make sure to avoid situations like below where an error in data collection leads to a humiliating situation.

Imagine this same email goes to hundreds, thousands of people
Imagine this same email goes to hundreds, thousands of people

Email content: craft a good scannable email

Seriously, write a good copy. Here’s what we mean by it.

Scannable. As far back as in 1997, Nielsen Norman Group established that people don’t read on the web, they scan. Nothing has changed in over 20 years.

Unless users are highly interested in your content, you only have a few seconds to tell them a story. Help them glide over your email by making the key points visible. Use a lot of examples.

Easy to navigate. Use smart formatting: bullet points, headlines, bold and italicized text, relevant illustrations if any, visible CTA, correct use of hyperlinks.

The Hustle’s newsletter is a good example of what a neat text-based email can look like
The Hustle’s newsletter is a good example of what a neat text-based email can look like

Relevant. Make sure your email content reflects what your subscribers need or might need at the moment. It may be brilliantly written but first of all, it must be valuable.

Illustrations: choose the right imagery

You can use images to illustrate your point. GetResponse established that image-based emails perform better than text-based ones: 2.68% CTR vs 1.56%.

In terms of email marketing and personalizing, the right imagery can drive CTR far beyond this number.

For instance, Campaign Monitor sent the same offer but with a different pic to their subscribers in London, Sydney and New York. The result? A 29% upswing in click-through rate.

Illustrations: choose the right imagery

Did you know images themselves can be personalized too? Look at how Really Good Emails personalized their latest newsletter for one of Unisender blog authors.

how Really Good Emails personalized

The caption goes: “This personalized stack of boxes was made with Nifty Images”. Nifty Images is an image personalization tool.

When using images make sure they’re adaptive to many screen sizes. Mobile now rules the game as 55% of global website traffic is generated by mobile devices, according to Statista.

Unisender can help you get your imagery right with our complete guide on email layouts. All about the image size, layout requirements, things to avoid and much more is already there. It’s written for you so you can craft your ideal email and avoid the spam folder.

Dynamic content: change it depending on audience

In email marketing, dynamic content changes based on different data. Usually, it’s demographic or geographic. Ecommerce marketers should rely on this a lot when segmenting their audiences.

There are two important benefits of dynamic content: it saves you time and makes personalization deeper. Instead of creating several emails for various customer groups, you can take one variable and make it changeable. Customers’ benefit is they see more relevant offers for themselves.

A classic example is Adidas in their Originals series campaign. They took gender as their variable. As a result, male customers saw Pharrell Williams spring out of a chest with a new pair of sneakers while Rita Ora showed off casual streetwear for women.

Dynamic content: change it depending on audience

Behavior-triggered emails: predict the next move

It’s a type of automated emails sent to subscribers based on how they interact with your product. These are more personal than general promos because they’re based on more specific data. Email marketing here splits into several categories.

Product recommendations. Ecommerce websites can easily track one’s interests and make recommendations ― a list of similar products. Most of the time, automation does this personalization.

Browsing without purchasing. An email is sent to notify a subscriber that hey, the product is still out there. A small bonus like free shipping or a discount can be an extra hook.

Here’s how Columbia combined all of the above: good product recommendation ✅, browsing without purchasing ✅ and a discount, to boot ✅.

Source: Really Good Emails
Source: Really Good Emails

Motivational content. Grammarly is an extension that checks spelling, vocabulary, productivity and ranks a user against the rest. Grammarly tracks one’s progress and also highlights advanced mistakes but they’re only available for Premium users.

Motivational content

Cart abandonment: tackle it with more than generic reminders

A customer commits to purchase but, for some reason, quits at the last stage. Weird as it seems, this situation is common. The digital cart abandonment rate is a staggering 78% worldwide, as per Baymard’s report. That’s only 1 out of 4 carts checked out on average.

The good news is you can win your customers back with personalized email marketing.

The most basic way is to remind them about the abandoned item. If your customer genuinely forgot to proceed to checkout this might work.

If there are many items abandoned, you can try another tactic ― narrow it down to one thing. It’s more specific and less demanding in terms of potential spending.

Check this one from WooStore. They focus on one item and ― pay attention to one more thing ― they attach user ratings. They give even more reason to buy this beautiful bicycle.

Cart abandonment: tackle it with more than generic reminders

Marketers who send abandoned cart emails like to appeal to urgency. They create a deadline which is supposed to reinforce the sense of urgency. What Society6 does here is a typical example.

Society6

Re-engagement: add a special touch

When a segment of your email list has been inactive for a while it doesn’t mean it’s all over. You can always win some audience back in digital marketing.

Grammarly tracks behavior and, once users stop using the product, sends an engaging email with a badge as a small gift so they come back.

Re-engagement: add a special touch

American Airlines remind their subscribers about the exact number of miles they have left and ways to collect more other than by flying.

American Airlines

The key idea is to apply a personal touch to the generic hello-how-we’ve-missed-you message. Creative copywriting is essential to this. It’s a good idea to have a bunch of pre-written templates and distribute them with email marketing automation.

Birthdays: send valuable gifts

Birthday marketing is a glorious opportunity. According to Litmus, birthday emails generate 3.42 times more revenue than generic promotional ones.

If you know the birth date, automation will take care of sending the email on that one day. The fact that birth date is often a requirement in website registration forms makes things easier.

What can you do to make a person happy? You can offer a discount (and very happy wishes!) and you can personalize it. See how Monica Vinader doesn’t just give the same deal to everyone but also considers the age.

All they need to know is your exact date of birth. The rest is left to automated systems
All they need to know is your exact date of birth. The rest is left to automated systems

Also, check this example from Everton Football Club. They send a personalized screensaver ― a nice gesture to strengthen the bond between a football club and a fan. Next time they’ll offer a real jersey.

Everton Football Club

VIP loyalty: make them feel special

Who doesn’t want to feel special? If your customers stay long enough or spend big enough, reward them, give them something new users don’t yet have access to. Like with birthdays, you can count on automation to deliver the message.

Here’s how Sephora uses personalization here. They measure loyalty in money spent on their products: spend over $200 and you’re part of the club.

Sephora

Key takeaways

  • Why personalize? Because it’s a key to more sales opportunities in email marketing, a proven way to increase CTR and conversion rates.
  • What makes a good personalized email? Your customers expect value so an email must be relevant and timely.
  • What data is needed to personalize? It ranges from the first name to behavior. For subject lines, a name is enough. If you sell, say, clothes, you need to know the gender. Pick the data that suits your marketing.
  • Where to collect data? You can use website registration forms for the most basic data like demographics. Email analytics services and integrations can provide you with behavioral data.
  • Which are the main techniques? You can start with the visible parts ― “from” name and subject lines ― to gain a slight increase in CTR. If you can collect behavioral data, use dynamic content as segmentation brings the most relevance.

Although personalization is effective, remember it’s only a means, not the end. It doesn’t start and end with writing ‘Hi Bob’. To make it a powerful weapon, you need to carefully segment your audience, set up automation, and regularly clean up your email lists.

It’s a set of measures where everything matters. If done correctly, personalization will take your email marketing strategy in the direction you want.

Which personalization techniques have you tried? What were the results?

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