CRM and Data PlatformsEmail Marketing & Email Marketing Automation

A Smart Approach to Email Personalization Explained

Marketers tend to see email personalization as a clue to the higher effectiveness of email campaigns and use it massively. But we believe that a wise approach to email personalization gives better results from a cost-effectiveness viewpoint. We intend our article to unfold from good old bulk emailing to sophisticated email personalization in order to show how different techniques work depending on the email type and purpose. We are going to give the theory of our approach and add a pinch of practice to explain how our ideas can be implementedin popular marketing tools.  

When to go Bulk

There are messages intended for the whole customer base, and a one-size-fits-all approach works just fine for them. These are emails that don’t contain product offers and individual or segment-oriented promotions. For example, marketers don’t risk the effectiveness of their efforts bulk sending emails that promote holiday campaigns (e.g., pre-announcing the Black Friday campaign) or purely informational messages (e.g., notifying about scheduled maintenance works on a website). 

For such mass emailing, marketers don’t need to scrutinize their audience and think over criteria for segmentation – their aim isto communicate certain information relevant to all customers. They considerably save time by designing one email for that. Continuing with the example of the Black Friday campaign, marketers may start it with the first bulk email outlining to-the-point information (e.g., timeframes). 

How to implement. The key steps for bulk emailing are similar for most email marketing tools. Let’s take them in Mailchimp:

  • Adding a subject line. Along with a commonly agreed rule of making a subject line catchy, in the case of the Black Friday announcement, marketers can specify the date of the campaign startthere. Even if subscribers don’t open the email, they are more likely to notice the date when checking their email box.
  • Designing an email. In addition to creating the email content itself, this step includes a possibility to preview the email on different screen sizes and test it.

When to Personalize Emails 

We start looking into capabilities of marketing software to leverage the customer information and target an email campaign to a specific subscriber. As far as email personalization varies in sophistication, we will differentiate basic personalizationthat marketers can manage on their own and advanced personalizationwhere they may need expert help (you will see how the knowledge of a scripting language is requiredin Salesforce Marketing Cloud for content personalization). In fact,marketers can engage both levels for noticeable results. 

Basic Level of Personalization

On the basic level, email personalization focuses first and foremost on improving open rates. It suits most types of messages where you intend to talk directly to a customer like in welcome emails, surveys, newsletters. 

We offer marketers to resort to a set of easy-to-implement techniques to personalize emails. 

  • Giving a client’s name in the subject line makes an email stand out from dozens of others in the inbox and promises to increase open rates of emails by 22%
  • Similarly, addressing a customer by name in the email body is what makes an email sound more personal and builds customer trust. 
  • Changing a company’s name in the From section to a specific personal namecan give an increase of up to 35% in open rates. A possible use case of this technique is sending emails to customers from a sales representative who currently works with them.

The task of personalizing the subject line, the From section and an email body would take loads of time and manual work if not automated by modern email marketing software.   

How to implement. We have chosen to show the described personalization techniques implemented in Microsoft Dynamics for Marketing, a marketing automation application that covers email marketing too. When designing an email, marketers add the dynamic content that connects to customer records. For that, they use the Assist Edit button “</>” available on the text formatting toolbar when a text element in the graphical designer is selected. The system will automatically change the dynamic content in line with the information from the customer record once the email is sent.   

Advanced Level of Personalization

On the advanced level, email personalization becomes a game changer as we talk now about tailoring the email content to customer segments or even each recipient. Thiscalls for putting vast customer data into action – marketers might need personal information (age, gender, place of residence, etc.), shopping history, purchasing preferences, and wish lists to create truly valuable emails for customers. 

  • When marketers integrate a customer’s purchasing and browsing history into their email marketing, they stay relevant to a customer’s interests with one-to-one targeted content. As they talk the same language with customers, they upsellmore effectively. For example, marketers can send a selection of evening dresses and accessories to a customer who has searched for them recently but didn’t purchase. 
  • Marketers achieve higher click-through rates for emails announcing new arrivals or sales campaigns when they engage customer segmentation and show relevant product recommendationsto customers. For example, they can personalize a summer sale email campaign for female and male audience segments. 

How to implement. If marketers entrust their email marketing to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, they will have access to advanced email personalization. We suggest them to think over an email marketing strategy and engage Salesforce consultants to implement it. There are two steps to take:

  1. Create Data Extensions where customer datais stored. When sending an email, the system will connect to these Extensions to render the email content for each customer.
  2. Add personalized content to an email. Depending on whether segment-based or subscriber-by-subscriber personalization is needed, dynamic content blocks or AMPscript are used respectively. In dynamic content blocks, marketers define a rule of how the content is rendered (for example, a gender-based rule). This doesn’t require technical expertise, so marketers can do it on their own. Meanwhile, the knowledge of AMPscript, a proprietary content scripting language of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, is a must for more sophisticated personalization (for example, for product offerings tailored to each recipient).

Personalize Wisely

Personalization has long become a buzzword in the email marketing realm. While we fully support the intention of companies to develop more effective communication with customers via emails, we still believe in a selective approach to the level of personalization, which depends on the email type and goal. Thus, marketers don’t need to tailor-make every single message and shy away from mass emailing – planning and creating personalized emails isn’t worth the effort when the same information is intended for all customers. At the same time, they win customer trust and interest when they create one-to-one content in emails with product offerings. 

Denis Zhinko

Denis is the head of CRM and Collaboration for ScienceSoft. He has more than 14 years of professional experience in IT, doing professional application development, enterprise systems design and project management on CRM, ERP and Enterprise Portals.

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