Dynamic Content: It’s Time to Take it Personally

Posted by Laura Christensen on

Personalizing the customer experience is a critical component of most data-driven marketing strategies. In fact, 72 percent of email marketers choose personalizing the customer experience as their most important goal, ahead of acquiring new customers (41 percent) and measuring ROI (37 percent)  (Return Path and Ascend2).

While marketers continue to look for opportunities to drive personalization in emails, subscribers’ expectations of a personalized email experience are also increasing.  Email messages that aren’t tailored to accurately reflect individual subscriber interests, behaviors, or even anticipate needs can be deemed as irrelevant, or worse, unwanted spam.

As a result, a growing number of marketers are turning to dynamic content to tailor email messages and keep subscribers engaged.

What is dynamic content?
Simply put, dynamic content (also known as smart content) changes based on a viewer’s interests or past behavior to create a customized experience. In email, this allows you to send unique content to each recipient from a single email, based on individual behaviors, preferences, purchase history and demographic information.

Dynamic content is based on relevancy, therefore the foundational components of a successful dynamic content strategy include: 1) a centralized marketing database which stores and updates subscribers’ interests, preferences, and behavior; 2) a content generator which displays or hides content based on the rules you set and 3) an email system that is tied into the contact database.

How can I use it?
Dynamic content has evolved far past the familiar “First Name” personalization.  The field of dynamic content is rapidly expanding, as are the different kinds of software available that make increasingly relevant email possible.

Current dynamic content capabilities allow you to display upcoming events or product offers based on your recipient’s location; feature content such as animated product displays based on your prospect’s email activity; include real-time countdowns or social feeds, and personalize images, text, and call-to-action prompts.

While there are many applications for dynamic content, you want to be strategic about your usage and avoid leaning on any particular feature too heavily.

Getting started.

Business Rules:  First, evaluate the quality (recency and accuracy) and accessibility of subscriber data you have available to leverage for dynamic content. Next, carefully consider the rules you set up to personalize messages.  For example, using a gender rule to determine products to feature can be less effective, less targeted and relevant than using a “category bought from” rule.  Finally, don’t rely too heavily on automated business rules without testing and reviewing the output.  For example, someone who recently bought a mattress shouldn’t be targeted with another mattress offer, but rather with bedding/pillows etc.

Objective:  Determine your objective in leveraging dynamic content.  Is it to promote particular categories? Promote geo-targeted products or events? Tailor content to nurture subscribers at various points in the subscriber lifecycle?  Consider what your objective is and craft your dynamic content strategy around that objective.

Viewing environment:  Be mindful of how dynamic content displays across mobile viewing devices to ensure relevant personalization isn’t ruined by a poor user experience.

Test:  Set up a user test group to ensure dynamic content is working properly, making sure content is relevant and rendering correctly from campaign to campaign.

While all marketers should strive to send targeted, relevant messages to their subscribers, it can be challenging to gather, access, and incorporate data for personalized dynamic content, especially if you’re starting from scratch.  The good news? There are still ways to give emails a personalized and relevant feel, even without a comprehensive level of data. Find out how marketers are creating relevancy and personalization with limited data.

 


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About Laura Christensen

Laura Christensen is an Email Strategist on Return Path's Professional Services Team with a passion for helping email marketers exceed subscriber expectations. With over 15 years experience in the email industry, Laura has worked with a broad range of clients to provide strategic, data-driven guidance to increase email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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