Personalization: What’s in it for me?

Posted by Dan Stone on

I was recently asked to present at a conference on the topic of personalization. The title of the presentation was “Personalisation what’s in it for me?” When I saw that title my first reaction was…

What’s in it for the Customer?
With 269 billion emails being sent daily it’s so, so easy for your message to get lost in the sea of communications. Like a lighthouse, your message always needs to shine and stand out.

As marketers, everything we do should be focused on its effect on the end customer. We want them to interact with us when reading a newsletter, visiting a website or purchasing from us. So we need to make sure that how, when and what we are communicating is correct for them–it captures their attention and makes them feel valued.

While each individual person is unique, customers as a (large) group will share common characteristics and will have similar buying habits. But just because content works well for one customer, it doesn’t mean it works well for all. A customer wants to feel understood and valued. Try to get them to say “how nice, they thought of me” after seeing a message you have sent them.

We have all seen that ourselves, we order from a website and the next offer/content we receive has no relationship to any previous purchase or interest expressed; we feel misunderstood and neglected so delete the contact email whilst harboring some residual irritation about the site.

It doesn’t just stop at name
Now, everyone expects to be greeted with their name in emails, as a minimum; with so many possible data points which can be tailored, why not test others to find what works best for your customer? Here are a few examples:

  • Time: using open time data from your emails you can build a profile on when is the best time to send emails to your customers. Do your customers prefer reading your emails in the morning or are they most active in the evening? You can do this on a campaign basis or go down to an individual level so your email is always top of the inbox when a customer is most likely to be active. This “perfect time” may also change depending on the season during the summer customers might be active later in the even compared to the winter.
  • Weather: If the weather in the customers’ area is sunny or hot then promote the weather appropriate products or use relevant greetings or content. But if the weather is wet or cold then show different content/products.
  • Product recommendations: These days many (Email Service Providers) ESPs offer some form of product recommendation engine, this is usually driven by a mixture of sales data and also what the customer has been browsing on your website. These product recommendations can then be easily dropped into an email to help drive sales.

Use your imagination! If you can dream about it, you can personalize on it!

Going too far
Customers know that data is continually captured about them; be that personal data, activity data, etc. but being presented with too much data can be scary and feel a little like being stalked. For example, you send an email to customers who have visited your store for the first time to ask for their feedback; an email simply asking “how was your experience of your visit?” is less threatening compared to “you visited store X at 10 am on Tuesday”.

Just because you have the data doesn’t mean it is right to use it.

What’s in it for me?
Now back to the main question,

From analyzing inbox activity, Return Path has seen that personalized emails are more likely to be recovered from the spam/junk folder and put back into the inbox by the recipient.

A 2016 DMA report stated that over 80 percent of consumers find more than half the emails they receive not relevant, by personalizing you are standing out from the crowd.

These days many mailbox providers use engagement as one metric for reputation and delivery. If a customer is opening or clicking emails it will help improve your standing with the mailbox provider, but if they are deleting without reading or ignoring your emails, that won’t count positively towards you. So having engaging content can help with inbox placement and increase the likelihood of customers seeing and engaging with your emails.

So, do some testing on personalized content. You might find there is more in it for you than you first thought. Here is a Return Path guide on A/B testing to get you started.


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About Dan Stone

Dan is an Email Strategist at Return Path. He has over 10 years’ experience, starting off in the publishing sector before taking the leap into online retail. His passion is in Personalisation, one to one marketing and deliverability. Dan received the IDM award in Email Marketing in 2012. A big music festival fan, you'll find Dan spending most of his summer in a muddy field in and around the English Countryside.

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