Email Personalization: Advanced Email Marketing Techniques

Email personalization cover image with scrabble tiles

Suppose you’re writing a cold pitch for your product or service. Next, imagine what you could do with a little more information about your customer — for example, their name, age, income, designation, or their past interactions with your brand. Your pitch would be infinitely better, right? 

This is where email personalization plays a critical role. This terrific feature lets you customize your pitch to each customer and leverage data to improve your message vastly.

This in-depth article shares everything you should know about email personalization, including guides to get the most out of it!

Table of Contents

What is Email Personalization?

Email personalization refers to the practice of using customer data to write marketing messages and make them feel directed at recipients and their specific situations or needs. It involves tailoring email content to individual recipients based on their preferences, behaviors, demographics, or other relevant data. 

The goal is to create a more personalized and targeted communication experience for the recipient, increasing engagement, relevance, and, ultimately, the likelihood of achieving the desired outcome — a purchase, a click, or a conversion. 

And remember, it’s not just about efficiently using customer data to design emails; personalization means you add a human touch to your content. A good example would be signing off with your name (or any other stakeholder’s) instead of just sending emails from your brand.

The biggest benefit of email personalization is that it helps build a stronger connection with your audience by delivering content that is more valuable to your recipients. This, in turn, can lead to higher open rates, superior click-through rates, and improved overall engagement. Let’s explore additional benefits.

The Benefits of Sending Personalized Emails

Sending personalized emails can provide various benefits for you. 

Here are the top advantages:

  • Personalized emails are more likely to capture the attention of your recipients because the content is relevant to their interests, preferences, or behaviors. This leads to better engagement rates.
  • Personalization creates a more customer-centric experience; when recipients feel your content speaks directly to them, it can strengthen the relationship between you and your customer.
  • By sending content that matches your reader’s interests, personalized emails are more likely to drive conversions. This means you achieve better conversion rates, and hence better return on investment (ROI).
  • Targeted content reduces the chances your recipients will unsubscribe from your email list.
  • Personalization helps you demonstrate you understand your customers. This positive experience can contribute to increased brand loyalty.
  • Personalization also means segmenting your list based on various criteria, such as demographics, behavior, or location. A good segmentation strategy allows for more precise targeting and ensures your audience receives content specifically relevant to them. Irrelevant content in the inbox is a turn-off!
  • Personalized emails are more likely to drive sales and encourage repeat business from satisfied customers.
  • Based on the success of your personalization strategies, you can gain valuable insights into your subscriber base — this can help formulate future marketing campaigns and even product development.
  • Implementing personalized marketing gives you an edge over competitors that don’t use it. Providing a customized experience sets you apart from those who still send generic marketing emails.

The benefits of sending personalized emails go beyond just engagement. They should reflect in your conversion rates and long-term loyalty with your customers.

What Parts of an Email Can You Personalize?

Here’s a list of items you can personalize in emails:

  • Subject line: You can create a custom subject line that will appeal to the reader.
  • Preview text: This is the message preview you see in inboxes. You can personalize it.
  • Recipient Name: Greet your customer by his/her name to add a personal touch.
  • Sender’s name: You don’t have to speak as a brand; you can use your own name to keep it more personal.
  • Deals: You can segment your list and send special deals to certain groups.
  • Content: You can also customize the content you send out in the following ways:
  1. User history: You can share details of your customer’s usage of your product or service, if possible. A good example would be Spotify’s year-end Wrapped emails, which give you insight into your listening habits
  2. Dynamic content: If your products/services cater to different genders differently, you can customize the content accordingly. Dynamic content helps you do this
  3. Location-specific: You can personalize content based on your readers’ countries, cities, or even area codes.

We will expand on these strategies later, but as you can tell, personalization has plenty of potential and is a critical part of your email marketing strategy!

Collecting Data for Personalization

Collecting data for email personalization involves gathering information about your subscribers’ preferences, behaviors, and characteristics. The better and more varied the data, the more you can personalize your emails.

To get started on personalizing emails, you need basic information on your leads, for example:

  • Name,
  • Gender,
  • Role,
  • Email,
  • Phone number,
  • Birthday,
  • Geographic Location.

Once you have this information, you can classify your leads into clusters like visitors, new leads, people actively interested in your company, and dormant prospects. Using website analytics, you can use their browsing habits on your site to build their profiles.

Methods to Collect Data for Email Personalization

To personalize your emails efficiently, you will need to collect data diligently. 

Here’s our list of the best ways to do that:

  • Signup forms: Include fields in your signup forms that capture relevant information, such as name, location, and preferences. Encourage users to update their preferences periodically to ensure the data remains accurate. Use different types of campaigns to gradually collect additional data over time. 
  • Popups: Exit-intent popups can be effective at compiling quality customer data, especially if you offer an attractive incentive or freebie. But use popups carefully, because customers find them annoying when they don’t offer value.
  • Feedback: Send surveys to your subscribers to gather insights into their preferences, needs, and feedback on your products/services.
  • Website: Integrate your email platform with your website analytics tools to track user behavior on your site. Analyze data such as page views, products viewed, and time spent on specific pages to understand user interests and behavior.
  • Purchase history: Use data from previous purchases to make personalized product recommendations. Segment your audience based on their buying behavior and tailor promotional offers accordingly.
  • Interactive content: Use interactive content such as quizzes or polls in your emails. Collect this customer data to profile your customers.
  • Location: Request location information in your signup forms to provide localized content and promotions. Use IP addresses or geolocation data to personalize content based on the recipient’s location.
  • Events: Whenever possible, track and collect data from the events or webinars your subscribers attend.

Ensure you obtain explicit consent for collecting and using personal information during the data collection process so you abide by data protection regulations.

Get Email Personalization Right: Top 7 Methods

Once you have collected the best customer data, you’re ready to send personalized emails. 

Here are the different points to remember as you master email personalization:

  1. Segment and tag correctly,
  2. Personalize subject lines,
  3. Use behavioral triggers,
  4. Use dynamic content whenever possible,
  5. Send personalized offers and recommendations,
  6. Abandoned cart: Golden opportunity to use personalization,
  7. Use personalization to re-engage inactive subscribers.

Next, we’re going to expand on each of these aspects of personalization.

Segmenting and Tagging: Critical for Email Personalization

Segmenting and tagging are crucial components of email personalization. They help you organize your email lists based on specific criteria and characteristics, enabling more targeted and relevant communication. 

Segmentation involves dividing your email list into simpler groups; you can classify subscribers by demographics, engagement, recency, purchase history, and more. This helps you deliver the right offer at the right time to people. Remember, while segmentation gives you a bird’s eye view of your customer pool, personalization helps you individualize your sales pitch and close the deal by leveraging the customer data you have.

Tagging is an equally important feature of email marketing — you can assign tags based on various factors like customer behavior, demographics, lead source, level of interest, and any other tag that makes sense in your specific industry.

Let’s now look at how segmentation and tagging help you personalize emails.

1. Keeps Your Content Relevant for Subscribers

Segmentation allows you to group subscribers with similar characteristics or behaviors. This means you can send more targeted and relevant content to each segment. When emails align with the interests and preferences of your recipients, they are more likely to engage with the content and take desired actions.

2. Improves Engagement Rates

Sending personalized emails to segmented groups typically results in higher open rates and improved click-through rates. Tailoring content to the specific needs of each segment enhances the likelihood your recipients will find the information valuable and act on it. And you know who loves great engagement rates? Mailbox providers! In short, personalization helps you achieve a better sender score.

3. Better for Behavioral Targeting

You shouldn’t send personalized emails to every individual who visits your website. Segment visitors based on their actions — this helps you create targeted campaigns for a specific audience. 

For example, if you send an email about a sale at your New Orleans store (hypothetical), you can create a personalized campaign for New Orleans-based recipients who click through to your website. Behavioral targeting ensures timely follow-up emails are directly related to the recipient’s recent interactions with your brand. Segmentation ensures you only email recipients from relevant groups.

4. Helps Personalize Recommendations

Tagging and segmenting leads based on their purchase history, preferences, or browsing behavior, can help you deliver personalized product recommendations. For example, if you have a lead with a tag that tells you this person recently attended your webinar, you can safely assume their level of interest is high — this means they’re the perfect candidate for a drip campaign

Providing content that aligns with a subscriber’s interactions increases the chances of driving additional purchases.

5. Reduces Your Unsubscribes

Relevant and targeted content decreases the likelihood of recipients unsubscribing from your email list.

Segmentation enables you to send fewer generic messages and more personalized content, minimizing the risk of subscriber fatigue.

6. Presents A/B Testing Opportunities

Before you put a ton of effort into personalization, you should test your segments first. Segmentation allows for more effective A/B testing of different elements within your email campaigns. By testing variations on different segments, you can determine what resonates best with different audience groups and optimize your email personalization strategy accordingly.

7. Improves Resource Allocation

No matter how much you personalize an email, an uninterested lead won’t convert. Targeted segments enable you to allocate resources more efficiently by only sending content to the most relevant audience. This can lead to cost savings and better ROI as you focus on the segments most likely to respond positively to your messages.

Segmenting and tagging are the foundation of successful email personalization. They allow you to deliver hard-hitting content, improve your campaign metrics, and build stronger relationships with your subscribers.

Personalizing Subject Lines

Personalizing subject lines in email marketing is a great strategy as you can use the email’s subject line to appeal to individual recipients (or specific segments) of your audience. You can do this by using various personalization elements, such as the recipient’s name, location, or tracked behavior. 

Let’s look at how to get it right.

How to Personalize Subject Lines: Strategies and Examples

  1. Include the recipient’s first name in the subject line. Most email marketing platforms provide a feature to dynamically insert names. For example: “Steve, Don’t Miss This Exclusive Offer!”
  2. Reference the recipient’s recent actions, such as a recent purchase, website visit, or engagement with a specific piece of content. For example: “Thanks for Your Purchase, Enjoy 10% Off Your Next Order!”
  3. Utilize data from your segments to create subject lines tailored to specific groups based on demographics, preferences, or location. For example: “We’re Excited to Introduce a New Service for Coders like You!”
  4. Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity by using personalized language that suggests limited-time offers or exclusive deals. For example: “Steve, You are on Our VIP List: Limited-Time Access Inside!”
  5. Mention personalized offers or discounts based on the recipient’s preferences or purchase history. For example: “Steve, Here’s a Personalized 20% Off Coupon For Your Loyalty!”
  6. Customize subject lines based on the recipient’s location, incorporating local events or promotions. For example: “We’re Running Special Deals for Our New Orleans Customers! Grab it Now!!”

These subject lines can be highly effective at converting leads, plus they will make your customers happy about receiving interesting emails from you!

Best Practices for Personalizing Subject Lines

Crafting great subject lines isn’t as simple as including a name in the field and pressing the send button.

Here are guidelines to remember as you use this feature:

  1. Conduct A/B testing to experiment with different personalization elements in subject lines.
  2. Analyze performance metrics to understand what resonates best with your audience.
  3. While personalization is powerful, don’t overdo it. Be strategic and ensure that personalization enhances the message rather than feeling forced.
  4. Personalize subject lines based on audience segments to make them more relevant to specific groups.
  5. Keep personalized subject lines clear and concise. Avoid being too lengthy or complicated.

By personalizing subject lines in your email marketing campaigns, you can significantly improve the effectiveness of your messages; this translates to a more positive overall experience for your recipients.

Behavioral Triggers: Powerful Personalization Strategy

Using behavioral triggers to send personalized emails involves setting up automated email campaigns based on specific actions users make. This approach allows you to deliver timely content tailored to the recipient’s interactions with your website, app, or previous emails. 

Start by identifying the key user behaviors or actions that you want to trigger personalized emails. 

What Data Helps You Track Behavior?

If you want to run campaigns for user behavior, here are different types of customer data you could collect:

Website visitsInformation on specific pages visited can help build a customer profile.
Product viewsGives you an idea of the content to create, related to products a user has shown interest in.
Abandoned cartsRemind users about items left in their shopping carts.
Form submissionsFollow up with users who have filled out a form on your website.
Email interactionsTrack interest level based on email opens, clicks, or specific links clicked within previous emails.
App behaviorIf you note customers interested in a specific section of your app, you may want to send an email to pique their interest further.
Examples of Data for Customer Profiling

Next, let’s see how to use this data.

How to Use Behavioral Data

First, ensure you define the goals and objectives for each behavioral trigger. Understand what action or response you want from the recipient as a result of the personalized email. This could be making a purchase, completing a form, or engaging further with your content.

Next, link your email marketing platform with other relevant data sources, such as your website analytics or ecom platform. This integration allows you to track user behaviors and trigger emails accordingly. Segment your email list based on the identified behaviors. For example, create segments for users who abandoned their carts, those who completed a purchase, or those who visited specific pages on your website.

It’s now time to write personalized email content for each trigger. Ensure the message aligns with the specific behavior that triggered the email. Include dynamic content elements, such as product recommendations or personalized greetings. With the content in place, create the automation for each behavioral trigger. Define the conditions that will trigger the email, the delay between actions, and the specific content you wish to send.

Before deploying your automated campaigns, conduct A/B testing to optimize elements. Analyze your campaign metrics to understand which variations are most effective. Continue to monitor their performance regularly even after they go live. Track open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to gauge the effectiveness of your personalized emails.

Examples of Behavioral-Triggered Emails

There are different campaigns you can run based on customer behavior.

Here are the most common types:

Type of emailTrigger
Abandoned cart emailsWhen a user adds items to their cart but doesn’t complete the purchase.
Product recommendationsBased on a user’s past product views or purchases, suggesting related or recommended products.
Welcome emailWhen a user signs up for a newsletter or creates an account on your website.
Post purchaseSent after a user completes a purchase, thanking them and providing related product recommendations or additional information.
Re-engagementThis one is for users who haven’t engaged with your emails or website for a certain period, encouraging them to return.
Email Campaigns Based on Customer Behavior

By leveraging behavioral triggers, you can send personalized emails that are more likely to resonate with your audience, drive engagement, and ultimately lead to desired actions.

Using Dynamic Content in Personalized Emails

Using dynamic content in personalized emails allows you to tailor the message for each recipient, making your emails more engaging. Dynamic content adapts based on specific criteria such as demographics, preferences, or behaviors. 

But where can you apply this personalization? Begin by identifying the sections within your email you wish to make dynamic.

Here is a table of elements commonly used for dynamic content:

Content TypeExplanation
TextGreetings, product recommendations, or personalized messages.
ImagesDisplay different images based on preferences or behaviors.
CTAsVary the CTAs based on the recipient’s characteristics or actions.
OffersShow different promotions or discounts based on the recipient’s profile.
Examples of Dynamic Content in Emails

Once you zero in on the sections you wish to personalize in your email, this next section explains how to execute your strategy.

Implementing Dynamic Content in Emails

Follow these steps to implement dynamic content in your emails:

  1. Segment your email list based on relevant criteria, such as location, purchase history, or engagement level. The better you understand your audience, the better you can tailor your dynamic content.
  2. Define rules or conditions that determine when and how dynamic content should be displayed. For example:
  • Show product recommendations based on past purchases.
  • Display different content for subscribers in different geographic locations.
  • Adjust messaging based on the recipient’s engagement level.
  1. For each element, create different variations that align with your segmentation rules. Write different greetings, design diverse product recommendations, or create personalized messages for each segment.
  2. Use merge tags, variables, or placeholders in your email content to indicate where to insert dynamic content. Your email platform should replace these tags with the appropriate content.
  3. On your email platform, create dynamic content blocks or sections. These are areas in your email template where you can insert dynamic content.
  4. Before sending your emails, thoroughly test the dynamic content
  5. After sending your emails, monitor performance metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. Analyze the results to understand how different segments responded to the personalized content.

As you can tell, dynamic content plays a big role in email personalization. And thanks to modern technology, it’s easy to implement!

Examples of Dynamic Content in Personalized Emails

Thinking of ways to use dynamic content in personalized emails?

Here are different ways you can use dynamic content in your email campaigns:

  • Product recommendations: Display personalized product recommendations based on the recipient’s browsing or purchase history.
  • Location-based content: Show different content or promotions based on the recipient’s geographic location.
  • Personalized discounts: Send custom discounts or promotional offers based on the recipient’s preferences or engagement level.
  • Dynamic images: Display images that are relevant to the recipient’s interests, such as showcasing different categories of products.
  • Personalized CTAs: Vary the CTA buttons based on the recipient’s behavior or characteristics.

By implementing dynamic content in your personalized emails, you can significantly enhance the impact of your email marketing campaigns. It allows you to deliver more tailored messages that resonate with each recipient, ultimately driving desired actions.

Email Strategy: Personalized Recommendations and Offers

Personalized offers are a powerful way of swaying your prospect towards conversion, and timing plays a critical role. But how do you know a lead is interested? By tracking their behavior, of course.

Here’s a clear guide to sending personalized offers to your subscribers:

  1. Establish rules for recommending products based on customer behavior, purchase history, or preferences. Determine how often recommendations will be updated and what criteria trigger changes. 
  2. Segment your email list based on the identified criteria and product recommendation rules. 
  3. Create personalized email content that includes dynamic product recommendations. Use merge tags to insert customer-specific details, such as their name and past purchases.
  4. Wherever possible, set up dynamic content blocks within your email where you can display personalized product recommendations. Customize these blocks for different segments.
  5. Write clever CTAs that encourage recipients to explore more or make a purchase.
  6. For added effect, create a sense of urgency by including limited-time offers or promotions on the recommended products. Here too, you can use personalized language to convey the exclusivity of the offer.

Personalized offers can be remarkably convincing if you get the timing right. Let’s look at how to write a great personalized offer email.

Structuring a Personalized Recommendation Email

Ensure your subject line has a strong appeal. For example: “Exclusive Picks Just for You, “<recipient-name>!”

In the email body, greet the recipient with their name. Then clarify the email’s purpose. 

Next, get straight down to business by presenting personalized product recommendations based on the recipient’s preferences. Use urgency-inducing language and engaging visuals, and don’t forget brief descriptions for each recommended product

Ensure you include a personalized CTA that encourages your subscriber to make a purchase. If possible, add a limited-time offer. Use the rest of the email body to add contact information and links to your website or socials.

Remember to adapt the strategy based on your specific business goals, industry, and the preferences of your target audience.

Cart Abandonment: Perfect Time to Use Email Personalization

Abandoned cart emails contain details about the specific items the customer added to their shopping cart but did not purchase. This individualized content is dynamically pulled from the customer’s browsing or transaction history.

Here’s how to use abandoned cart emails as a personalization strategy:

  1. Begin with a personalized greeting, addressing the customer by their name. This adds a personal touch to your communication and makes the customer feel recognized.
  2. Abandoned cart emails go beyond reminding customers about the items left in their carts. You can also include personalized product recommendations or details of past actions.
  3. Use personalized language to create a sense of urgency in your abandoned cart emails, urging the customer to complete their purchase before items in the cart are no longer available. You can also include personalized incentives, such as discounts or free shipping, to motivate the customer to finalize their transaction.
  4. You can also consider segmentation factors while creating your abandoned cart emails. For example, customers from different segments may receive different variations of the email, depending on data points such as their previous purchase history, loyalty status, or the value of items in their cart.
  5. Try to implement multi-email sequences for abandoned carts, sending a series of emails over time. Each email in the sequence can be personalized based on the customer’s response (or lack thereof) to the previous messages.
  6. It’s best to send abandoned cart emails shortly after the abandonment occurs, taking into account the optimal time window for recapturing the customer’s interest.
  7. Include requests for feedback in these emails. This allows customers to share their reasons for abandoning their carts, providing valuable insights to improve your customers’ online shopping experience.

These emails aim to resonate with customers on a personal level, addressing their specific interactions with you and motivating them to complete their purchase. Abandoned cart emails can be highly effective in recovering potentially lost sales!

Personalization to Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

If you’re looking to re-engage your inactive list members, personalization can be a great strategy to make your messages more appealing.

Begin by analyzing why your subscribers went dormant. Stepping into their shoes can help you write better re-engagement emails. Once you have a rough outline in mind, get started on creating the perfect personalized re-engagement email. 

Start the email with personalized greetings — this can resonate with the subscribers and make them feel like you’re reaching out to them personally. Make it clear you’ve noticed their absence.

Next, use any historical data you have on the recipients. 

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Have they bought items/services from you before?
  • Have they been active on your app?
  • Did they recently sign up for any emails?
  • How long have they been inactive?
  • Have they reached out to your customer care department? 
  • Which emails got the most engagement out of them?

The more data you have on your subscribers, the more relevant your personalized email can be. Write persuasive content to demonstrate what they could miss out on. If possible, include an offer or discount code to pull them back into the fold.

Don’t forget to ask for feedback! Collecting this data can give you critical insight into your email marketing efforts as the responses can be candid and honest.

Best Practices for Email Personalization

We’re confident this article has you convinced to implement personalization into your marketing strategy ASAP!

As you do this, here are the top ten best practices for email personalization you should remember:

  1. Gather high-quality, relevant data on your subscribers, including their preferences, behavior, and demographics.
  2. Use web analytics to track user interactions on your website, email opens, clicks, and purchases.
  3. Clever subject lines can grab attention by incorporating personalization; use the recipient’s name or reference their recent interactions with your brand.
  4. Segmenting is as important as personalization. Divide your email list into segments based on common characteristics and create targeted campaigns for each segment to deliver more personalized content.
  5. Use recipients’ names in greetings to create a more personable and engaging experience. 
  6. Use dynamic content to customize the email body based on the recipient’s profile. You can also modify content based on the recipient’s preferences, behaviors, or profile. 
  7. Show personalized product recommendations, content suggestions, or special offers.
  8. Set up automated email campaigns triggered by user behaviors, such as abandoned carts, website visits, or completed purchases. You can also create automations that send follow-up emails based on the recipient’s actions.
  9. Customize content based on the recipient’s location, language, and regional preferences. Include local events, promotions, or recommendations relevant to their geographic location.
  10. Plan the timing of your emails to maximize engagement. Use automated scheduling based on the recipient’s time zone.

By incorporating these best practices into your email personalization strategy, you can create more engaging and relevant experiences for your subscribers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and better overall campaign performance.

Email Personalization: Dos and Don’ts

Here are a few dos and don’ts that will further improve your personalization efforts.

The Dos

  1. Ensure you have explicit consent to use personal data for personalization, in compliance with data protection regulations. Use the double opt-in method while onboarding new subscribers!
  2. Regularly conduct A/B testing to identify the most effective personalization strategies. Iterate based on performance data.
  3. Ensure personalization adds value to the recipient’s experience by delivering relevant and meaningful content.
  4. Wrong personalization details can confuse a customer. Ensure the data you use is correct and test your content to avoid confusion or misinterpretation.
  5. Optimize your personalized emails for mobile devices to accommodate users who access emails on smartphones.

The Don’ts

  1. Avoid overloading emails with excessive personalization, as it can appear intrusive or disingenuous and create a cluttered experience.
  2. While using first names is common (and simple!), don’t rely solely on this tactic for personalization. Work towards creating content based on more comprehensive data.
  3. Don’t assume personalization will look and function the same across all devices. Test thoroughly on various devices and email clients.
  4. Don’t continue to email leads who have unsubscribed — personalization won’t change their mind. Promptly honor opt-out requests and allow subscribers to manage their preferences easily.
  5. Pay attention to subscriber feedback, especially regarding personalization efforts. Use feedback to make improvements to your campaigns.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can implement effective and respectful email personalization strategies that enhance your engagement with subscribers and contribute to the success of your email marketing campaigns.

Campaign Refinery: Get Email Personalization Right

At Campaign Refinery, we pride ourselves on offering our clients the kind of flexibility and control they seek when planning the most ambitious email marketing campaigns.

Segmentation and personalization are equally critical to the success of your email marketing, and we offer both list segmentation tools as well as plenty of personalization options so you can craft the most intelligent campaigns.

Here’s an example of our tags page which gives you information on the lead source. This can help you personalize emails to send to a specific set of contacts.

email marketing personalization tag system
Campaign Refinery Tagging System

Besides that, when you get into the heart of personalization, here’s an example of how you can use merge tags to create a highly personalized email. Note that the options you see on the drop-down list are specific to this example — it changes according to the customer data you have on your list.

email marketing personalization options
Campaign Refinery Personalization Options

Campaign Refinery supports integration with thousands of the most popular third-party marketing tools in the market today, which means you can easily link our platform to your CRM or e-commerce platform, and get the most out of your customer data.

You also get a stunning campaign library, automated list cleaning, impeccable deliverability, and gamification, which ensures you’ll see engagement rates like never before.

We know all of that sounds good — so apply to become a Campaign Refinery user today!

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