Email and personalization seem to go together in marketers’ minds like peanut butter and jelly. With near-magnetic proficiency, the right personalization approach can reel customers in and gradually turn them from casual buyers into full-fledged brand advocates.
Or can it?
You see, customers aren’t brainless zombies. They know when they’re appreciated and when they’re sent just another canned response that happens to have their name on it. So, can you win them over with personalized messages, or should you direct your time and energy elsewhere? Let’s take a closer look.
Email as an Integrated Tool
The most important thing to remember is that email personalization is not a once-and-done job. It’s an ongoing process that should draw from multiple channels to create a customer awareness “sphere”. For example, according to an Experian email marketing study in 2013, more brands (50%) were promoting through Pinterest in their emails, while 39% were promoting through Instagram.
Why these avenues and why not strictly email? It’s simple – people are more open and personal on Pinterest and Instagram. The things they pin and share and post show what’s important to them and what motivates them – all key pieces of potential information that can be used to market to them as well.
Smart Customization Beyond the Message
The point is that email personalization is about more than just putting a name in the subject line. The Honest Company, founded by actress Jessica Alba in 2012, sells organic bath, body and baby products. Their personalization efforts center around the user from the moment she hits the site.
For example if someone searched Bing for organic baby wipes, The Honest Co. would send them a series of six sequential emails centered around their offerings in that particular category and inviting them to subscribe to a bundle. What’s more, they send emails based on the time when the customer is most likely to open them, rather than on a pre-set schedule.
Their intense focus on email personalization has paid off, generating conversion rates of 170% higher than their non-personalized counterparts.
The key takeaway here is that email marketing doesn’t just end at the inbox. It’s an ongoing exercise in balancing customer privacy and trust with the need to build a relationship and create brand loyalty.
So Why Isn’t Everyone Doing This?
It might be easy to see all the benefits that email personalization brings, and step back and wonder why everyone isn’t doing it. Quite simply, there are three key reasons:
- Privacy Concerns – Customers are already wary of privacy breaches after Facebook stirred criticism over its use of members’ data.
- Lack of Resources – According to a study by Conversant Media and Forrester Research, 66% of companies find it a major or extreme challenge to secure the internal resources needed to make personalized emails a reality.
- Lack of Integrated Technology – Even for those companies that have the resources, 65% of marketers find it difficult to find a complete cross-channel solution that allows them to see all aspects of a customer’s buying and browsing behavior, and not just particular segments.
There are still challenges to be overcome to find the perfect balance between personalization and privacy, but even more telling are the gaps between personalization efforts that still exist and are ripe to be explored.
First, the social landscape for personalization is wide open but currently underutilized. This may come as a surprise considering the sheer amount of personalization potential that social media offers. According to a study by Experian Marketing, only 17% of the businesses surveyed did not use social media personalization in their emails:
The silver lining on this cloud is that they are taking steps to send out promotional emails. But today’s customers don’t always want to be sold to. They want companies they can trust and companies that understand them beyond their wallets and pocketbooks.
But social media is just one area that could be improved. Another is mobile, which may come out as quite a shock considering the push to reach more customers via mobile-responsive design and mobile SMS/MMS messaging. The fact is, companies want to embrace the mobile movement , they’re just not sure how.
Experian’s own research showed that although 39% of customers opened emails on a mobile device, 24% of marketers still did not optimize for mobile. That’s a considerable chunk of lost revenue and conversions.
One of the biggest missed opportunities comes with the confirmation emails customers get: most notably, their electronic receipts and the confirmed opt-in email. Experian’s study showed that e-receipts had double the open rate compared to typical bulk emails:
People Want Choices
Finally, successful email marketing personalization campaigns truly shine when the user is in control, but most companies don’t give them that kind of freedom for fear that they’ll unsubscribe altogether. For example, 60% of companies surveyed did not let customers change the frequency or type of email they want to receive – but why not?
If they’ve done as they intended and worked toward building a relationship instead of maintaining that email is a one-way communicative street, they shouldn’t be worried about giving their subscribers more options. By letting people choose when and what they want to receive, you’re letting them effortlessly segment themselves and tell you the kinds of offers that would make them buy – and when.
What are Your Thoughts on Email Personalization?
Marketing gimmick? Relationship builder, or somewhere in between? How does your company view email personalization and how have you used it to successfully grow your business? Share your thoughts and perspectives with us in the comments below!
Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sherice Jacob.