Personalization, also known as 1 to 1 marketing and marketing to the individual, is an increasingly common tactic that marketers are using to connect with their prospects and customers. In email, this means segmenting your data into different categories (e.g. male and female, U.S. and U.K. residents, or first-time purchasers and consistent customers) in order to provide more tailored content and to create a greater connection with each individual receiving your email.
In this article, you’ll find tips to help you personalize and segment your email contact list, as well as examples of great, personalized emails that landed in our inbox.
Personalization Best Practice Tips
1. Gather relevant information
The first step to personalizing your emails is finding out more about your customers. To deliver relevant content, you need to know who your customers are, and how to most effectively serve them. And, what’s the best way to find out this information? It’s to ask.
While you don’t want to ask for so much information that it overwhelms your recipients, you can choose a few specific questions that will help you better serve your customers. Our email marketing guru, Austin Whiting, walks through a few different ways that you can gather information in his blog post, Email List Segmentation Strategy: Ask!.
2. Segment your lists
Once you’ve gathered your data, you can then divide your contacts into buckets. You can separate your contacts into a variety of segments, including demographics, customer type, and location.
For example, the emails I receive from retail stores are often tailored toward women. For retailers, it makes sense to segment their list by gender because they will receive a lot more engagement as recipients click on photos of items they could see themselves wearing.
Check out the email I received from Nordstrom. Notice how all the models in the email are women. What’s neat about this form of personalization is that it is so subtle. I only realized these emails were personalized for women when I flipped through the dozen emails from Nordstrom in my inbox.
Gender is one of many ways you can segment your emails—check out The Essential Guide to Email Segmentation for more ways to segment.
3. Create quality over quantity content
Be careful of how many segments or nurtures your recipients are included in at one time. You don’t want to overwhelm your recipients with too many emails or overwhelm yourself with too many segments/nurtures to manage!
Test what segments and emails your recipients respond best to in stages so you don’t burden the inbox with dozens of emails.
4. Be careful of the creep factor
Personalizing your emails is a wonderful strategy, but I’ve seen emails come through my inbox immediately after viewing an item. That level of speed is unsettling! So are subject lines like, “We saw you looking…” or, “We noticed you clicked on ____.”
This level of personalization feels like your privacy is being invaded. Give some time and space between someone viewing an item and sending an email. Let the internet cookie dust settle.
5. Don’t stop at the name
When we think of personalization in emails, a lot of us think of including our recipient’s name in the greeting of the email. While this is definitely an aspect of personalization (and a great start!), it is only one element of many that you can leverage to connect with your customers. Since so many companies use this tactic in their emails, the name substitution has become common-place, and you’ll need more than your recipients’ names to truly get their attention.
6. Focus on behavior
One of the best ways to personalize your emails is to look at the behavior of your recipients. Setting up automated nurtures for recipients who are heavily engaged, partially engaged, or not at all engaged is a very helpful way of organizing your email campaigns and reaching those who are interested in what you have to offer.
The differences between email segmentation and email automation are subtle and pretty confusing. Luckily, our email aficionado explains the difference in the article, Test Yourself: Email Drip vs. Email Automation Campaigns.
Keep reading for email personalization examples. From behavior, to customer type, to location, these examples showcase a wide variety of personalization techniques.
Best Personalized Email Marketing Examples
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After browsing Society6’s website a few times for art pieces to create my dreamed-of gallery wall, Society6 sent me an email with several of the items that I had checked out over the course of a couple weeks. This is a great way to remind recipients of the items they’ve viewed the most and might still want.
Another nice feature of this email is that each link leads to the exact art piece shown. I’ve often seen emails that link specific products to a brand’s homepage. This is a frustrating experience for the user and a missed opportunity for the company because most recipients will leave the website if the link doesn’t lead to the item they clicked on.
For a more subtle approach, use a similar tactic to Anthropologie. Rather than pointing out the exact necklaces I had been browsing, the company sent me a general jewelry-oriented email. This email still reminds me of my desire to purchase their items, but isn’t too upfront.
Airtable, a database and spreadsheet SaaS company, may not have the flashy design of some of the other emails, but it does a great job highlighting what is (or isn’t) offered in Matt’s account now that his trial is over.
This is a very practical and useful way to personalize emails to remind customers of their current plan, and (hopefully) convince them to upgrade.
In our article, How to Create an Email Drip Campaign in Marketing Campaigns, our savvy Product Marketing Manager uses SendGrid’s email marketing tool to demonstrate how you can create a campaign to encourage customers to upgrade.
The weather is so _____, today.
What’s more relevant to day to day life than the weather? It’s how we decide what to wear in the morning and the first topic surfaced in small talk. Personalizing emails by location is a great way to connect with those living in certain climates and make that content feel very relevant to your life.
Marine Layer leveraged the particularly snowy weeks in the midwest this winter by sending us an email with the subject line, “Quilts to get you through this cold spell.” This cold spell theme is not just thrown into the subject line, but weaved throughout the email to create a consistent, personalized message.
The copy, “All the warmth of wearing a duvet, without the risk of getting stared at,” and the call-to-action, “Or looking like the Michelin Man,” do an excellent job of pulling you into the theme. Plus, those quilted sweaters look oh so cozy.
To heighten your copywriting prowess, read our guide, Awesome Email Copywriting: A How To (With Examples).
Is there a better way to connect with an individual than to wish them a happy birthday? Thank your recipient for being such a great customer and offer them a birthday gift by giving them a discount or cash toward a new item.
Rent the Runway keeps it simple in their happy birthday email with fun colors, quick copy, and a steal of a deal.
It’s also helpful to incentivize your customers that go above and beyond throughout the year. By segmenting your contact list by your VIP customers, you can send them special deals and thank you emails for being such supportive customers.
Don’t forget about your cart!
Grove, a healthy home essentials company, does an excellent job walking the line of the abandoned cart email. With the subject line, “Thanks for checking us out!” and the gentle push that they don’t want you to run out of dish soap, this feels like a friend sending a reminder email rather than a push to sell.
The year (or month) in review
In general, one of our team’s favorite types of emails is the year in review. This ultra-personalized email is often sent in January and provides a recap of the year before. Companies like Spotify, Southwest, and Strava use this campaign to highlight your accomplishments for the year.
While I wish I had traveled to a snazzier city than Sacramento, Southwest does an excellent job making the email relevant to me by showing the number of times I’ve traveled, my top city, and the points I earned in 2018. It’s a great way to look back at the year and reflect on the milestones.
If you think it would be useful to your recipients, a monthly recap campaign is a great way to continually connect with users. Nest, a manufacturer of smart home products, offers its customers monthly recap emails, providing information like the last home alert, the last time you performed a manual test on your product, and your energy consumption for the month. What’s neat about this type of email is that you can compare month to month and see how you improve throughout the year.
To learn how to create your own year (or month) in review campaign, read our blog post, How We Built and Sent Your Year in Review Campaign: Part 1.
Let’s get personal
Ultimately, personalizing your emails helps you cultivate relationships. As you get to know your recipients better, you can send them awesome content that they love and continue to engage with. But, like any relationship, make sure to change it up every once in a while—you don’t want the content to get stale!