In part 1 of this series, I discussed how personalization is the key to building an optimal customer experience and growing people’s love for your brand. We explored how three brands, Spotify, eBay, and Airbnb, are taking personalization to new levels with highly engaging emails. Today, I’m covering additional insights from a recent report released from Forester Research, an independent market research firm.

Elevate Your Email Marketing with a Customized Approach evaluates the emerging use of custom campaign management tools and the challenges, successes, and opportunities that exist for firms looking to create truly personalized digital conversations.

Common Theme: A Hybrid Approach

What Spotify, eBay and Airbnb have in common is that they have taken a hybrid approach to email personalization. They’ve combined their rich CRM data and their unique business logic with SendGrid’s powerful engine of email delivery. In doing so, they’re transcending the classic “build vs. buy” decision–and getting the best of both worlds.

Consider how these companies’ successes aren’t just a marketing thing. It truly takes a village to create a great customer experience—it can’t be done in functional silos. Each of these companies’ marketing teams worked with their engineering teams to build an application layer on top of SendGrid’s platform.

For example, eBay’s systems, rich with data on customer preferences and purchase intentions, interface with SendGrid’s APIs and instruct SendGrid to dynamically assemble and send email creatives on a 1:1 basis, millions of times per day. In doing so, eBay can focus on personalizing the customer experience while SendGrid handles the challenge of reliably getting eBay’s large volume of emails to the inbox.

More and more companies are surmounting the obstacles to great email personalization with this approach. It’s a phenomenon that Forrester Research describes as a way to “enable personalized experiences across the customer lifecycle” in its new independent research report.  The figure below represents the technology drivers that create a hybrid approach to email marketing personalization.

Forrester Research Insights on Email Personalization

Forrester’s survey of hundreds of senior decision-makers in marketing technology and strategy showed that marketers highly value the customer experience, and recognize the need to make email more personalized and contextually relevant.

Access to customer data isn’t the problem for these marketers. The challenge lies in the ability to “transform that data into truly meaningful action.” In fact, though many marketers have completed integrations to ensure visibility into customer data, that data access hasn’t yet resulted in personalized email content.

“Though two-thirds of respondents say data from their sales, marketing, and service applications is fully integrated with their email systems, that integration does not inform personalized content across these same service applications. Only 37% of respondents said personalized content is fully integrated.”

– Forrester Research, “Elevate Your Email Marketing With A Customized Approach”, 2017

Despite these challenges, the Forrester report identifies an emerging group of forward-thinking marketers—only 18% of survey respondents—who have managed to “decrease the insight-to-action gap” and achieve contextually relevant email content:

“…businesses that have integrated in-house and vendor solutions into a custom email marketing environment are far more likely to send contextually relevant emails…”

– Forrester Research, “Elevate Your Email Marketing With A Customized Approach”, 2017

These marketers are leading the industry toward true email personalization by combining their own data and business logic with the capabilities of a leading email platform like SendGrid.

According to the report, “Marketers see the value in gaining process efficiency and scalability by partnering with marketing solution vendors, while also craving the extensive customization that in-house development offers. Hybrid solutions which combine the two options result in more sophisticated email marketing triggered by customer interactions, as well as business benefits like improved customer experience and increased customer retention.”

One interesting insight unearthed by Forrester Research is that, among the companies who are successfully using custom personalization solutions in collaboration with email platforms like SendGrid, the way many of them found their way to this solution is through transactional email. Who knew that those password recovery and shipping notification emails you receive are paving the way toward true personalization in the marketing realm?

It turns out that, because transactional emails are inherently personalized, their underlying technology is serving as a foundation upon which to optimize the customer experience. That’s been the case with companies like Airbnb, who started using SendGrid to send everyday transactional emails and have since evolved to use our platform to send contextually relevant emails that enrich the experience of being an Airbnb customer.

Our Custom Campaign Management Solution

At SendGrid, we know transactional email. And because we’re committed to helping companies realize the promise of email personalization, we’re now offering a custom campaign management solution for sophisticated senders who aim to apply their own unique data and business logic to their customer communications.

If you send high volumes of promotional or transactional email, require fine-grained personalization to enhance your customers’ experience, and are interested in developing your own application layer on top of our flexible APIs, contact us. We’ll partner with you to grow your customers’ love for your brand.

And if you want to dive into the research more, download the guide now. 

Bryan Sise leads the Product Marketing team. He is focused on conveying the value of SendGrid's products to our customers, and helping customers get the most from SendGrid. Bryan is a Colorado native who is proud to have returned to his home state after adventures in other cities. He loves hiking, snowboarding and building Lego castles with his 3-year-old daughter.