Ah, the beloved year in review recap campaign. If you’re like me, you flock to your inbox throughout December and January to see which of your favorite brands have special insights for you based on your activity throughout the year.

Spotify gives you insight into which music genre you consume most often and how many hours you had their music generating the soundtrack to your year. Strava, meanwhile, is there to motivate you with insight into those miles of steps you worked into your busy schedule, and your total number of hours on that bicycle.

Recap emails that deliver personalized insight into how you interacted with that brand over the course of the year can be illustrative, shocking, encouraging, and even inspirational.

The goal of creating one, however, can be tremendous.

For several years, it was a dream of mine to produce a year in review campaign of this magnitude for our SendGrid customers. I wanted to deliver insights into how well they accomplished their communications goals for the year, where they’ve had the greatest success, and hopefully provide some motivation for how they could optimize their email program to do even greater things in the year ahead.

Armed with some good technology and supportive teammates, I set out to deliver our first ever Your Year in Email campaign in 2018, and doubled down again in early 2019 with the second iteration.

What I learned in the process is that there are parts of taking on this hyper-personalized campaign that weren’t so scary after all. In this post, I want to share some behind the scenes of how this campaign was orchestrated; from sourcing the data, to designing a one of a kind template, to building and sending this in Marketing Campaigns.

The Creation Process

Much of the process of bringing this campaign together was the same as any other major email. It just took a bit more planning and coordination, and a lot more patience. The main areas we focused our attention was in developing the strategy and sourcing and verifying the data.

Strategy: Unlike most of our other email campaigns, we are sharing a lot of personalized data in this campaign and wanted to focus on the data that would be most helpful and insightful for our customers. We interviewed people from our support, customer success, and delivery teams to understand how the data could be best presented.

In addition to presenting their overall delivery and engagement metrics, we also introduced observations into:

  • How much their delivery rates improved over the year
  • The month in which they earned the highest level of engagement,
  • Some aggregate stats from all senders

Getting the data

I called in some favors from teammates in Data Science and Business Operations to help source the data, then the team did the hard work of checking and rechecking sample data from our internally-built tool that stores customer support information (effectively our administrator tool of SendGrid systems). We also leveraged other internal experts to make sure we were adding enough context so each data point made sense.

The Building Blocks

The technical nuts and bolts of how to actually send this custom content was where we got to breathe a sigh of relief, as it all started to come together quickly. We relied on 3 key elements within SendGrid Marketing Campaigns: the campaign editor, custom fields, and substitution tags.

Campaign editor: We chose to start with our standard newsletter template (which would look familiar to subscribers of The Scoop), and then used the code editor to duplicate some content blocks, switch up some colors and fonts, and add new images throughout. After a little testing for mobile responsiveness, we had a finished product that looked pretty unique.

Pro tip: If you don’t already have a base template that you know and love, there are some great free ones you can edit right in the Marketing Campaigns template library.

Custom fields: This is where we set up the individual data fields before we uploaded those massive data files. We used a mix of numerical (like the sender’s average open rate), date (like the day they sent the most email), and text (like the day of the week when their emails are engaged with most).
Pro tip: We used a special naming convention for this campaign. It helped ensure we were uploading to the correct custom field each time.

Substitution tags: Now it’s time to see those custom fields in action! In the editor, you can copy the custom fields in their substitution-ready form and paste them into the body of your beautiful new template. Don’t forget to include a default value in case you don’t have that data-point uploaded for each person on your list!

Pro tip: Subject lines and preheader text are other great opportunities to substitute in custom content! For our campaign, we included their username right in the preheader, which did wonders for our open rates!

The Day Of

With the day finally upon us, the pressure was on! After last minute QA and giving a head’s up to our Support, Marketing, and Customer Success teams, we were ready to press SEND! It was exciting to watch replies roll in and customers flock to social media to share their impressive 2018 sending results.

So, was the campaign successful, you ask? I’m looking forward to sharing those results in part two of this post. We’ll dive into how success can be evaluated in the unique use case that is personalized campaigns. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out some other inspirational yearly recap email campaigns. 



Jill Guest
As Sr. Customer Growth Marketing Manager at SendGrid, Jill works to ensure we deliver marketing email that educates, inspires, and delights our friends and customers. Her passions include intelligent email design, developing her beer palette, and exploring the great state of Colorado.