How to Use First-Party Data for Marketing Email Personalization

September 29, 2022
Written by
Nathalia Velez Ryan
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

How to Use First-Party Data for Marketing Email Personalization

Every marketing email you send has to compete with all the other promotions and newsletters in the recipient’s inbox. This is why email marketers spend so much time thinking about how to stand out among the competition and engage recipients. 

Email personalization is an increasingly important way for your messages to stand out—in fact, 57% of recipients admit personalization influences whether they find an email memorable.  

To achieve this personalization, you first need accurate, reliable customer data. And how to gather, store, and access this data is a growing challenge for marketers as third-party cookies go away

But we have good news: email marketers can still send highly personalized emails using first-party data—the data you collect directly from customers. In fact, this information that you gather through sign-up forms, purchase history, and other direct interactions with your customers is more reliable than third-party data.  

This post will explain how you can use email marketing and first-party data to create personalized email campaigns. 

Collect first-party data via email sign-up forms and preference centers

Let’s start with how you can use email for first-party data collection. Did you know that getting your email recipients to sign up for your email list is one of the first touchpoints in the customer journey

For example, when a user visits your website for the first time, you can invite them to join your mailing list to receive a discount on their first purchase (like Brooklinen does in the following example). The email sign-up form is your first opportunity to ask the visitor for personal data. 

As you collect data through email sign-up forms and user preference centers, keep the following best practices in mind.

1. Ask for only what you need 

A lengthy email sign-up form can turn away a potential customer if they feel it’s too invasive or time-consuming. This means you’ll have to prioritize the data you absolutely need to start building a relationship with customers. 

For example, while an ecommerce business might want to know the customer’s shopping preferences, a B2B publication like Search Engine Journal might need the customer’s industry, job title, or topics of interest. 

Search Engine Journal email sign-up form

Once you capture the visitor’s email address, you can send them your welcome email series, and as part of this, invite them to complete their user profile. This is an opportunity to ask for more information, such as their birth date and email preferences. But keep the questions focused and concise to increase your chances of recipients filling out the form. 

Lastly, be gentle when you ask for data—only make the most important fields required to avoid pushing away the recipients who don’t want to share a lot of personal information. 

2. Make it mutually beneficial

Customers know what you get out of acquiring their personal information—what they really want to know is what's in it for them. So when you ask the customer for information, make it clear how providing it will benefit them. 

For example, on the email sign-up form on your ecommerce website, tell the visitor the perks of your email program, such as early access to discounts or invitations to special events, like Anthropologie does in the example below. 

Anthropologie email sign-up form

3. Follow privacy regulations 

Countries and regions enforce consumer data collection and management regulations differently, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union, and the California Consumer Privacy Act and the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act in the United States.

Make sure you understand and follow the privacy regulations that apply to your business based on the countries where you operate. This often includes disclosing what information you gather, how you store and manage it, and how users can unsubscribe from your communications. 

Create accurate customer profiles with identity resolution 

Customers interact with your business on various devices and channels. For example, a single customer might browse your website on their laptop, download your app, purchase a product/service on their mobile device, and then connect with customer service via phone. 

Identity resolution allows you to attribute all these interactions across platforms and channels to a single customer profile to have the full view of how they engage with your business. 

With this unified customer identity, you can target your recipients with highly personalized emails based on their behaviors and preferences. Plus, different teams can access this profile to create more consistent customer experiences across channels and devices. 

So how do you achieve this unified view of the customer? A customer data platform like Twilio Segment helps you resolve customer identities using aggregated data and a wide scope of identifiers. Learn more about why identity resolution is essential for businesses today

Segment recipients based on customer data 

You probably already segment your email recipients based on broad categories, such as their level of engagement with your communications or general demographic data like gender.

But with first-party data, you can get more granular with your email list segmentation to send highly targeted content. This is microsegmentation, and you can send more personalized emails based on information like the recipient’s ZIP code, demographic niches, behavioral patterns, and purchase history. Learn more about email segmentation

Personalize email content 

Once you gather first-party data, resolve customer identities, and segment your audiences, it’s time to put this all to good use by sending data-backed, personalized email campaigns

How, you ask? You can start by using email automation to send the right email at the right time. For example, when you capture a new email address, you can automatically send the new recipient your welcome email campaign. 

You can also use customer behavior and email engagement data to send reengagement campaigns and abandoned cart emails that help get recipients back on track on the customer journey. 

Finally, you can use dynamic content to personalize the email content based on the customer’s preferences and previously viewed items. For example, after I viewed a pair of shoes on Anthropologie's website, I received an email highlighting that product and related items to nudge me toward the next step in the journey—a purchase. 

Send personalized emails with Twilio SendGrid and Twilio Segment 

Ready to start using first-party data marketing to send personalized emails? Twilio SendGrid and Twilio Segment are both powerful by themselves, but when you combine them, you can take email personalization to the next level. 

With SendGrid’s email marketing capabilities—from email design to automation to deliverability tools—and Segment’s customer identity resolution and real-time audience insights, you can take your emails from one size fits all to highly targeted. 

Sign up for a free account with SendGrid and Segment to try them today. 

Recommended For You

Most Popular

Send With Confidence

Partner with the email service trusted by developers and marketers for time-savings, scalability, and delivery expertise.