Email isn’t dead … but if you don’t personalize, it will be

4 Minute Read

Email marketing has been getting some hard press as of late. Some of this is understandable – emails are becoming increasingly easier to ignore, and, with emerging channels competing for consumers’ attentions, many argue that email is a dying medium.

But the facts remain: email is still one of the biggest traffic drivers, it is 40 times more effective than social media for customer acquisition, and there are still huge opportunities within it.

However, the downside is that, more than ever, email has the potential to harm your brand.

Research shows that the average customer receives 6 sales and mobile offers a day, with many recipients claiming a large proportion of these to be irrelevant. Customers are increasingly fed up of these generic messages creeping into their inboxes – and that annoyance can very quickly result in a spam filter activation or unsubscribe request. Worse still, it can result in a negative association with your brand.

The key here is to be relevant, and personal. Consumers are no longer tolerating a spray and pray approach – you need to know your customers, and use the wealth of data they are entering into your site to target them effectively. And it works: personalized emails deliver 6 x higher transaction rates, and 82% of shoppers say they are more likely to purchase from a brand who sends them emails relevant to their interests.

However, if you’re going to personalize, you need to segment data meaningfully, and use effective triggers. 70% of shoppers think personalization attempts are superficial, and a ‘hello first name’ alone just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

I’m going to run through some effective ways email can be kept alive and well through personalization.

1. Serve up what your customer loves

I recently received this newsletter email from a ticket agency from whom I’ve purchased before. They clearly know I’m a fan of stand-up comedy, and had utilised the data from my previous transactions to provide an email full of completely relevant recommendations for up and coming comedy gigs.

The email title was also effectively to the point, with no sales-speak – just a list of the acts on tour soon. This no-nonsense approach appealed to me, and I was actually pleased to find an email in my inbox that was directly relevant to my interests. I purchased from them soon after reading this.

Where this email faltered, however, was the lack of awareness about my geolocation. Based on data collected from my previous purchases, the company should know where I’m based, but yet the recommendations were for gigs taking place in various locations, and I would have far preferred to see gigs in my local area.

Still, this email shows a simple and effective way to serve up relevant content based on past purchasing data. This can go wrong, however, when a customer has purchased a one-off product, resulting in targeted content that does not match the shoppers’ current needs or interests. Consider all options: cross-sells and related ‘trending products’ could be a good alternative.

Likewise, be aware that customers may also have purchased gifts for others at your store. I would cautiously advice any retailers to have a ‘this is a gift’ option when customers are checking out, and keep these users out of the segment.

2. Send out ‘We miss you’ emails


Haven’t seen a customer for a while? Email can be a very effective way to entice them back.

This email here from Hostel World is offering a time-sensitive discount from their next accommodation order, with a month deadline to increase that sense of urgency.

The personalization is fairly minimal here – a first name is used which, although a simple technique, makes the offer seem unique to that person. However, segmenting no doubt was used. The recipient hadn’t engaged with the brand for some time, so an offer was an effective means of targeting them.

For customers who have recently engaged with your brand, a newsletter or alert for product replenishment may be a more suitable means of bringing them back to your site.

Also be sure to mention the offer in the subject line. This is, unsurprisingly, one of the most effective means of engaging a user to open an email.

And of course, if you’re going to provide an offer on a particular product or brand, then make sure it is directly relevant to a shopper’s previous purchasing or browsing history. That may sound obvious, but many brands are keen to promote a product currently popular on the site but with no relevance to the preferences of the customer receiving the message. Research has shown that 78.6% of shoppers would only engage with a promotion if it was directly connected to how have previously interacted with your store.

3. Abandoned cart emails


The vast majority of carts are left abandoned, and on average, only 2% of traffic complete their transaction first time round. In fact, cart abandonment was found to be the single biggest factor affecting conversions.

There are myriad reasons for this: some shoppers are put off by unexpected delivery costs and thus leave the site, others may become distracted and exit with the intention of coming back but then forget to do so.

Emailing the content of the abandoned cart, with a triggered incentive based on relevant metrics, is a great way to get your shopper to return. A good example of this is seen above, from Kate Spade. The discount, along with the sense of urgency from the 2 week deadline, is a useful tactic. Mentioning that there is ‘only x number of stocks left” is another good way to entice the shopper to proceed with the purchase. However, it would be better to include an image of the abandoned item.


These are only a few ways personalized emails can be used, and experimentation is recommended. But remember: a personalized email campaign is only as good as the quality of the data you collect. If data collection in-house is a concern, then many personalization tools can assist you in data collection and setting up triggered actions.

So, good luck, and do share any successful uses of personalization in email! 🙂

Sign up to Bunting for a free trial of its easy website personalization software. No tie-ins, cancel anytime.

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