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Humans Over Inboxes. Cracking the Personalization Code for Email Marketing

Imagine yourself in a club, with live music playing, people chattering all around you, bright visuals flashing and flickering along with the music, and you sitting there – enjoying your glass of beer, engaged in a one-on-one conversation with your date for the night. 

Someone calls your name from across the room, barely audible to you, but you manage to perceive the call and your attention turns towards the source of your name. 

Cognitive Psychology calls this phenomenon the Cocktail Party Effect, and it essentially aims to describe how, even in the presence of so much noise (of the music, nearby people, all sorts of chattering, visual distractions, and whatnot), your brain can overtly turn your attention towards the person calling your name. This implies that out of all the different signals, our brain attends the most to the signals that it feels are most relevant to it. The phenomenon also gives rise to the concept of Selective Attention – but that’s enough for today’s Psychology class. 

Getting back to marketing, it shouldn’t be difficult to relate the above discussion to our day-to-day work. After all, our prospects are also, metaphorically, in a cocktail party that’s full of noise from all sides – think of all the promotional calls, emails, texts, and messages they receive, among other things. It should be intuitively obvious that personalizing our communication in a way that most relates to them can be beneficial for conversions. 

There is an even more dire need for such a personalized approach to email marketing and other forms of outbound and inbound marketing strategies that work on direct human-to-human communication. Your prospects’ inboxes are crowded, and it is getting worse daily. You need to find a way to cut through that noise and make your emails the center of attention. Nearly 60% of email marketers think that email personalization is how to go about it. 

Let’s explore email personalization in depth. We will also look at some actionable email personalization techniques that you can inculcate in your campaigns immediately! 

What is email personalization all about? 

Think of email personalization as a digital marketing tactic that uses customer and subscriber data to create customized experiences for different types of audiences – this could include different groups and even different individuals. Email personalization brings you the power of targeting a specific set of people with relevant, personalized content, offers, and other important information. If you do it well, email personalization could feel as if the content of the mail was written and the mail was designed precisely for the reader in question.

It is mostly a result of automation, ML, AI, and other novel predictive analytics techniques and applied strategies that we can perform the personalization of experiences beyond just first names. Hi {first_name} does not cut it anymore – it’s time to move to the next level. 

At the core of all email personalization initiatives is the aim of creating a completely personalized experience for the user. After all, their inbox is a private place, and when your brand is communicating with them in such a personal space, you want them to feel like they’re talking to a friend. If you do email personalization right, your emails will be: 

  • Anticipated – people will look forward to reading your emails. 
  • Relevant – they will be directly relevant and applicable to the reader’s life. 
  • Personal – they will be related to the reader and communicate directly with them. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for performing email personalization. However, intelligent, automated tools like HubSpot can be a good starting point for gathering and analyzing your data (and doing a whole lot more!). With that knowledge, you can take the next steps and decide how to include personalization in your email marketing efforts. There are a few techniques that you can check out in order to get an idea of what can be done. 

Tried and tested email personalization techniques

In order to begin your email personalization journey, you should know what all techniques are available for you to play around with. To help you with that, here are seven email personalization techniques that you can put to effect immediately: 

1. Audience segmentation

Segmentation is, hands down, the most important tool in a marketer’s arsenal. Even in terms of email marketing, audience segmentation plays an important role in helping you personalize your efforts. Segmentation allows you to break down your huge list of audiences into smaller clusters in a sensible manner, based on your needs. You can target different clusters differently with relevant and personalized emails. 

Audience segmentation can be done in several ways, depending on what you want to achieve. It could include segmentation based on age, geography, gender, buyer persona, etc. There are also some creative ways that you can explore for segmenting your audience – this could be done by diving deeper into their behavior, finding patterns and connections, and segmenting based on that. 

A study conducted by MailChimp in 2020 suggested that campaigns using segmented data see a 15% increase in open rate and an approximately 70% increase in clicks. Performing audience segmentation on your subscriber or email list directly fruitfully impacts all other marketing metrics. 

2. Break the ice by making the sender known

This is probably the best way to get the ball rolling and break the ice. Simply, you don’t want it to seem like your email is sent out from a ‘Marketing Team,’ but from a real, live human who feels and interacts the way the reader of this mail does. 

By making this small change, you give your company a personality and a face that is highly relatable to your readers and can personally speak to them. A study conducted by HubSpot found this technique to be highly effective and positively correlated to open rates as well as click-through rates. 

If you’re wondering how exactly this is done – let’s take a simple example: instead of sending your email from ‘’ and signing it off as ‘marketing team’ or ‘company’ or anything similar, try sending it from a personal email address, and sign it off with a person’s name! This might seem like a small change, but it sets a lot of things in motion when it comes to the relatability factor. 

3. Personalized product recommendations

There is a thin line between recommending products for the good of the user and being too pushy and shoving your products down their throat. When done right, personalized product recommendations can work wonders in helping you build a stronger relationship with your customers. However, if this goes south, you might end up being in their bad books forever. 

You have to keep in mind that you don’t want your ads popping up all over the place – it feels like the readers are being stalked and threatened. Take it easy. Send highly targeted and personalized recommendations, during specific times of the year, instead of constantly overdosing them with recommendations. You can analyze your audience’s data to know more about their behavior pattern to know what times might be better for recommending and what products should really be recommended to the user. 

It’s no surprise that Amazon has been at the forefront of it since forever in terms of recommendations. At one point in time, it was found that one-third of Amazon’s turnover was generated through email personalization techniques. But don’t worry; you don’t have to be Amazon to get this going for you. Other research suggests that 66% of shoppers are more likely to keep visiting websites that offer personalized product recommendations without overdoing them.

4. Custom special offers

Customized and personal special offers can take a long way in terms of email personalization. Using segmented data, you can find out the needs and behaviors of different audience groups and create relevant offers that would appeal to specific sets of people. 

For instance, if some subscribers have brought children’s clothes or toys in the last year, you can send them offers for more children’s toys and such. Likewise, you can dive deeper into your customers’ and audiences’ behavior and plan offers accordingly. 

Special offers are effective for all sorts of situations – whether you want to re-engage with inactive customers, convert prospects into customers, or communicate with current customers. This email personalization technique allows you to be as creative as you want – both with finding the audience segments as well as with creating offers for different segments or types of audiences. The end goal should be simple – to add value to your customer’s life and provide them with something good. 

5. Behavioral triggering for better engagement

Behavioral triggering can offer great benefits and provide tremendous value if you do it well. It may sound complicated on the surface, but really it just boils down to using automated email reactions depending on how prospects and your people are interacting with your products. 

In application, behavioral triggering goes beyond traditional welcome emails and opens the opportunities and possibilities for all sorts of engagements and re-engagements with the customers. Needless to say, this lets you upsell your products and communicate with your customers in a more personalized manner. 

6. Send out milestone emails

In life, timing is everything – especially when it comes to cutting through the clutter. You need to understand the relationship between your business and your customers and try to make the customers a part of your business. The idea is to connect with them better and show them that you care. Milestone emails can be as simple as sending an email on your subscriber’s birthday, anniversary, anniversary with your company, and so on. 

This simple step goes a long way in nurturing healthy relationships and ensuring better customer retention and satisfaction. This also ensures that your customers feel valued and are not felt disregarded. Personalized milestone emails are extremely useful and can be utilized to personally reach out to your audience on their (or your) special days. 

7. Re-engagement Emails

One harsh truth about email marketing is that no matter how hard you work towards building your subscriber list, a large chunk of that audience will inevitably stop engaging with you and your email campaigns. That damages your stats and such, but it doesn’t mean you should lose hope. 

Re-engagement emails provide you an excellent chance to get your subscribers either back on the list or remove them from the list – so that you don’t have to keep earning negative rep (although the first option is preferable). These emails are targeted at inactive subscribers and can be as simple as just asking whether or not they would like to receive emails. This small step towards personalization can help you win a few customers, and the others that you lose will respect you for this step. 

Check out – Inbound Marketing Agency

How are you going to go about it?

Personalization works, and this isn’t a debate at this point. The question is – how soon are you going to inculcate it in your marketing and content initiatives? Our suggestion is simple – the sooner, the better. 

If you’re struggling with how to start or need help breaking the inertia – talk to the people at ContentNinja, and we’ll help you out with a personalized plan. 

Author avatar
Mayank Gulati