Personalized Email Automation: Supercharge Your Email Marketing

It’s awesome when you step off a plane at 7am and get offers from your favorite coffee shop along with the locations closest to the airport.

It’s not so great when you just bought a new couch and then spend the next two weeks deleting promotional emails from the furniture store featuring the couch you just bought.

When done poorly, email automation can seem phony, canned, and intrusive. But when combined with personalization, they produce email marketing that is highly relevant and engaging.

Personalized email automations are a crucial part creating long term brand evangelists, and they’re actually within reach for most marketers.

Here are the most important things you need to understand about personalizing your email automations so you can reach the right people with the right email at the right moment.

The Benefits of Personalized Email

Email inboxes are crowded, noisy places. Competition for opens and clicks is fierce, and personalization offers a distinct advantage for those able to leverage it.

According to research by Experian, personalized email gets a 25% higher open rate and a 51% higher click through rate than standard email.

Even more amazing, when promotional emails were delivered using personalized information they boosted transaction rates and revenue per email six times! This massive lift no doubt comes from shifting consumer expectations about how email marketing should speak to them.

Janrain reports that 73% of consumers subscribe to a brand’s emails in order to get coupons and discounts in their inboxes; people expect to receive value in exchange for subscribing.

Chances are that your audience is looking for you to share offers with them, but only if those offers are truly relevant to their needs. If they’ve shared personal information with you, they expect you to use it to craft personalized email messages for them.

In fact, 59% of people say that when they receive product suggestions based on their profile data it’s “very useful.” (Janrain)

Almost the same number — 56% — eventually opt out of email lists because the content is no longer relevant to them.

Clearly, there are strong expectations around personalized emails, and even stronger potential to reap rewards from them. So are email marketers taking advantage of the powers personalization? The answer right now seems to be a very firm, “No.”

The Gap Between Expectations and Reality

One of the biggest problems with email personalization is that many marketers think that by simply inserting our subscribers’ first names we’ve “personalized” our emails.

Once upon a time just including a name in an email salutation might have wowed your audience, but now 63% of people receive so many messages using their name that it, “no longer makes any difference to them.” (Janrain)

Marketers recognize how important personalized content is: 77% report that real-time personalization is “highly important,” and 80% cite it as the top real-time marketing channel. But despite the acknowledgement from marketers, there is a high level of discontent among their email recipients:

70% of consumers feel that attempts at personalization are superficial: the result of irrelevant product suggestions, impersonalized service offers, and nonstop email solicitations that can cause consumers to grow numb to heedless brands.

Clearly, we need to do a better job of getting to the next level of personalization with our email automations.

Personalizing Email Automations With List Segments

It’s pretty obvious that just greeting people with, “Hi, FirstName!” isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need to create email campaigns that are meaningful to subscribers, but we also can’t manually send out emails all day long.

What we need are targeted automations based on highly specific segments of our email lists.

If a subscriber clicks on an ad about sectional sofas, they should be notified every time your furniture is having a special on that type of couch. But if they buy one they should automatically be removed from that automation.

It sounds complex, but if you have email software in place that treats each address like what it really is — a person with interests and needs — this type of hyper-personalization becomes possible.

You can initially create segments of your email lists based on traditional demographics, previous purchases, geographic location, and so on, but the real power of personalized email automations comes from campaigns that are responsive to current behavior.

If someone takes an action, that action should impact the emails they receive from you in the future.

This type of relevancy is what consumers are increasingly coming to expect, and with the right software it’s just a matter of choosing the various paths down which you want to direct your subscribers.

Recognizing the People Behind the Email Addresses

When we start really recognizing the people behind the email addresses on our lists, we’ll be taking a huge first step into making email campaigns that offer the best of both worlds.

Our subscribers get the real-time personalization that they crave, and we can get the power and convenience of preset automations that require minimal interventions.

Just like content marketing has changed the way consumers expect to interact with brand-produced content, email personalization has changed they way they want to engage with brands in their inbox.

As Patrick Tripp points out, “When you can demonstrate how your product solves customers’ specific problem or meets their unique need, your email will become something valuable in your customer’s inbox.”

The Race to Personalization is On

As of now, as little as 5% of companies are personalizing emails “at a sophisticated level” according to Econsultancy. That means there are huge opportunities for companies who take the time to set up truly engaging, hyper-personalized email automations.

Software that makes this possible is more affordable than ever, meaning that it’s not just the largest companies who can compete to be the most valuable resource in someone’s inbox.

Simply by understanding our customers and working to use our email campaigns to meet their unique needs, any brand can create these kinds of connections.

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment

  • Cameron

    Interesting post! Personalization is indeed very important. What email software would you recommend? Is Mailchimp good enough or should I try GetResponse?

    • Afryrear

      Hi Cameron — I haven’t personally used GetResponse, but our team did not find MailChimp to offer the personalization options that we were after. We’ve been using Pardot quite a lot lately, and it’s getting us most of what we’re looking for at this point.

      • Cameron

        I looked at the comparison of Pardot and GetResponse. It’d be certainly too much for me and the pricing very differs. I guess that GetResponse seems like a better option in my case as I don’t need a complex marketing automation tool yet. Thanks for the recommendation! Might need it in the future.

        • Afryrear

          Glad to hear you’ve found something that’s a good fit. Let us know how GetResponse works for you — it could be a good intermediate option between MailChimp and Pardot for other readers, too.


          • Cameron

            After using it for a while I’m quite happy with it. So far my favorite features are autoresponder and landing page builder. I use those two often. GetResponse should be a good choice for someone who wants an email tool that offers some more features than MailChimp. I can’t say how it would work for bigger teams, but it’s certainly good fit for small companies.

          • Afryrear

            Thank you so much for continuing to keep us updated, Cameron. I’m glad GetResponse is working out well for you.