Overcome Data Hurdles to Email Personalization

hurdlesPersonalized emails deliver a six times higher transaction rates than non-personalized emails, yet a startling 70 percent of brands fail to take advantage of the opportunity, according to research from  Experian Marketing Services.   Why not?

Most marketers collect customer data and have it in-house.  It also certainly seems to be conclusive from this study and others – and from the experience TopRight has with our clients – that personalization makes a huge difference in response rates and subscriber satisfaction.  In fact, Experian found that personalized promotional mailings had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. For triggered email campaigns, personalization resulted in double the transaction rates compared to non-personalized triggered emails.

Those kinds of results are definitely appealing, especially with overall contribution from email marketing programs under increased scrutiny.  With even a few attributes from data accessible, brands can use personalization as a real differentiator:

Sephora Email

  • Offering discounts in bulk emails which only certain, high value subscribers can see;
  • Personalizing the content of a birthday email, based on the year that the subscriber was born;
  • Showing products based on the subscriber’s brand and size preference.  Sephora does a nice job of personalizing offers based on the Beauty Profile collected on the site.  (See sample at left.)
  • Aggregating data from mobile apps for end of week/month/year summary emails. For example, Fitbit’s weekly summary email is a great example of this.
  • Personalizing the subject line – which Experian research showed delivered 26 percent higher unique open rates overall, with travel companies experiencing the “biggest boost” from personalized subject lines.

Unique Open Rates for Emails with Personalized Subject Lines by Industry


Experian Pers Emai Study chart

If personalization work so well, then why aren’t marketers doing it?  Perhaps it’s because although data is resident inside the company, the marketer doesn’t have access to it at the point of delivery.   Integration of systems and getting data accessible to the “right moment” of messaging is a real challenge for many brands.  While most email delivery vendors have mature APIs and common integration points to ecommerce, CRM, marketing data warehouse, and campaign management solutions, the integration can seem like a very daunting task.

It doesn’t need to be overly complex.  Even simple pieces of data such as location, gender, and product preference can open up a number of possibilities for marketers.   If you are not doing any personalization today, you could add data to your ESP manually.  This can be helpful in proof of concept – especially if you see the kinds of lift that Experian’s research promises.  However, long-term, this is not a good option.  Doing manual uploads of data spreadsheets is not only time-consuming, but it has a high potential for error or data corruption.  It’s also not cost-effective – the hours spent in these tasks may be more costly in a year than an integration project.

Better options are to use the automated data transfer features of your email delivery solution.  Most can accept an automated feed from a FTP (file transfer protocol) site.  This can be a good option for companies with very rigid IT access to internal systems.   Integrations can also be coded using the API (Application Programming Interface) from your vendor, which can upload data from a variety of locations.  APIs are more likely to support real-time use of data from multi-system integrations, as well.

When planning a data integration to your email delivery solution or anywhere, be sure to determine what data you have access to in your other systems, and outline exactly what you plan on doing with it.  The more specific you can be, the more easily your IT and technology vendors can help you import that data on a regular basis.

Since we live in an age of highly custom online experiences, it makes sense that personalizing your email marketing will move your results to the #TopRight.  What challenges do you have, and what results are you seeing, for personalizing your subscriber experience?




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