The Ultimate Guide to Email Personalization

The Ultimate Guide to Email Personalization

Here’s an eye-opening statistic:

By the end of 2019, over 246 billion emails worldwide are expected to be sent and received each day.

Your customers’ inboxes are bombarded with marketing emails every single day, and they really don’t have the time to go through each and every generic message.

This is exactly why you need to add personalization to your emails.

There’s a reason 96% of organizations believe that personalization can boost the performance of their email marketing efforts.

For businesses, smart email personalization is key to standing out and getting noticed.

If you’re new at this, knowing where to start can be a bit confusing.

Fret not—this is exactly why we’ve created this ultimate guide.

This guide will help you understand all you need to about email personalization, from what personalization really means to what exactly you can personalize and how.

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to use personalization strategies to maximize the results of your marketing emails and boost engagement and conversions.

What Is Email Personalization and Why Does it Matter?


Simply put, email personalization is the use of subscriber information to increase the effectiveness of your emails.

Instead of sending a generic message to your audience, use their name, behavior, or anything else to connect with them better and give them a reason to open your email.

The thing is, no one wants to be sold to or be treated as “just another subscriber”.

Your customers want special treatment.

If you put in the effort to get to know them better and use that information to create more targeted and relevant emails, they will likely appreciate it and take action.

And if you think this doesn’t make a difference, check out these statistics:

Adding personalization to emails has been proven to increase open rates, click-through rates, engagement, and chances of conversions!

Now, you’re probably wondering how to actually implement personalization in your emails.

You’re not alone.

Eighty-three percent say their biggest challenge is creating personalized content.

Before we move on to the different email personalization strategies, let’s take a look at what exactly you can personalize in the first place:

What Can You Personalize?

1. From Name

It’s common to address the receiver while sending out an email, but have you tried personalizing the ‘from’ name?

A whopping 68% of Americans say their decision to open an email depends on who it’s from.

Try to use personalized from names instead of a generic brand name when sending out emails.

For example, if there’s a certain contact in your company (such as the CEO or account manager) that your customers are aware of, use their name in the “from” field.

In fact, even if you just use a person’s name in the “from” field instead of a company name, it will automatically feel more human and personal.

The more familiar the sender feels to the receiver, the more likely they’ll be to notice and open it.

2. Subject Line

Right next to the from name, the subject line is one of the first things subscribers notice when they see your email.

Make sure you use that opportunity to grab their attention and get them curious.

There are several ways to personalize your email subject lines.
For example, you can address your subscriber by their name instead of just going with a “Dear subscriber” or not addressing them at all.

You can also personalize subject lines by avoiding “salesy” language. Don’t try to sound too promotional, as it will just encourage subscribers to report your email as spam.

You can also track subscriber behavior to find out what interests them, and use that data to grab attention in your subject.

For example, if you’ve noticed a lot of eBook downloads, maybe your subscribers are interested in helpful resources.

Or if you notice a lot of traction on sales and discounts, use that to get their attention.

Here are some sample subject lines that sound personal and intriguing:

  • NAME, Will You Marry Me? ?
  • ? ? NAME – Stop ideating. Start implementing.
  • Are you ready for 2019 yet?
  • You deserve the best (here’s what that looks like)

Pro-tip: Emojis in subject lines go a long way. Of course, that also depends on your audience, so don’t forget to A/B test everything.

3. Copy

Once a subscriber opens your email, now’s your chance to show them it was worth it.

This means your email copy should be good enough to make them stay and engage.

It also means it should keep the promises you made in the subject line.

According to Adobe, 40% of customers want their emails to be more informative and less promotion-based, and 27% feel annoyed if their emails are too wordy or poorly written.

Keep your email copy as brief and to-the-point as possible. Subscribers don’t have the time to scroll through lengthy paragraphs to figure out your point.

Better yet, it should offer value. No one wants to be blatantly sold to.
Try personalizing email copy by tailoring the information for different subscriber segments. It can be as simple as using their name (creatively).

Here’s an example of how Sephora delights subscribers by decorating their names:

Tracking the behavior of subscribers will let you know what excites them. Is it discounts? A sale? Or certain types of products? Use that to tailor your emails.
You can also personalize the tone and voice of your copy based on their gender—for example, you can use feminine words for women and masculine words for men.

4. Visuals

Did you know that 62% of B2C and 51% of B2B marketers prioritize creating visuals as a major part of their content marketing strategy?

What you can’t express in words—show.

Visuals are way more effective than text when it comes to grabbing attention and engaging subscribers.

You’re probably thinking, “ how can I personalize visuals?”

Honestly, there are tons of creative ways to do that.

You can tailor the visuals in your emails based on gender, interests, customer behavior, and much more.

For example, you can use specific product photos based on subscribers’ names, past purchases, or browsing history on your ecommerce store.

Here’s an example of how Burberry creatively incorporated subscriber initials into their product visual (i.e. scarf) to make it look more personal:

You can also personalize header images, GIFs and animations, video, and pretty much anything as long as you know what catches their eye.

5. Dynamic Offers

Take personalization to the next level by using subscriber information, such as their geographic location or demographic data, to tailor your offers.

Think of a scenario where your subscriber has traveled to California from Florida.

Use this opportunity to tell them about new offerings at your California store.

Or, if you’re a clothing brand that deals in both men and women clothing, make sure you send tailored emails and offers relevant to their gender.

6. Re-Engagement Emails

Every business has subscribers who were once active but have now stopped engaging with their brand. These are also called inactive or ‘sleepy’ subscribers.

To re-engage sleepy subscribers, you can send out personalized emails that attempt to capture their attention and get them to take action.

For example, you can send tailored promotions or discounts on their next purchase, or maybe a cute, customized “We Miss You” message to tug at their heartstrings.

Here’s an example from American Apparel:

This will probably be the last stage of when you try and engage with these subscribers, so make sure your email is hard to resist.

Throw in a discount, like in the example above, to increase the chances of getting them to make a purchase.

7. Loyalty Emails

We have talked about inactive subscribers in the previous point, but what about really active subscribers?

These are the people who are bringing maximum profit to your business and you need to reward them so they stay loyal to your brand.

Send them personalized emails so they feel special and appreciated.
One way of doing this is by turning your loyal customers into VIP customers and providing them exclusive perks or services.

Check out this email excerpt by Madewell as an example:

Another popular way of rewarding loyal customers is to offer them points for every purchase, which they can redeem later.

8. Product Recommendations

Fifty-eight percent of customers say that they are most likely to buy from a company that recommends products based on their past purchase behavior.

Leverage your customer’s buying history to email them about relevant products they’re likely to spend on again.

You can also recommend products based on abandoned carts or their browsing history. Check out this example of a product recommendation email by Julep:

Emails like these increase the chances of getting customers to come back and buy from you again.

It will also make your customers feel more special, and they’ll end up learning more about your product offerings in the process.

9. Cart Abandonment Emails

According to the Baymard Institute, 69.57% of carts are abandoned online.

This shows that most customers might need another push to actually go through with a purchase.

If you’re an e-commerce business, use this as an opportunity to send personalized cart abandonment emails that remind customers they still need to finish the checkout process.

You can ask them if they faced any issue during checkout, or just offer a small discount to make sure they whip out their credit cards.

Here’s how French Connection sends out personalized cart abandonment emails:

How to Personalize Emails

1. Plan ahead

If you don’t have a concrete plan before you start personalizing, you might not be able to get maximum results out of your efforts.
Planning ahead makes it easier to meet specific goals, organize data, and execute flawlessly.

You minimize the chances of errors and avoid personalizing just for the sake of it.

Planning ahead helps you stay aligned with your company goals and use email personalization as part of a bigger and more purposeful marketing strategy.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Goal Setting. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish through personalization. It’s important that you set SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

  • Data Validation. Double check the type of data you currently have and any additional data you require for your email personalization campaign.

  • Execution. You can have the best of plans, but if your execution is flawed, all your time, effort, and money might go to waste. This is why it’s important to know exactly what you’re going to do and how before you actually do it.

2. Collect Data

Before you can even think of personalizing your emails, you need to have enough information about your subscribers.

Get to know them better before you go targeting them and appealing to their interests.

Here are some types of data to focus on:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Interests
  • Past behavior
  • Purchase and browsing history

Here are a few ways you can collect subscriber data:

i. Email Subscriber Forms

This is the most obvious way to get your hands on important subscriber information.

You can get more data by adding extra fields. You don’t need to get too personal, but collected DOBs and names is a start.

Here’s how Joy is making use of extra fields:

Or just straight up ask for the email address, similar to how Visme does it when you’re about to leave their website:

You can collect other information later on when they sign up for an account.

Asking only for the email address first is a safer approach, because:

  • It’s faster and less of a hassle for visitors
  • It reduces risk for people unwilling to share too much information
  • You can build a relationship over email before getting them to sign up

ii. Behavior Analytics

Tracking website analytics can tell you so much about your visitors.

This is a great way to obtain information about what your subscribers like to browse, the types of pages they spend the most time on, and how they interact with your online store overall.

Behavior analytics can reveal useful and even surprising trends about the interests and habits of your customers.

You can use this data in your emails about product recommendations, discounts, cart abandonment reminders, and more.

3. Automate

You’re not going to personalize each and every email on your own, of course.

That’s why you have automation.

Most email marketing service providers, like MailChimp and Wishpond, let you send out automated personalized emails based on various triggers and information.

For example, you can set up an automated workflow that sends out a personalized email when a visitor abandons their shopping cart or makes a purchase.

You can also set up a workflow that sends up follow-up or re-engagement emails after a defined period of inactivity.

Most email marketing services also offer email and workflow templates to make it easier to automate your personalized emails.

4. Be Creative

Let’s face it.

You’re not the only business sending out personalized emails.
Most of your competitors are probably doing it too. To really get customers’ attention, you need to be creative and do more than just the usual thing.

Here’s a really cool example of Pret using interactive emails. The drink changes colors as you toggle through the flavors:

Try to think of creative ways to personalize your emails by using new techniques, such as GIFs, animations, and interactive elements.

5. Track Performance

You can’t just send out emails and call it a day.

You need to know if they even performed the way you intended them to.
Keep track of your personalized emails by measuring open rates and click-through rates.

Email analytics can tell you a lot about what you’re doing right and where you could use some improvement.

Wrap Up

Email personalization is a big deal.

In this day and age when customers require businesses to offer them special treatment, you simply can’t ignore the power of personalization in every single marketing channel.

This guide will help you get started, but make sure you always remember to be creative and find out what works well for your business.

Did you find this guide helpful? Feel free to leave your questions, feedback, and suggestions in the comments section.


About the Author

Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.