The Evolution of Personalisation
Email marketing has come a long way since the first crude spam messages that flooded inboxes in the 1990s. Today's savvy marketers understand the power of hyper-personalisation and segmentation to cut through the noise and create meaningful connections with customers.
The early days of email marketing involved blasting the same generic messages out to every person on a list. Open and clickthrough rates tended to be dismal, with most people hitting delete or unsubscribe at the first opportunity. However, as technology advanced, marketers realised they could do better by tailoring content to specific segments and individuals.
The advent of merge tags allowed for simple personalisation like adding the recipient's first name to subject lines and greetings. This small touch made emails feel less robotic, though the content itself remained identical for all users. Next came basic segmentation, dividing subscribers by location, interests, purchase history and more. Sending targeted content to each group improved relevance and engagement.
But modern personalisation goes far beyond these early efforts. Sophisticated marketing automation and CRM platforms enable advanced segmentation and dynamic content tailored down to the individual. AI and machine learning help generate the right message for the right person at the right time. The result is a hyper-personalised experience that makes each subscriber feel valued, not just part of an anonymous bulk email blast.
Let's explore some of the techniques and technologies powering next-level personalisation and how they can transform email marketing ROI.
Techniques: Advanced Segmentation and Targeting
👉 Behavioral Segmentation: Group subscribers by their on-site behaviors like page views, downloads, content interests, shopping cart abandonment and purchases. Send content that speaks to what they've already shown interest in.
👉 Customer Lifecycle: Develop canned journeys mapping to the subscriber lifecycle, such as welcome series, re-engagement flows, and win-back campaigns. New users get relevant onboarding while inactive ones get promotions to reactivate them.
👉 Demographic: Divide by data points like location, age, gender, job title and more for tailored messaging. For B2B, target by company size, industry, technologies used and role.
👉 Purchase History: Segment by purchase recency, frequency, monetary value and specific products bought. Send usage tips, cross-sells, replenishment reminders and VIP rewards.
👉 Predictive: Use machine learning to determine each subscriber's likely interests and behaviors. Send content tailored to their predicted preferences.
👉 Event-Triggered: Set up campaigns based around key events like purchases, abandoned carts, subscribed, unsubscribed, opened an email, clicked a link, etc.
👉 Dynamic Content: Vary message content in real-time based on subscriber data and behavior. Examples are personalized product recommendations or segments of different test campaigns.
👉 Transactional Triggers: Send one-to-one emails based on transactions like purchases, support tickets, downloads, etc. Include order confirmations, receipts, troubleshooting tips, usage instructions etc.
Implementing advanced segmentation takes time and effort. Begin by auditing your data to see what subscriber details are captured. Identify missing information that could be used to refine targeting. Also evaluate past campaign performance by segment to determine optimal groupings.
Look for a platform with robust segmentation options or API connectivity to integrate with other data sources like CRM or analytics platforms. Put in place lead flows and data tracking to automatically update user profiles. Keep segments organized and well-documented. Test continually to identify the combinations that drive the highest engagement.
Benefits: Enhancing User Experience and ROI
✅ Increased Relevance: Content precisely matched to each subscriber's needs and interests feels valuable rather than intrusive. They pay more attention rather than tuning it out.
✅ Improved Engagement: Segmenting by behaviors sees major lifts in open and click rates. People engage more with content tailored to them.
✅ Timely Interactions: Event-triggered and transactional emails send the right message at the precise moment its needed, when impact is highest.
✅ Deeper Relationships: One-to-one personalisation at scale makes subscribers feel understood and catered to. This builds loyalty and trust over time.
✅ Higher Conversions: Individualised content that speaks directly to where users are in their journey converts better than one-size-fits-all messages.
✅ Better Insights: Detailed segmentation provides a clearer picture of who your subscribers are and what resonates best with each group.
✅ Increased ROI: All of the above combines into significant ROI gains. Well-executed personalisation can deliver 600%+ increases in revenue per email.
A real-world example comes from a major airline. By segmenting subscribers based on travel preferences and purchase history, they delivered different promotions tailored to four groups: frequent business travelers, leisure travelers, price-sensitive customers, and high-end customers.
Compared to generalized emails sent to all users, open rates increased by 15-30% and clickthrough rates doubled across every segmented group. But the biggest impact was on conversion and revenue. The personalized content drove 25-50% increases in booking rates per campaign. For a major brand already sending millions of emails annually, lifts of this magnitude are game-changing.
Personalisation Success Stories
Online fashion retailer Stitch Fix built an algorithm that curates personalized product recommendations for each user based on their style profile and purchase data. This hyper-personalized approach underpins their business model. In A/B tests, algorithmic product suggestions double their conversion rate over editor-curated content.
Streaming platform Netflix surfaces one-to-one recommendations based on each subscriber's viewing history, ratings and interactions. This drives 75% of watch time and new signups. Recommendations also have 3-4X higher engagement than promoted content.
Cosmetics brand Sephora uses a comprehensive segmentation strategy across email, on-site messaging and push notifications. Targeting by behaviors like product browsing has increased email revenue by 6-10%. Event triggers following purchases drive 30% engagement on confirmation emails.
Meghan Kavanaugh, VP of Consumer Marketing at e-commerce platform ASOS reported: “If we completely personalized an email, making sure that every product, every image and every piece of content is unique to them, we can improve revenue per sender by about 600%.”
Business magazine Inc. created 50 content clusters based on subscriber interests. Sending targeted content raised open rates to 32.7% compared to 23.5% for their general subscriber base. Clickthroughs also doubled.
Software company Intercom found that triggering real-time messages based on user behaviors generated response rates 6 times higher than bulk, batch campaign sends.
The data clearly shows that taking personalisation efforts to the next level provides tangible business benefits. The challenge is having the marketing technology infrastructure to make this level of customisation manageable long-term.
The Future of Tailored Emails
Advanced personalisation is the present and future of email marketing. The costs of computing power and data storage continue to drop as machine learning capabilities grow more sophisticated. Together, this means hyper-relevant 1:1 messaging at scale is here to stay.
Looking ahead, we can expect:
Email platforms with built-in predictive segmentation to remove the data science heavy lifting;
Tighter integration between email, website and CRM data for unified customer profiles;
AI generated content customized down to the individual level;
Next-best-action recommendations based on each user's immediate context;
Lifecycle personalisation mapped to “jobs” customers want to get done;
Internet of Things enabling personalisation via connected devices;
More brands competing on level of personalisation as a differentiator;
The bottom line is that high-volume, spray-and-pray email marketing is officially dead. The future belongs to those who evolve beyond basic personalisation to provide subscribers with truly tailored, hyper-personalized experiences. With the right approach, such experiences are not just possible but scalable using today’s automation and AI capabilities. The business impacts speak for themselves—it's time to start using personalisation to transform email ROI.
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