Be Your Subscribers' Best Friend: Design for Dynamic Content

  • by May 12, 2009
Imagine how strong your brand's relationship with subscribers could be if you knew each one intimately and could send personal emails to all of them. So far, the closest you can get to this email inbox utopia is to construct dynamic messages based on your subscribers' unique interests.

First, determine your technical capabilities and the available touchpoints from which to gather subscriber data. We never recommend requiring subscribers to give you more than the essentials at sign-up, but including optional profile questions at sign-up and/or linking to a profile center in your welcome message is a smart way to begin gathering info.

Envision dynamic messaging opportunities as you construct your creative template libraries. Design in such a way that you can switch dynamic content in and out with minimal labor, and plan alternative messaging options for subscribers whose info you don't have.

Below are some popular and effective ways that brands leverage customer information to provide dynamic email experiences:



Tailoring Messages to Locale: Gathering zip codes at sign-up allows you to include localized info about special offerings or store events. For travel- or events-focused email programs, like that of TicketsWest, it makes sense to construct templates that can be filled in with entirely locale-specific content. For other brands like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn Kids, adding dynamic info about store locations or events is effective.

Leveraging Preference Center Information: By inviting subscribers to fill out a profile -- and, again, we recommend that you make this optional, rather than required for sign-up -- you can gather the data you need to send very targeted, relevant content.

When a subscriber joins Sephora's "Beauty Insider" program, she (or he, but probably mostly she) fills out several minutes' worth of questions, but Sephora makes it worth her time by delivering messages that really respond to her unique needs and interests.

Those who join the AllRecipes email list have the option to choose favorite cuisines, and AllRecipes will include a recipe that responds to these preferences in each email (i.e. "Your Vegetarian Option").

Keep in mind that if you ask subscribers for information in a preference center, they expect you to use it in a way that benefits them. Don't ask for information that you can't use.

Messaging Based on Shopping is well known for messaging based on shopper history (though it offers preference center questions as well). Its clean template designs make it simple to customize the content to match subscriber interests.

Following Up with Browsing History: Even when subscribers haven't bought in the past, you can message based on their browsing history. After seeing that I looked at Taylor Swift tickets (don't laugh until you've heard her -- she rocks!) StubHubsent me this message to let me know that Taylor tickets were still available. If subscribers are logged in, you can also message based on "Abandoned Carts."

Send these sorts of triggered message quickly, when subscribers are still considering buying the product.

Responding to Activity Level: If subscribers have been inactive over a long period of time, they probably need a little extra email love. Pottery Barn recently sent an email with a dynamic banner for inactive subscribers, letting subscribers know that they were missed and offering a special shopping discount. Conversely, it's always good to reward your active subscribers with special offers as well, to keep their relationship with your brand strong.

Remember to keep dynamic designing as simple for yourself as possible. Construct your template library from interchangeable modules that can be easily pulled into a range of combinations, and leverage the data that you already have to build stronger inbox experiences.

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