What NOT To Do With Email Personalization

Brands today are looking to create a more relevant experience for their customers. Doing so means relying heavily on accurate data. But not all data is created equal.

Over the years, I have experienced my fair share of email content with misinformation: incorrect birthdays, incorrect first name and even wildly wrong product purchases when a brand is following up with cross-sell/up-sell messages. I’m sure we have all seen this problem.  But sometimes it’s just so wrong that one’s loyalty is called into question.

I will not be sharing the name of the brand, as I have reached out to them directly -- but I thought this was a good story to share with Email Insider readers. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, my husband received an email in an inbox that both he and I share, using as a catchall address that we can both easily give to brands. Very frequently I will see email in there that I know I didn’t subscribe for, but will assume he did – and vice versa. So when he saw the following email, he had questions:

Subject Line: Give Kara a Gift She Will Remember

Headline: Mike, give the perfect gift Kara will remember forever!

Dynamic Image: A heart pendant that said “Kara” on one side and “Mike” on the other.

Now this would have been pretty impressive -- except that my husband’s name is Marko.

I know a lot about data and how it works, so I have a pretty good idea how this mistake happened. Household information was appended to one of our data records, not validated and blindly applied as accurate personalization.

For the record, “Mike” is the Americanized name my father-in-law (who lives with us) uses in most situations. But not everyone knows this. Thankfully, my husband has heard stories of mis-applied information from me over the years, and he knew it was a data flaw.

When I shared this story with some of my friends, they said they had seen similar instances of emails like this using the wrong woman’s name – which led them to be truly suspicious of their husband for quite some time.

If you, as a brand, are going to leverage householding information, and/or appending data to a customer record, it is critical to validate that the information is accurate. When you cannot validate, be very wary of using it – especially in such a blatant and obvious way.


1 comment about "What NOT To Do With Email Personalization".
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  1. kevin lee from Didit / eMarketing Association / Giving Forward, April 25, 2015 at 10:57 a.m.

    Great story.  The even broader lesson is that marekters should understand the accuracy of appended data is suspect in many cases.  Don't assume that data to be certain and make marketing decisions on it that are irreverable (purge from list, etc.)

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