The Email Edge: A Touch of Personalization

Pundits would have you believe that personalization works for everyone, but many companies are stymied by it. Some would rather not try it than risk doing it badly. Still, it’s worth the time when they get it right, judging by a study of 131 marketers published today by Monetate.

The case for personalization starts with the bottom line. Of the firms that generated three-times the return on investment (ROI) with personalization, 95% increased their profits last year (compared with 77% that achieved two-times the ROI and 63% that achieved 1%), Monetate reports.   

Firms that exceed their revenue goals use personalization in triggered emails 78% of the time, outpacing those that don't. And of the data sources that help place customers into context, email is tops, followed by mobile actions, web site behavior and purchase history.

In a more general way, companies that exceed their expectations share several traits. For example, they have measurement systems, documented strategies and financial incentives. But they don’t necessarily add staff to conduct personalization.   



Don’t think any of this is easy. “The data suggests that while companies are embracing the idea of personalization (which provides marketers with the ability to interact with each individual, at any moment, across all touchpoints), they remain challenged with it for a number of reasons,” Monetate’s CMO Maribeth Ross, wrote in an email.  “In fact, our study showed only six percent of organizations consider themselves advanced in implementing their personalization strategy.”

What’s holding them back? Of those polled, 91% cite organizational constraints and silos. And 79% have trouble automating at scale. They are also challenged by getting a full view of the customer, and by data quality issues.

Email plays its role, though, and is “an important component of the personalization process,” Ross says. "Our survey showed that 8% of organizations across all levels of maturity are using email to support personalization efforts. Additionally, 60 percent of respondents are using data to inform which individuals get emails and when, and 55 percent are sending triggered emails on abandoned cart and browse activity.”

However, these data sources are outweighed by lookalike advertising engines (87%), in-store customer service tied to digital channel behavior (83%), and by real-time chat, product recommendation engines and offline analytics.

And what about tactical mistakes? For starters, consumers have gotten inured to emails that appear to be personalized but are “actually targeted at a larger audience,” writes Jim Dicso, CEO of  Sunday Sky, in an article on Marketing Land.

“This, of course, is not personalization at all,” Dicso argues. “It’s segmentation — aiming content at an entire segment of your customers. You’re not fooling anyone when you send a so-called personal email that has the recipient’s name at the top but is otherwise generically worded for people aged 18 to 48.”

And it doesn’t pay to send a simple birthday greeting when you could just as well offer something of value. T. Rowe Price sends “a birthday email for participants in its 529 savings plans,” Dicso adds. “This video-enabled personalized message does wish the beneficiary a happy birthday, but it also talks about contributing to the child’s college savings and includes details relevant to the child’s age, supporting a wider initiative of educating customers on how to save more money.

So who’s doing a good job? While the Monetate survey did not address verticals, Ross said that those poised to succeed with personalization include B2C categories like “traditional ecommerce and retail, travel/hospitality and entertainment.” The point? They want to deliver “seamless, individualized and pleasing experiences to their customers,” she concluded.


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