In The Air: Obstacles To Email Personalization

Most email marketers are using personalization despite many headaches, including a dearth of resources. Worse, many lack control of their web forms, the main vehicle for drawing email subscribers, according to the Email Marketing Personalization Report, a study by UK-based Holistic Email in partnership with Pure360.

Holistic Email surveyed 203 email marketers, mostly in the U.K., North America and Europe. The study serves as a snapshot of best practices—and worst.

To begin, 46% list email personalization as a top priority, with B2C marketers more likely to say it is (56%) than B2B (48%). Only 6% limit themselves to batch-and-blast email. 

But 35% say that personalization is merely “on the list—hopefully it will happen sometime.” Moreover, 18% aren’t actively personalizing.

Almost all—96%—wish they could improve email personalization. Yet it’s not clear if that reflects “the frustration of not having as much time and/or budget devoted to email marketing as the other channels, or whether it’s simply because they want to maximize conversions of an already successful channel,” the study states. 



Next on the improvement list are websites (66%), social media (40%) and display ads (28%). Finally, 20% want to better their game in push/mobile apps. 

What’s holding email marketers back? The main issues are lack of resources (62%), siloed data (32%), lack of budget (30%) and lack of know-how or expertise (26%). Moreover, 24% complain of too little data, and 10% wonder if it’s even worth the effort. 

Data? Here are the data points now fueling email personalization: 

  • Name—82%
  • Email behavior—56% 
  • Purchase history—41%
  • Recency of engagement—41%
  • Demographic data—39%
  • Geographic data—37%
  • Lifecycle stage—29%
  • Web behavior—28%
  • Personas—16%
  • Contextual data—12%

But few use most or all of these variables. Some 15% use one, 19% two and 17% rely on three. Only 9% go as high as seven. 

And they put this data to rudimentary use: 64% utilize it to personalize the recipient’s name, 61% the subject line, 49% the copy and 30% the products.

All that said, the biggest hurdle for email marketers may be web form ownership. The study notes that 24% of email teams own their web forms, vs. 24% of the web teams.

“This means that 24% of email teams, who are rewarded on growing the marketing database, aren’t in control of the main growth tool – the web forms,” the study states. 

That may explain why many newsletter signup forms end up on the bottom half of the home page, with most going into the footer, the study adds. 

Of the email teams that solely own their web forms, 73% say those forms drive the majority of their database growth, compared with 60% of the web teams.

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