Ask the Email Expert: Creating Personalization in Email

To help marketers make the most of their email marketing campaigns, we created the “Ask an Email Expert” series where we sat down with Zeta’s email experts to get their time-proven tips and tricks on how to create engaging, revenue-producing campaigns. In this edition, we speak with Caroline Droessler, Senior Director of Strategy, to learn more about how to kick-start hyper-personalized email campaigns that speak to each customer on an individual level.

Personalization is one of my favorite topics. I’m obsessed with creating better customer experiences that are backed by data and measurement. Personalization, in my personal opinion, is the perfect blend of it all. 

A very common problem for clients when it comes to personalization is where they should start. When thinking about where, or how, to implement personalization it’s important to ensure that whatever you’re doing is creating value across each step within your campaigns. The best way for brands to create value for customers is through the utilization of high-powered customer data. Here are a few examples I love of how brands do this well: 

  1. My dinner reservation – Emails with the date, time, address, and even the phone number that I’d likely need to call if I’m running late. Not to mention, reminders by SMS the day before my reservation with a simultaneous email. These are not just effective ways to engage with me, they’re also wanted pieces of communication that improve my experience. OpenTable, I see you.
  2. My apparel purchases – When it comes to shoes I’m usually fashion over function, but the opposite is true whenever I turn to running to clear my mind. Running shoes are a product that I need more than I want. Recently, I found myself perusing websites looking for the right type of running shoe. I even went as far as adding a pair to my cart, but with the sticker price I immediately abandoned ship. I’m unfazed by the price tag on my 10th pair of black stilettos, but running shoes at that price… full stop.  Finish Line knew exactly how to crack my code. Three weeks after abandoning my forlorn sneakers to the empty shopping cart in the ether, I received an email that convinced me to complete my purchase. 

Although unimpressed on the first open, they hooked me by deploying the most powerful four-letter word in a shopaholic’s lexicon: “You left these in your cart, and now they’re on SALE.”

Another bullseye example of this comes from a well-known big box retailer. One night, while sitting on the couch, they threatened me with a message reading, “the deal in your cart ends tomorrow.” What was their goal? Should I be more impressed or embarrassed that this brand has the ability to convince me to impulse buy even when I’m in this setting? Bravo…I guess.

When brands leverage personalization it shouldn’t feel invasive or creepy, but rather seamless. The focus should only be on the data points that create value for customers. As much as I love data and know the importance of data collection there is nothing more annoying than long preference centers that are collecting just to collect. In other words, if a brand doesn’t use consumer data to improve the user experience, then it’s all an inconvenient waste of time for both parties involved.  Be thoughtful about the data you collect, then create a plan for how that delivers a more valuable experience and everyone wins.

Speaking of, let’s talk about an instance where a brand got personalization right. 

I’ve been consulting with a travel destination marketing organization (DMO) on how we can use data to create a better experience for their audience. They conduct tasteful data collection, but it only provides coverage for a fraction of their audience.

In response, we placed Zeta’s pixel on their website which allows us to identify all site visitors (known and anonymous). We also placed tags on their website at the category and article level. This allows us to capture browsing data that rolls up to things like a category interest or a specific article that individual was viewing.

We didn’t stop there. We tapped into Zeta’s Data Cloud, which unlocks behavioral interests, transactions, and location visits at the individual level for well over 225M people in the US. These insights covered 97% of their subscribers, allowing us to see what their audience was doing outside the brand.

With this in our back pocket, we were able to use these three data sources to curate an audience who showed an interest in “road trips.”

  • Collected Survey Data
  • Web Browse Data
  • Zeta’s Data Cloud Enriched Data

This data trifecta delivered some impressive results, including: 

  • 162% lift in open rates and 766% lift in click-through-rates when targeting an audience with data-driven personalization in email, compared to non-targeted, batch-and-blast emails. 
  • 27%+ lift in out-of-state subscribers taking a trip who received a personalized email, vs. non-personalized batch-and-blast emails.

Understanding who your customers are and what motivates them is what allows you to build a relationship and generate action. It enables you to migrate away from a generalized batch-and-blast approach to become hyper-individualized in your communication. Talking to them and not at them can make all the difference in your comms strategy.

To recap, here are some key takeaways:

  • Only collect the data you need and use it to create added value.
  • Use insights in how that customer behaves to personalize with the right motivator that will get them to convert.
  • Include multiple data sources to enhance your targeting and create personalization that engages your audience. 

Now sit back and watch your program grow. 

Check out more information about how Zeta can help you take charge of your email campaigns here, or speak to one of our experts today for an in-depth analysis today.


Thanks for your interest in Zeta. To see a demo please complete the form.

Thank you!

Your request has been sent. We will be in touch with you shortly.