Newsletter Marketing: Increase Sales with More Personalization

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Personalization has always been considered a panacea in the battle for customer attention. But how can personalization be used sensibly in email marketing? And what strategic considerations are necessary, also in terms of tool selection?

“Jonathan, we just added a docu-series you might like!” Netflix and Amazon Prime are leading the way, recommending series and movies to their users with personalized newsletters based on their previous consumption patterns. If new episodes of a favorite series have been added, or a movie that suits the customer’s tastes has been added to the repertoire, streaming customers are notified of this via newsletter marketing – often even in time during the day to plan their personal evening program.

However, what looks easy can actually mean hard work conceptually as well as technically and can quickly tip over from authentic communication into an embarrassing mass email.

No wonder many marketing departments are chasing the personalization trend rather than shaping it. But what exactly makes newsletter personalization so challenging? What level of customization is possible? And how much of it makes sense in which context?

Personalization generates attention and builds trust with the brand.

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Personalized emails are six times more likely to lead to transactions. Open rates increase by an average of 29 percent, click-through rates by 41 percent. Those who know how to personalize their newsletters wisely minimize the often high scattering losses of classic push marketing and can positively influence the most important key figures – open, click, conversion and unsubscribe rates.

A minimum level of personalization that every email should have is a personal salutation with the recipient’s first or last name. It is also possible to optimize the sending time. In this case, the mailing is extended over 24 hours.

Each subscriber receives the mailing at the optimum time calculated on the basis of their past openings. For example, someone who most frequently checks their emails at around seven in the morning will receive the mailing early in the morning. This ensures that the newsletter is displayed as high up in the inbox as possible.

Live content, which is not loaded until the actual opening, is also a useful means of customizing content to the recipient and thus attracting their attention. This includes location-based maps, social media feeds, or price and availability information.

Personalize: Yes! But what at all?

For a planned approach, the estimation of appropriate efforts and a comprehensible measurement of success, you should first ask yourself: What are the specific business objectives? How can a personalized email campaign contribute to achieving these goals? And what key figures can be used to measure the success of the measure?

Personalized emails are often used to increase conversions. Personalization based on gender is a classic in email marketing and is particularly common practice among fashion retailers. The occasion for such a mailing can also be a customer’s birthday, when he or she is provided with a discount code or a small gift in addition to the next order.

With the aim of expanding existing customer relationships and intensifying the service concept, companies can also personalize the sender’s address along with a suitable signature and, for example, add the personal signature and a photo of the individual customer advisor to event invitations or special offers.

To make the whole thing even more authentic and to make it as easy as possible for the customer to get in touch with the responsible contact person, the customer service representative’s email address can also be specified as the sender and reply-to address.

This is particularly suitable for companies that rely more on personal contact on site, such as web hosting companies. Such an individualized mailing requires neither in-depth data analysis nor extensive conception, but merely the relevant information from the customer database. This means it can also be implemented at very short notice.

Email campaigns are also often used to reactivate inactive customers or shopping cart abandoners. Reminder emails, possibly with a discount code, are suitable for this purpose. Such a mailing can be individually tailored to the recipient with reference to the last purchase or the last product viewed.

Above all, the combination with further product recommendations that correspond to the recipient’s buying behavior (“You might also like this”) increases the chance of customer reactivation. However, this requires a more complex integration of customer, purchase and product data.

To keep costs low, especially in the test phase of such mailings, senders should, for example, focus on selected product ranges with high margins and customers with a high average shopping cart value, instead of playing out the full range to all shopping cart abandoners individually. When it comes to personalization, quality outweighs quantity.

Another use case for personalized mailings is cross-selling and up-selling. Up-selling is when existing customers are offered a premium version or a more extensive option, for example. Cross-selling describes the sale of additional, supplementary services or products.

For example, follow-up emails a few days after dispatch (“We hope you are satisfied with your order?”) are suitable for cross-selling in order to draw attention to additional products and to encourage customers to buy again.

However, there are some hidden pitfalls here: The data basis for such a follow-up mailing should be well-considered and well-founded. A request to evaluate the product, for example, before the shipment has even been delivered, defeats its purpose. The same applies to asking about satisfaction when the goods have already been returned.

Email campaigns are also often used to reactivate inactive customers or shopping cart abandoners.

Reminder emails, possibly with a discount code, are suitable for this purpose. Such a mailing can be individually tailored to the recipient with reference to the last purchase or the last product viewed.

Above all, the combination with further product recommendations that correspond to the recipient’s buying behavior (“You might also like this”) increases the chance of customer reactivation. However, this requires a more complex integration of customer, purchase and product data.

To keep costs low, especially in the test phase of such mailings, senders should, for example, focus on selected product ranges with high margins and customers with a high average shopping cart value, instead of playing out the full range to all shopping cart abandoners individually. When it comes to personalization, quality outweighs quantity.

Another use case for personalized mailings is cross-selling and up-selling. Up-selling is when existing customers are offered a premium version or a more extensive option, for example.

Cross-selling describes the sale of additional, supplementary services or products. For example, follow-up emails a few days after dispatch (“We hope you are satisfied with your order?”) are suitable for cross-selling in order to draw attention to additional products and to encourage customers to buy again.

However, there are some hidden pitfalls here: The data basis for such a follow-up mailing should be well-considered and well-founded. A request to evaluate the product, for example, before the shipment has even been delivered, defeats its purpose. The same applies to asking about satisfaction when the goods have already been returned.

In addition to the goals to be addressed in the next few months with the help of personalized email marketing, it is also worth taking a look at the long-term corporate strategy.

What’s next in two, five, or ten years? Are there plans for internationalization? Should email marketing grow or should it merely follow routine tasks, such as transactional emails that are at least roughly customized to the recipients with little effort? Should the full potential of personalization beyond email marketing be exploited along the entire customer journey? Should the information from the customer interaction flow back and be available for further personalization? How can this data be visualized? All these decisions have an impact, both on investments in the existing system landscape and on the employees required and their corresponding skills.

Segmented data is necessary

The basis of successful personalization is good, segmented data. The more individual – and thus more promising – personalization is to be, the more extensive data sets are required. In addition to demographic data, this includes, for example, information on shopping cart abandonment, previous purchases, or recently viewed products.

These must be analyzed, maintained, updated and, if necessary, transferred between systems. Existing email templates may also have to be adapted to the new requirements.

However, you don’t necessarily need to go the whole hog to successfully implement newsletter personalization. Even on a small scale – but well thought out – an individualized campaign can be very effective. Anniversary reminders (“Remember? Exactly 365 days ago you made your first purchase from us!”), similar to what is known from Facebook, are for example an effective way to attract customers’ attention again.

Welcome campaigns for new subscribers are similarly easy to implement, for example by presenting special services offered by the company.

So before personalizing all mailing content, companies should pause for a moment and consider very carefully when and where, but above all to what extent and with what effort personalization actually makes sense for achieving their own corporate goals.

Which tool should it be?

The quality of personalization depends not only on the available data, but also on the resources or tools available for this purpose. Is the entry-level version sufficient or would it be better to invest in an enterprise solution? Is a fully integrated marketing automation system even worthwhile? How much work can your own marketing team do? Is it possible to increase the number of staff?

Companies should be aware that with an entry-level solution, even with a high level of personnel effort, only part of what is possible with a fully integrated marketing automation system can be achieved.

However, even with a high degree of automation, human support cannot be completely dispensed with. The development of the ideas and strategies that must precede each email campaign is still the responsibility of the employees. For them, however, depending on the feature variety of the solution used, various routine tasks and process steps are eliminated, which in turn gives them more time for planning and measuring the success of the individual mailings.

In any case, the creation of different mailing versions reaches its limits as soon as the personalization of the content is no longer based on manageable categories such as age and gender and the assumptions of statistical evaluations based on these (female customers between the ages of 18 and 30 are often interested in product XY), but is based on the actual previous customer interaction.

The more information is used for personalization, the smaller the segments become and the more one moves in the direction of one-to-one communication. This can hardly be mastered without automation.

With the help of a marketing automation system, for example, very complex rules can be created for the content elements that are played out. Based on these, a content block is only displayed to the recipient if the corresponding conditions are met. For example, customers who are part of a bonus program will have the individual status of their bonus points displayed in the mailing.

Customers who are not yet part of the program, on the other hand, receive a teaser instead that refers to the benefits of the program and links to a suitable landing page. But even entry-level email marketing vendors have recognized the need and are increasingly offering features with a customer-centric approach, such as dynamic content, personalized recommendations, landing pages and web forms.

Excellent personalization across all customer touchpoints can be solved with both a best-of-breed and a best-of-suite approach. Best-of-breed usually means tailoring the system landscape more individually to the needs of the business. However, the success of a personalized campaign depends on a smooth transfer of data between systems. In a best-of-suite solution, this exchange is easier to ensure.

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Which system fits the existing system landscape and the company’s goals cannot, therefore, be answered in a blanket manner. Supposed entry-level softwares, such as Constant contact, Convertkit, or omnisend¬†are easily able to connect to a variety of CRM and storage systems in the API age.

They are also approaching enterprise solutions in terms of feature diversity, although content and dispatch time optimization using artificial intelligence are killer features of selected enterprise and marketing cloud solutions for the time being. Large vendors such as Inxmail, Emarsys, Adobe, and Salesforce most noticeably differentiate themselves from the entry-level competition in rate and support models.

Costs for shipping volume overage, features outside the basic setup, API usage, training, and support can quickly add up to sums on par with licensing fees in the enterprise segment.

Conclusion

Personalized newsletter marketing benefit first and foremost those who know their customers best and can present them with offers that actually match their individual preferences. This type of personalization requires extensive data sets and analysis.

But beware, for some, a high degree of personalization can be off-putting and thus miss the original goals – long-term customer loyalty and increased trust – to the maximum.

Other customers, on the other hand, enjoy the convenient user experience of tailored recommendations. Marketers are walking a fine line here between successfully addressing customers and suing them, especially against the backdrop of the GDPR.

However, targeted personalization also incurs costs. Necessary financial and personnel expenses can quickly cancel out the efficiency gain. In particular, the initial outlay for system integration and the internal process adjustments that are often necessary only pay off in the long term.

Farsightedness is rewarded here, also with regard to future customer interaction. What happens after email marketing personalization has been successful? Effective newsletter marketing personalization raises the recipient’s expectations for further points of interaction.

Disappointing them during the customer journey would undo the previous efforts. From personalized landing pages and product displays to individualized search and menu bars, there are several ways to keep the user experience at a high level.

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