The industry is waking up to the fact that emails need to be personalised and targeted in order to engage customers, but what does this really mean?

In a climate where companies send mass, generic emails to entire mailing lists on a regular basis, consumers have become deadened by indiscriminate email campaigns. This has resulted in very low open rates and tiny click through rates in some cases.

Why personalise?

Emails soon lose their power as customers become more and more frustrated by irrelevant and untimely content from bad practitioners. Most email marketing campaigns also lack the personal touch. They may put your Christian name in the welcome line, but both first time visitors and more loyal customers get sent the same information.

A targeted approach is the only real way to avoid damaging your company’s relationship with customers and to build brand loyalty. Some businesses that do send tailored, personalised emails also continue to send generic mass emails at the same time, undoing all the good work and disengaging customers with irrelevant content.

Email as a testing tool

It’s time for marketers to get smart with email marketing campaigns. If emails are properly targeted and engaging, not only will customers have an improved experience, but marketers will also benefit from having better visibility of what campaigns are most, or least, successful.

AB testing is the best way to discover which campaigns work, but with a scattergun approach to email marketing there is little point in collecting the data. Imagine, for instance, an e-commerce site wants to measure the effectiveness of its advertisements for women’s shoes.

The marketer will send out two emails, one with advertisement A, one with advertisement B, to see which is most effective at bringing customers to the site. However, if advertisement B is sent to a higher proportion of male customers than A, the results for that test will be skewed and therefore inaccurate as men will see the advertisement as irrelevant to them and ignore the email. Not only will this campaign provide unhelpful data, but the business also risks alienating the customers to whom the advertisement does not apply.

Saying the right thing at the right time to the right person…How to test your theory

This sounds really complex, but actually the new generation of cloud-based marketing automation tools out there can help make this quick, simple and effective.

Step 1 – Create a profile: Clearly identify and classify visitors by monitoring and remembering their behaviour. There are tools that let marketers automatically record visitors’ individual behaviours as part of a ‘customer history’ record.

Step 2 – Target:  The marketer can set up simple targeting ‘rules’ (one by one as needed) so, for example, a rule might say “target people who have looked at brand A more than 15 times”, “target visitors who have been visiting for 2 months but have not purchased” or “target visitors who have purchased but not for 3 months”. Then the marketer will communicate to the system what content they want to try on each segment (this might include a set of email variants or even content to show in the visitor’s web page or triggers to your telesales team).

Step 3 – See what works: Gathering this data on which content delivers the best results from this target segment (and the control group) is useful to marketers that then need to look at conversion rates, number of sale and, basket size to make their decision.

Step 4 – Repeat and love the engagement: Keep the process going, each time building into the targeting the additional behavioural information harvested from the visitors. Your system should also include functions to ensure customers aren’t repeatedly contacted with the same message or offer. This is important; otherwise customers will get wise and exploit the brand. For example, they will come to understand that if they abandon a basket one day, they will receive a discount the next – or will get frustrated when continually offered a deal they are not interested in, for example, a product they already purchased elsewhere.

Email is not enough

Having a first rate email campaign is great – we have examples of well-targeted campaigns that made almost 50 per cent of the people targeted purchase the promoted product. However, there’s more on offer than a single sale – you want customers to remain engaged at every part of their journey with your brand. Marketers should be looking to develop campaigns that integrate direct email marketing, banner advertisements, telesales and SEO so that all the channels work together.

By engaging the visitor at every stage, marketers can ensure that customers are not disappointed by their experience of the brand, either by confusing content or unnecessary adverts. The end goal is that the visitor’s experience will be easy, engaging and ultimately provide the visitor and the brand with exactly what they want.

Malcolm Duckett

Malcolm Duckett


Malcolm Duckett is Co-Founder of Magiq.