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The New Rules of Email Personalization

Posted by Kirsten Onsgard

April 02, 2018

New Rules Email PersonalizationGeneric email marketing messages are no longer enough — or even acceptable.

In the People-Based Marketing era, your customers expect more: high-quality, hyper-personalized, concierge service from your brand. Today, they expect email marketing that’s relevant, useful and tailored.

So what’s changed over the years?

For one, customers are more in control than ever before. They are armed with knowledge about your brand and its products before talking with a salesperson or shopping.

Customers are also everywhere: in stores, online, on social media, on mobile and in the inbox. Their buying journey skips across all of these channels. Brands are challenged with connecting these activities and matching identities across channels — plus translating that into relevant email marketing messages.

But marketers are also armed: they have big data, powerful automation and artificial intelligence. All of these capabilities have allowed zeitgeisty companies like Amazon and Google to stand out from the competition with personalized experiences for their customers.

It’s time for all email marketers to keep up.

Here are the 4 new rules of email personalization.

Rule #1: Email Personalization is No Longer Optional

Service and experience are key to winning customers and earning loyalty. Three-quarters of U.S. adults said that valuing their time is the most important thing a brand can do. No wonder customer experience is expected to be more important to customers than price or product quality by 2020.

Successful brands will engage customers with personalized email communications. Ignoring email personalization is no longer an option.

Customers expect brands to know and anticipate their needs, and respond accordingly, according to Salesforce. Brands must provide humanized, personal, consistent and empathic service.

For email marketers, personalization has a big payoff. Personalized emails stand out and see higher click-through rates, wowing customers and driving sales.  

Rule #2: Email Personalization Goes Beyond the First Name

Hi [First Name].

It’s a nice touch — but not enough to stand out in a crowded inbox. Customers expect brands to value their business, and demand to be treated as a person, not just a name on a list.

Providing concierge service in an email requires time, data and leveraging marketing automation technology.

Personalization tactics include segmenting your list and deploying targeted campaigns for each gender, age group, location or buyer persona. Current customers could also be sent reminder emails, product recommendations, birthday offers or refill notices.

Dynamic content also allows marketers to leverage data and behavior to create targeted messages. 

The payoff? More relevant content delivered to the customer at the right time in their customer journey.

Rule #3: Email Personalization is Helpful

Leveraging data and marketing technology is only useful if it’s for a purpose. When it comes to personalization, that purpose is creating relevant, engaging and empathetic messages for customers.

Customers simply won’t engage with irrelevant email marketing content. Every email should have a clear purpose that is tailored to your customer.

Empathize with your customer and put yourself in their shoes: Customers interested in men’s sportswear didn’t ask for content about baby clothes. Longtime customers do not need basic information about how to use your service.

What is useful? What would you want to open? And how can your brand’s personalized email marketing be more relevant to your customers?

Rule #4: Email Personalization Needs Complete Data

Personalized email marketing hinges on strong data. To provide the best service for their customers, brands must collect data at every customer touchpoint, fill in their data gaps with third-party data and connect these datasets.

Your customers are willing to give you more information in exchange for better service — so collect it, and use it to their benefit.


To effectively personalize, a brand’s customer data must be robust and complete. Adding demographic, purchase intent, life stage and other data assets can mean the difference between bland content and email marketing that makes a great impression from first touch to purchase.

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Topics: Email Marketing, Email Intelligence, Personalization

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