Custom, dynamic email is giving marketers and readers what they want: hyper-personalized messages
How do we reach hyper-personalization? Columnist Scott Heimes believes building an email-based app, along with great content and timing, is key to earning email readers' loyalty.
For years, email marketing has been circling around an ideal center without ever reaching it. That center has become known as “hyper-personalization.” Yes, the sought-after email “segment of one,” the email marketer’s Holy Grail — the perfect email campaign. Call it what you will, but hyper-personalization is now the gravitational center of email marketing, and we’re traveling toward it, fast.
Still, we have a long way to go before we as marketers reach the segment of one. And even after we hit it, we still need the means of standing out from the crowd.
That means good, personalized content. That’s right: hyper-personalization — where we know what motivates a recipient, why they choose to purchase, what they choose to purchase and more — will still depend on stellar content to stand out from other hyper-personalized messages.
Thankfully, we have the materials we need today to cater to our readers’ whims. Those materials are our data — little bits of information on past behaviors, intent and more — that we can use to capture eyes and clicks.
Used well, this data can take any marketer far. It all comes down to two things: your relevancy and where you build your apps. Here’s why:
The right time and right place
Two things are critical in any email marketing campaign: great content and timing. Combined, we call this “relevance,” and it’s not as hard to achieve as many would assume.
My go-to example of great, relevant email marketing is Bandsintown (disclosure: client), a service that helps users track tours of their favorite bands and music artists. When a user’s favored band is in town, the service sends out a notice over push, SMS and email. These notifications alert users of new releases, upcoming nearby shows (well before they’re in town), similar artists playing shows nearby and options for ticket purchases.
Bandsintown uses email as the core communication channel and sends an astounding 50 million emails each month. But it’s not the quantity that counts, it’s the quality. Bandsintown is highly relevant to its audience and responds directly to its audience’s preferences, right down to the individual level. These insights enable the service to further personalize its messages to meet a reader’s preferred format — like mobile emails.
The service’s success stems from two important factors: its ability to deliver great content that captures the interest of its audience and its timing — before a music artist comes to town. The message’s relevancy, then, makes it stand out.
This “high relevancy” isn’t exclusive to the entertainment industry. Retailers are more than capable of alerting their audiences to events, like holidays or sudden inclement weather. This can give retailers an edge, enabling them to send out local “flash sales” on shovels or umbrellas as needed.
Build your app in email
Building an email-based app has a lot of advantages over building a device-centric app. For one, it’s far easier, and less expensive, to collect a user’s email than it is to convince a user to download a device app.
For another, it’s now easy to build micro-apps within emails, such as shopping carts and more, thanks to the advent of CSS3. Best yet, these email micro-apps are relatively inexpensive to create, with the right design and development team.
This gives both the marketer and the user what they want: user-driven interaction that informs, engages and caters to the customer. Done well, marketers won’t have to figure out how to design and perfect an email — user engagement will do that. And users, hopefully, won’t have to jump from email to website or email to application to place an order. These email-based micro-apps give the granular data marketers want with near-hyper personalization that users will engage with.
Personalization in email marketing is now — or at least should be — the acting standard among marketers today. Customizing content to a person’s preferences, including products or services that accommodate what they’ve purchased before and emailing at their preferred cadence, is no longer unique.
It will still be a long while until we reach hyper-personalization, but small steps can take us a long way. Even if an organization can’t deploy sophisticated email campaigns, they can still take timely personalized steps — like designing for mobile or including relevant GIFs — that can be tested for engagement against control groups. As always, have fun and happy segmenting — even if it’s a segment of one.