How to use A/B tests to improve your email campaigns every week

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Personalized emails will make your customers even happier

Customer.io email campaign customer personalization

Have you ever walked into your favorite store or restaurant and a member of the staff immediately recognized you? Imagine they said something like “Hey Sofia, we just got in a great hat that will go with the coat you bought last month!”

It would be a pretty surprising feeling, right?

We’re used to wandering anonymously through the world. However, if we’re offered useful information based on our likes… well that would be pretty handy.

It’s possible to provide this kind of personalized experience with email marketing. You’ll need to plan ahead and collect some information first, but then away you go.

If the idea of including a personal touch in your emails isn’t enough to make you want to start, take a look at a recent study from Experian. They found that personalized emails had 29 percent higher open rates and 41 percent higher click rates than emails without any personalization.

Sending a highly targeted, well-personalized email can increase your opens and clicks, drive conversion rates higher, and deliver some serious value to your users.

What’s not to like?

How to use data to personalize your emails

Okay, so you’re sold. You want to start modifying your email content based on your user’s wants and needs. How do you get started?

Collect Data

The first thing you want to do is make sure you’re collecting user attributes and/or user actions. This could mean something as simple as adding a “Name” field when people sign up (or in a profile screen). Here are some other things you could ask for:

  • Name (first and last)
  • Location
  • Birthday
  • Favorite Color (or animal, or any favorite)
  • Interests (products, areas you email about, etc)

Alternatively, you can go a little deeper and store any applicable data you’re collecting. This could be something like what your user last purchased or what they’ve searched for.

If you want to know how to collect that data in Customer.io check out our integration information.

Use personalized information to benefit users

Before you go hog wild with personalization, you’ll want to consider what details you’re going to include in your emails. There is a fine line between helpful and creepy when it comes to personalized emails, and you don’t want to step over that line.

Adding a user’s name is generally a safe first step (more on that later). However, customizing everything based on what a user just searched for could quickly set you on the path to becoming Big Brother.

Take Amazon for example. Amazon is well known for their awesome email personalization but even they have crossed the creepy line and regretted it. If a giant like Amazon can take personalization a step too far, it’s a good warning to think carefully about your user’s privacy.

What benefit does your personalization offer users? If you’re throwing in personalization just because you can, that’s not good enough. Give your users something valuable based on their past purchases or preferences.

Think about your specific content as it relates to your product. If you sell something users could be sensitive about, adding information about past purchases or searches could be inappropriate or off-putting. If you’re selling T-shirts, you’re probably safe.

Think about our fictional Sofia above. The store staff remembered her name and her last purchase, and then they used that to point her to coordinating products. The “wow” moment wasn’t so much because of the personalization, it was how useful the suggestion was.

Ultimately, how you personalize your emails will depend on what information you collect and how you can use it to benefit your users.

Check your data to use a name correctly and powerfully

The first step most companies take is including a user’s name in their email, but even then you want to be careful. The research on using names in emails is a bit mixed: Experian’s research showed a 26% boost in open rates when the subject line was personalized with the user’s first name, but research done by Temple University shows the opposite, with users being less likely to respond when their name is used.

Why the conflict? A name done right is powerful, but so often they go wrong (old names, incomplete names, misspelled names, etc).

When you’re personalizing with names, you want to be very careful about the data you’re collecting. You might want to manually skim through your recent user additions to make sure nothing looks off. If someone added NO!zzzzhha as their name, you might want to just delete it rather than risk sending an email with “Hi NO!zzzzhha!” Spending a little bit of time to make sure your data is clean can pay off big in the long run.

In addition, we recommend adding logic whenever you can, to make sure details make sense and look truly personal–not automated. One tip, if you have a mix of capitalized names and ones that aren’t is to force capitalization.

For example, in Customer.io you can automatically capitalize names by adding a “| capitalize” filter to your Liquid ({{ customer.first_name}} would become {{ customer.first_name | capitalize }}). Sending an email that starts with “Hi Ruxin,” looks much more professional than “Hi ruxin,”.

If you’re not using Customer.io to send your emails, check with your email provider and see if they have any tricks for standardizing your data before you add personalization.

If you’re in doubt about the validity of any of your data, just skip it. It’s better to be impersonal than blatantly incorrect.

Personalize with related content to engage users

Once you’ve dipped a toe in the personalization waters, there are many ways to get more advanced. Consider including information about what a user recently searched for or updates to items on their wish list.

What if you had just sold someone a killer new T-shirt? Consider sending them an email pointing out accessories or other clothing items that would coordinate with their new tee.

Personalizing with related items can have a big payoff. A study from Temple University found that when customers are directed to products that their past purchases suggest they’d like, it triggered positive feelings in 98 percent of customers. Positive feelings equal more sales. Who doesn’t like that?

Not ready to take that large of a leap? How about starting with something smaller? Let’s say you’re handling communications for a children’s sports league. Every email you send is letting the children and their parents know when games are scheduled or specific steps that the parents need to take before their child can play.

Generic Sports League

While you can send everyone the same generic email above, what if instead you only showed information relevant to them? You could tell them when their games are scheduled or let them know about registration steps they still need to complete.

Personalized Sports League

Personalized design adds a fun, unique touch to your emails

Don’t just think about personalization when it comes to your content, consider personalizing your design as well. Remember the suggestion of asking a “favorite color” above? You could have some fun with that and incorporate a user’s favorite color in the emails you send them. Changing your email’s color based on a user’s like might tip away from being a direct benefit for the user, but it’s still a fun touch.

Or take our sports league example from above. The standard blue header could be changed to be the team’s colors, all with a little bit of personalization in your email.

The Bears!

If you’re using Customer.io, you can add some if/else tags to your layout. For example:

{% if customer.team == 'Bears' %}
<img src="http://www.mydomain.com/teams/bearsheader.png">
{% elsif customer.team == 'Giraffes' %}
<img src="http://www.mydomain.com/teams/giraffeheader.png">
{% else %}
<img src="http://www.mydomain.com/teams/default_header.png">
{% endif %}

Don’t forget to test along the way

Not to put a damper on the personalization party, but before leaping into the deep end, we recommend taking small steps and testing as you go. Adding varying types of personalization is a great thing to A/B test.

Choose something simple and see how your users respond. Maybe your users will fall into the group who happily opens emails when their name is included rather than the group who finds it off-putting. You won’t know until you try it out.

Personalization sparks positive feelings in your users. Positive feelings make them more likely to stick around and think about your company favorably. Personalization can also drive more purchases and conversions, because you’re using it to send relevant content to the right person at the right time. It’s a bit of work to get started, but the payoff is worth it!

Try it out, see how your users respond.

Are you doing anything great with personalization that you want to brag about? Hung up on the right tactic to use or how to collect user data? Have you seen any really awesome T-shirt designs recently? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Happy Emailing!

P.S. Want to start personalizing your Customer.io emails? We have a help doc explaining how to personalize your emails with Liquid.

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