Email Marketing: 5 test ideas for personalizing your email campaigns


Personalization is not new to email marketing; but has it lost some of its appeal with marketers?

Only 36% of marketers said they dynamically personalize email content using first names in subject lines and geo-location, according to the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. The report also revealed that only 37% of marketers segment email campaigns based on behavior.

However, marketers from various industries have seen incredible success with personalization. I dove into the library of MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments’ sister company, to find out how marketers have used both tried-and-true personalization tactics and innovative, tech-savvy strategies to better engage their customers and email audience.

No tactic or strategy is foolproof, so we suggest using these campaign tactics as testing ideas to see what works with your audience when it comes to email personalization.


Idea #1. Turn your email into a personal note, not a promotional email

As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, says, “People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.”

The same applies to emails. As we saw in a recent MarketingExperiments’ Web clinic, “Personalized Messaging Tested: How little changes to an email send led to a 380% change in response rate,” when inviting your customers to take an action or attend an event, sending the email from a real person on your team can have a huge impact on the results of your campaign.

Several years ago, MarketingSherpa changed up its webinar invite template with the following changes:

  • Used a specific team member’s name in the “From” field
  • Addressed the recipient by their own name
  • Looked more like a letter by dropping the graphic design
  • Signed by a member of team, rather than the whole team


Just by changing the “From” field, the email saw a 137% lift in opens. Additionally, the clickthrough rate (CTR) increased by 129% by making the email look more like a personal note than a corporate chain email. However, take the CTR metric with a note of caution, as a possible selection effect could have impacted the results.

Learn more about the results of this change in the MarketingSherpa post, “Email Personalization: 137% increase in open rate from personal note approach.”


Idea #2. Implement personalized send times

Testing the best time of the day or day of the week for email sends has become common. However, it’s really just about finding the average best time.

The team had hoped to just increase the open rate of its emails as step one in their funnel, but the results proved more than they hoped. The campaign saw an 8% lift in email revenue overnight, and increased total email response by 17%. The team at BustedTees wanted to find the best time for each subscriber, not the list as a whole. By working closely with its email vendor, the Internet-based t-shirt brand analyzed subscribers’ open histories.

Learn more about efforts of the BustedTees’ team in the MarketingSherpa case study, “Email Marketing: BustedTees’ personalized send times increase email revenue 8%.”


Idea #3. Personalize subject lines

Personalized subject lines are nothing new. When was the last time you tested their effectiveness with your audience?

Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, recently talked with Shelley Kessler, Manager of Reporting and Analysis, Experian Marketing Services, about recent data released by Experian Marketing Services on personalized subject lines.


Only about 35% of brands in the study used personalized subject lines for promotional mailing. However, including a name in the subject line increased open rates by 29.3% across all industries, with consumer products and services seeing a 41.8% boost.

The team at AWeber wasn’t sure the tactic would work well in a B2B situation where the audience was other marketers. After all, its audience was probably well acquainted with the tactic.

However, the team moved forward with a series of subject line tests to know for sure how their customers would respond to their names being used in the subject lines.

The result? While the open rate averaged a 5.13% lift for the test series, the personalized subject lines saw a 17.36% increase in average clickthrough rate.

“Clicks actually blew opens out of the water,” Amanda Gagnon, Education Manager, AWeber, said. “It turned out that was where the personalization seemed to have the biggest effect.”

While you might not want to employ it with every send, it could be semi-regular tactic to rotate into your strategy if your audience responds positively.

Check out the case study for more information on how the team conducted their testing: “Email Marketing: 17.36% higher average clickthrough rate in 7 personalized subject line tests.”


Idea #4. Go big with personalized videos

If video integration is already part of your email strategy, it could be worth it to test how adding personalization to the videos affects your KPIs.

The marketing team at Zumba Fitness wanted a way to grab their email audience’s attention in a big way.

When launching its annual Instructor Convention, the team used footage from previous years to invite the recipient to attend.

While 90% of the list received the personalized video and email, 10% received a control version with no personalization.

Wayne Miller, Senior Manager of Email and Marketing Automation, Zumba Fitness, said the result “was pretty drastic.”

He added, “One of the big things was our click-to-open for the personalized video was over 50%. In terms of promotional messaging, that’s the best click-to-open rate we’ve ever had.”

Read more about the campaign’s test results in the case study, “Email Marketing: Zumba Fitness uses personalized video to drive a 50% click-to-open rate.”


Idea #5. Provide personalized content in purchase confirmation emails

Most purchase confirmations are just receipts. Nothing more, nothing less. They could serve as a great conversation point with your audience. According to a report from Experian Marketing Services, transactional emails have a 114% total open rate, indicating repeated opens.

How many of your promotional emails see that kind of open rate?

With so many customer eyes on this email, it could be a perfect spot to test incorporating personalized content based on purchases.

The Microsoft Store, for example, changed from a standard receipt to a product category segmented receipt.


Shawna Dahlin, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Microsoft Store, said her team analyzed what information could be most helpful for their customers after purchase. They included the following types of content into their revamped and personalized transactional emails:

  • Tips and tricks for device and product setup
  • Links to how-tos
  • Support content
  • Limited cross-sell

You can learn about Shawna and her team’s effort in a video replay of her MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 session, “How to Build a Relevant Customer Experience Using Data You Already Have.”


You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.


You might also like

Email Marketing: Unique send times for micro-personalization [Video] [From the MarketingSherpa blog]

Email Personalization: 750% higher CTR and more revenue for e-commerce site [From MarketingSherpa]

Personalized Messaging Tested: How little changes to an email send led to a 380% change in response rate

Ecommerce Chart: The most effective types of personalized product recommendations [From MarketingSherpa]

You might also like

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.