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Using Data to Drive Personalized Email Templates: Highlights from Anne Tomlin at Litmus Live Day


June’s Litmus Live Day kicked off strong with a featured session by Anne Tomlin, owner of Emails Y’all. Anne’s expertise as an email developer has given her the chance to dig into numerous examples of personalization strategies, ranging from the simple {first_name} to complex, multivariate content pieces within a single ruleset. We’ve pulled together some highlights and takeaways from the session to show how personalization is one of the strongest ways to add relevance and engagement.

Personalization isn’t just a marketing buzzword

Over the years technology has evolved to provide ways that make large-scale marketing campaigns targeted and relevant. Consumers now expect 1:1 interactions with brands, especially when there’s an existing purchase relationship. Personalization is the way to make this happen and offers benefits not just to the consumer, but to the organization as well.

Anne made note of a few recent statistics during her presentation to back up these wins:

  • Almost 75% of marketers say targeted personalization increases engagement.
  • Emails with personalized subject lines are 50% more likely to be opened.
  • Personalized emails have been thought to generate a median ROI of 122%.
  • A simple birthday email can generate 342% higher revenue per message than a standard promotional email.

One of the best arguments for personalization is its accessibility: Regardless of your role, you have the power to use what you know about your recipient in your email strategy. Most ESPs include a set of frequently used merge tags (think names, email addresses, geography data, etc.) that live within a visual or WYSIWYG editor, so having an extensive background in development or design isn’t a must. In situations where you have complex or a large number of rulesets, it may be better to work with a developer to efficiently create these content pieces.

Always, always, always test every version of your dynamic content

Placing a premium on testing before hitting send isn’t anything new to email marketers, but as you include dynamic content blocks and personalized sections, it can be easy to only spot-check a few examples instead of every iteration. According to Anne, this is ripe for inevitable errors and a less-than-polished final product in someone’s inbox.

Building personalized content into your templates is most efficient when organized into modules. Aside from having a place for your team to select the right blocks for their messages that are tested and consistently branded, modular builds for personalized content make it that much easier to test each ruleset and efficiently spot and correct issues.

It can also be common to run into instances where data for a certain piece of dynamic content is missing, leading to things like gaps between words and punctuation. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to ask your subscribers for these pieces of data where you don’t have the right fallback values or if the fields are blank. Reach out with a personalized request and state why you need this information or what they can expect as a result of providing this back. As long as the data piece is relevant to the business need you have, and doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting, you’d be surprised how often someone will provide you with the detail you’re looking for, allowing you to further personalize campaigns and sends.

Enhance out-of-the-box personalization attributes to elevate the experience

Transactional emails are the perfect example for campaigns built on personalized content; everything from order confirmations, shipping updates, and next steps in product onboarding screams 1:1 content. Just because a message already includes personalization doesn’t mean you should stop there. Anne showed examples of templates using background colors based on the recipient’s account type and status in the journey; as the user adjusts their settings or moves through the campaign, they would see the newer color in their inbox with the next send.

Personalization also pairs quite well with inclusivity–more than just reviewing language and visual components, but also from efficiency of setup for your team. In examples where gender is a determining factor of content, Anne shared the idea of changing the ruleset to a simpler “their” instead of male or female. This would not only mitigate the chance of sending potentially embarrassing or hurtful incorrect content to the recipient, but it also entirely removed one aspect of the dynamic content build without losing any impact.

When not working on complex personalized templates, Anne can be found sharing her knowledge (and, in my opinion, some pretty excellent email-themed lyric updates of pop songs) on Twitter.

While we’re closing the book on personalization and data for Litmus Live Everywhere, rest assured we’re finalizing even more learning and insights. Our theme for July is focused on technology and tactics, and we’re looking forward to connecting you to thought leaders and practitioners on how to make the most of your marketing technology. Visit the Litmus Live Everywhere homepage to save your spot if you haven’t already, and stay on the lookout here for session previews and early takeaways.