How to give your email marketing campaigns a boost with personalisation

Kym Reynolds is a senior marketing advisor for SmartFocus. SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world’s largest brands – including Nestlé, Mercedes-Benz and House of Fraser – to understand and connect more closely with today’s connected consumers; whether that be via web, mobile, email or social channels. Through The Message Cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message Cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel.


We’ve seen all the surveys, we’ve read all the whitepapers, and we’re all very aware that simply adding a bit of analytics and personalisation to our email marketing campaigns can improve their effectiveness by as much as 100%. But how do we go about doing it in real-time, without making wholesale changes to our marketing systems? Here are some easy steps to take that can deliver a huge leap in email marketing performance and doesn’t take a lot of investment.

Add real-time personalisation

This is the biggest improvement in email marketing over the last few years. The ability to tailor an individual message, perhaps initially crafted for one of your personas, at the time your customer opens your email is proving to have a large impact on campaign effectiveness. Of course, you can add additional personalisation rules that are driven from other real-time data feeds such as last purchase, location, related news or sports updates.

Consumer feedback on this kind of personalisation is very high, since it tends to make your messaging more relevant and timely. To do this, you only need to have access to a few data fields updated in real time. One of the most common is to use a weather feed by postcode, and create some simple message rules relating to rain/snow or sunny. So for example, you would serve up a certain message and visual if the email is opened on a sunny day versus a different message and visual if the email is opened on a rainy/snowy day.

Define and track segment personas

You don’t need to add expensive, custom analytics to get the benefit of defining specific persona segments for your customer base, and tracking the performance of each persona over time. The trick is to define enough personas that create enough uniqueness, but not so many that analysing and tailoring your marketing messages is overwhelming. From my discussions with companies who have spend a significant amount of time defining personas, between eight and 16 seems to be best practice. You’ll end up adjusting the exact number as you gain experience, so I suggest you start on the low end of the scale if you’re new to the concept.

When deciding which email segments to choose, they should be based on customer spend profile and history: loyals, potentials, new, and lapsed

When you are deciding which segments to choose, I suggest defining four segments based on your customers’ spend profile and history: loyals, potentials, new and lapsed. Your specific definition for each of these personas is based on the type of product you sell.  If you are a clothing retailer, a new persona member might be anyone who has made their first purchase within the last three months. If you sell expensive home furnishings on the other hand, a new persona member might be anyone who has made their first purchase within the last year.

The best way of defining your segments

Try to come up with persona definitions for potentials, loyals and lapsed customers as well. Don’t spend too much time fine-tuning the definitions; you can let the data tell you how to tweak your definitions to optimise your marketing.

After that, you may want to subdivide some of these personas by location and/or demographics; so for example, you might end up with new/female/urban and new/female/rural personas. Once you have a good starting point with the number and definition of your personas, let your data tell you how they are behaving over time. A good customer analytics tool – like SmartFocus –  will let you define and track your personas.

Defining and tracking your personas will let you see exactly how your marketing spend is affecting the behaviour of each one. You may find, for example, that your rural based personas react differently than your urban based personas to the same message. Doing A/B tests for each persona is now straightforward because you can see exactly how each reacts.  

Adding the elements above to your email marketing strategy will boost your email effectiveness without requiring a large investment in money or time. There are multiple vendors for both capabilities in the market, and most offer off-the-shelf integrations to common email platforms, so you don’t have to retool what you’re already using to take advantage of these improvements.

That sounds good, but what sort of ROI can I expect to see?

  • 81% increase in customer engagement
  • 52% increase in brand perception
  • 59% increase in customer conversion
  • 52% increase in customer retention
  • 46% increase in customer loyalty
  • 35% increase in customer awareness
  • 73% improvement in customer experience

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