Consumers receive marketing information on a plethora of channels, with email remaining one of the most effective. It is the most highly ranked marketing channel for return on investment, with three in four marketers rating it as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

With 80% of consumers being more likely to make a purchase from a retailer that tailors offers to their preferences, retail marketers should focus on personalizing email communications to further increase ecommerce revenue and customer loyalty.

Effective personalization can be as simple as a smart “welcome email” that leaves a great first impression, or as complex as displaying the shopper’s favorite colorway instead of the default color of the promoted product.

On the other hand, including the customer’s name in the subject line or body of your newsletter is an ineffective way of checking off the “personalization” box without much strategic thought. Research shows that more than one in three consumers don’t care if retailers use their name in marketing emails.

Start by segmenting your database

A good first step to become more targeted in your email marketing is analyzing your purchase and browsing data and placing customers into segments. Understanding those segments allows you to define how to personalize the experience based on interests, browsing behavior and purchase history. For instance:

  • Highly engaged non-customers that are very engaged on your website, but haven’t purchased yet. Try to turn them from shoppers into buyers by sending personalized offers, such as coupons
  • Lapsed shoppers who have regularly bought from you but haven’t done so for a while. Reactive them by letting them know that you miss them and reminding them why they love your brand
  • Customers that are highly likely to make a purchase. These shoppers frequently visit your store, so the best approach is to keep them updated on new products but not bombard them with special offers as to not cannibalize on the average order value
  • Shoppers viewing high value products. Identify shoppers who are viewing your high value or high margin products, and target them with additional emails or pop-ups to get them over the line to conversion

If you’re selling perishable products, such as contact lenses, cosmetics, protein shakes, another quick win are triggered product replenishment emails. These alerts are welcomed by customers as they offer a valuable service, letting them know that they may need to refill on products that are due to run out soon. They are also an easy way of securing their repeat business.

Take personalization to the next level

The strategic combination of behavioral data with contextual data is the true key to efficient personalization in email marketing.

Contextual data includes all real-time information gathered about customers at the moment they are interacting with your email. This can be basic information such as the shopper’s location, device and time of the day when they’re engaging with your message. It also entails listening to what they’re telling you at that specific moment in time. Product preferences and interests can be fluid and shift, so it is important to recognize the journey they’re on and act on it.

Personalization platforms that use machine learning can provide valuable assistance in generating appropriate recommendations, but you need more control. You also need the tools to use contextual and behavioral data in real-time and select the best content for each individual email to guide customers through their shopping journey.

Remember that only you know your business priorities – machine learning on its own isn’t enough. You need to be able to set your own campaign and merchandising priorities to meet your business needs.

Done well, you present subscribers with a 1-2-1 email experience and act like their personal shopper, offering them tailored products, discounts, promotions and product recommendations that are meaningful to them at the moment of email open. To take it to the next level and offer a seamless experience, bring the same level of personalization to other channels, such as your website, app and physical store.

Given that email is such a reliable marketing channel, its full potential is often neglected as even basic “spray-and-pray” tactics can yield good-enough results. Embarking on a journey to becoming more personalized may feel intimidating at first as it will require a good understanding of the data you have at your disposal and how to best use it.

By taking it step by step, being willing to constantly test and optimize and making use of powerful tech which gathers behavioral information for you and then uses machine learning as a tool to help you, you will reap the benefits of these vital tactics.

Subcribers can download Econsultancy’s Email Best Practice Guide. Econsultancy also offers email marketing training.