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Email Elite: An interview with Lin Wang from Shaw + Scott

In our Email Elite series we interview industry experts about ‘all things email,’ from creating brilliant, personalized experiences to the future of email marketing. In this edition, we sat down with Lin Wang, VP of Strategy and Analytics at Shaw + Scott, and talked about email personalization trends this year and closing gaps in email marketer’s attempts to personalize their messages.

What would you consider as the most important recent (or current) development in email marketing?

Ten years ago, the availability of data was the bottleneck in building a successful marketing program.  Over time, we have more than overcome the data issue, but now the bottleneck exists in our ability and resources to rapidly react to what the data is telling us.  The most important recent development in marketing as a whole are these technologies that are allowing us to automatically take actions on the insights gathered from data.

What is the biggest trend that will drive success in 2018?

Personalization, multi-screen personalization, and multi-channel personalization.  Consumers today are being bombarded by marketing campaigns from every brand they interact with.  They are choosing to interact with different channels and different screens depending on timing, convenience, and preference.  In short, success in marketing programs in 2018 will need to have an ever-increasing focus on driving a hyper-emotional connection with the consumer.

What are the most common gaps you’ve seen in email marketers’ attempts to personalize marketing messages?

Their significant gaps can be summarized in really two major categories.  Non-alignment of personalization to the business goals and not listening to the data.  

In regards to non-alignment to the business goals, many marketers today are thinking too narrowly about campaigns as opposed to take a step back on what is the goal of the program.  Rather than thinking about how each campaign is driving the CRM/marketing program forward in the right direction, marketers are looking at the success of individual campaigns, some even simply at the individual send level.  With that view, the personalization efforts are narrowly focused on how we optimize the individual campaigns rather than how we are personalizing the overall customer experience with the brand.

In regards to not listening to the data, many marketers voice concerns that they don’t gather enough to make any real personalization attempts.  However, every interaction where a customer engages with the brand is a signal that tells us a story about why they are taking the initiative to interact.  These signals should be fully leveraged and exploited when we are thinking about personalization. Even simple analytical methods can start to uncover the why and the emotional connection needed to keep pushing the marketing programs to the next level.

What’s the best example of a brand doing it right to personalize along their customer lifecycle?

Alaska Airlines – Abandon Browse: Alaska Airlines lowers the hurdle to abandon browse emails by providing a clear path to previously searched dates and destinations. “We’re holding your seat” language provides sense of urgency, along with a clear “book your flight now” links to complete travel planning.


Airbnb – Retargeting Series: This series encourages investment in the engagement path and leads to personalized trip recommendations. Simple and straightforward creative focuses on single call to action in each email, rather than including lots of content in one message.

How do your clients make their email marketing investment decisions? Do you think this is the right approach? Why/why not?

Many email marketing investments are made today based on a resource need.  In essence, many are looking to leverage technologies to offset their lack of resources.  There is nothing wrong with this approach as it makes perfect sense from one view of the business needs.  However, this decision should be supplemented with an assessment from a customer experience need as well. The overall customer experience should drive the initial requirement of the who, what, when, when and how personalization, and the consideration of how it will be deployed across the marketing program.  Finally, these personalization needs will drive the technology investment.

Lin Wang is the Vice President of Strategy and Analytics at Shaw + Scott, working with a wide variety of clients in aligning their CRM program with their business objectives by creating and refining their roadmap, defining gaps and opportunities and putting together the strategic direction to achieve their business goals. Check out Shaw + Scott on Twitter: @ShawScott