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3 Ways to Personalize Emails and Get Better Engagement – Even Without Customer Data

We’ve been talking a lot about how advanced personalization can help you earn upwards of $20 for every $1 you invest in it.

That’s all well and good; but what if you don’t know much about your individual subscribers? What if there’s large portions of your mailing list missing data in fields commonly used for personalization? How can you achieve advanced personalization if you don’t even know the basics like a first name?

Good news! It’s still possible to make a more personal email experience even when most of your ESP fields are empty.

All you need to start personalizing your email is to have a subscriber open one of your emails. That will unleash a wealth of real-time data you can use to craft messages that are more relevant and engaging than a static broadcast email.

3 Powerful Data Points You Can Fall Back On
  1. Time of day: This single bit of information gives you a wide variety of options to personalize your email. Here are three examples:
  • • Add a simple greeting that matches the part of day in which your subscriber opens your email. Once you collect the subscriber’s first name, you can merge that for a more personal greeting: “Good morning, Paul!” instead of “Hi, Paul!”
  • • Launch a countdown clock  to count down the time until a sale or other special event begins or ends. The clock resets each time your subscriber opens your email.
  • • Serve updated versions of your email offer. If a featured item has sold out, you can suggest an alternate purchase. Promoting a contest? Let latecomers know the deadline has passed, and give them an alternate activity.
  1. Open location: This yields another rich vein of information you can use to personalize your emails. It uses the opener’s location data to zero in on their location and serve up locally useful content. Here are two suggestions:
  • • Add a map showing your nearest location. This will change if she opens your emails somewhere different each time. If she travels, knowing where to find your nearest store in an unfamiliar city can be a big service.
  • • Show local environmental conditions like weather when appropriate. Automatically send relevant messages to customers whose last IP addresses match your conditions for weather-related offers. 
  1. Device used: Device tracking can detect which subscribers open your email on a smartphone or tablet and customize even further by type of device. Use it to add a tap-to-text function to make acting on your emails more convenient and less frustrating.

A Liveclicker client used tap-to-text to help mobile customers sign up easily for a special entertainment package. (See how in this free report: Tactics Matter: Real Results from Advanced Personalization.)

What If You Don’t Have Open Time Data?

Take a step back and use segmentation to help you get that first open. It’s important that your newest customers open your emails because they generally are your most active subscribers. If they don’t, that’s an early warning that something’s amiss.

If you already send a welcome message or series of onboarding emails to your newest opt-ins, you’re a step ahead. You just need to identify those subscribers who didn’t open your emails and send an email that nudges them to open.

Send a poll to new subscribers. This can pique their interest more effectively than a standard promotional email. Plus, it can help you collect supplementary preference data along with time-of-day data (see No. 1 above). 

A live poll collects immediate subscriber feedback and lets them see how they compare to other respondents. It’s an easier request than asking them to buy something if they’re not ready for that commitment. 

You can add a poll to your welcome message or to one of the emails in your email onboarding series. Or, follow up a one-time welcome message with another email containing the poll.

When your subscriber opens the email and clicks on the poll, you’ll collect two kinds of data: the open data you need to start personalizing, and whatever information you collect from the poll, which you can use for more personalization or for customer segmentation.

Testing will show you when to send it and what kind of poll content is most likely to get people to participate.

One Caveat: Be Transparent When Collecting Consumer Data

Today’s consumers are less willing to share some personal kinds of information, an Advertising Research Foundation report says. Although its research focused mainly on website information-gathering, you can assume that skittish attitude might translate to email, too.

Before you ask for personal information, be sure you really need it for your business goals. If you do, explain clearly why you’re asking for it, what you will do with it and how you will protect it.

Data-security laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the forthcoming California Consumer Privacy Act require this. But it’s also good business to assure your customers about the data you collect.