Travel is back! According to recent research conducted by Criteo, 69% still plan on traveling before the summer ends.

For many travel brands—email is the primary vehicle driving every moment that matters. Whether it takes the form of a booking confirmation with every detail included, a last-minute reminder or notification that saves the family getaway, or a personalized promotion that shoppers just can’t pass up, your email marketing strategy has a lot of heavy lifting to do over the next few months.

Unless, of course, you switch up your messaging by implementing these three easy tactics to take advantage of the summer vacation trend:

Add flexibility into your fares

While any traveler’s plans are subject to change at the drop of a hat, travel conditions and geographic shutdowns outside of anyone’s control unfortunately are as well.

So, shift your messaging by introducing email campaigns promoting more flexible solutions. Things like refundable tickets, free cancellations and upgrades, and no-fee online booking are already helping travel businesses get back to their 2019 summer performance peaks—and will no doubt be something consumers demand long after things return to ‘normal.’

summer vacation

This seemingly small move can result in major rewards, whether your goal is customer acquisition or retention.  New shoppers who are welcomed by an easy, fast, and convenient experience are much more likely to make a purchase. And your loyal, long-term buyers always feel appreciated when they receive a travel option that doesn’t feel like it nickels-and-dimes them at every step when making a change.

Can’t forget about COVID-19

Did you know that 53% of consumers feel that it’s still very important for the brands they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines.

By simply acknowledging this reality and communicating openly about any potential cautions, you enhance the impact and value your emails deliver because they contain everything someone needs to know before they even schedule their trip. Especially if you do so through a special message from the captain or an embedded email video.

summer vacation

TrustedHousesitters, for example, uses video messages to overcome its number one customer objection: trusting a stranger to take care of a traveler’s home and pets while they’re away. By sharing videos that include the perspectives of both pet owners and sitters, the brand is able to eliminate buyer hesitation by addressing this issue directly. Not to mention lift conversions, engagement, and open time duration across these emails too.

Make man’s best friend a priority

After being stuck at home the last 18 months, it can be understandably hard to abandon the furry friend that helped you survive it all. Which is why so many travel brands are experiencing unprecedented success by promoting pet-friendly summer vacation accommodations and travel options.

For anyone feeling especially clingy after spending 24/7 with Fido throughout COVID-19, a pet-centric email promotion can be the motivator that finally pushes them out of the house and into your care.

summer vacation

Beyond the allure of an animal-friendly vacation, however, this degree of personalization helps your brand stand out from the competition. It gives customers the impression that you truly care about their individual preferences and needs—as well as your business the chance to create more engaging and relevant conversations that keep travelers coming back whenever they’re ready to schedule their next summer vacation.

Despite all the changes and customer behavior shifts that have occurred over the last 18 months, email remains the most effective tool for your marketing team.

That’s because 80% of retail professionals still rely on the channel as their number one driver of customer retention. And anyone that makes a purchase via email spends 138% more than the average transaction.

As you begin to pull together your customer acquisition and retention strategies for Q3 and the holiday season, let’s explore why email is still king. And—more importantly—how it can help your marketing strategy dominate the competition, deliver continuous value, and enhance your online customer experience.

Email boosted customer acquisition and retention in 2020

As a customer acquisition channel, email’s biggest advantage is that it gives someone the chance to signal their interest or intent to buy from your very first brand interaction. By opting into your email list, for example, you begin a two-way conversation with each recipient, giving you the chance to start learning about each buyer and collecting first-party data insights before they browse your site or put the first product in their digital shopping cart.

Before the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation to an unprecedented rate, 66% of businesses used email to find new customers. Now, 10% more have discovered how email helps them reach new audiences, a MeritB2B study discovered.

But finding new customers is far from email’s only benefit. Because, in terms of customer retention and engagement, email is also doing a lot of the heavy lifting to keep existing customers excited and coming back for more. Beyond the 28% of businesses that saw CTR increase as a direct result of email, AOV grew 56% and customer engagement grew 76% for companies that inserted personalization into these messages.

3 reasons why email continues to dominate

While we could list dozens of reasons and write thousands of words on this subject, let’s focus on three disruptive benefits email can deliver to help your brand stand out:

1. Email marketing lets you optimize messaging for specific buyer personas.

There’s no doubt about it anymore—email personalization must be baked into the customer experience. Customers expect it, look for it, and will click away from your emails the second they receive a one-size-fits-all promotion. 

Don’t believe us? After combining research with Sailthru to create our Values-Based Personalization is the Future of Retail Marketing guide, we found that nearly two-thirds of consumers (62%) say it’s important that brands personalize their retail experiences, either online or in the store.

If your brand has invested heavily in initiatives to enhance your CX and grow your audience, there’s no doubt that your business stands to gain a lot from email’s almost limitless capacity to personalize messages, images, and even offers to someone’s specific interactions and browsing/buying history.

With a minimal investment, you can set up email marketing strategies that automatically anticipate and serve each customer’s needs with unique, personalized messages that show you understand them as individuals. Making them much more likely to engage with your content, act on your CTAs, and help you uncover $20 or more in ROI for every dollar you invest into email personalization.

2. Email is highly customizable and measurable.

Besides creating individual messages for each customer in your audience, you can also use email to build unique journeys or customer programs that help you achieve your business goals. Just a few examples:

Beyond this high degree of flexibility, almost every activity related to email generates data signals you can use to learn more about your customers, create new email journeys, and make messages even more relevant. Your brand can constantly learn and improve its interactions simply by tracking customer clicks before using these insights to inform future testing and optimization strategies.

3. Emails is both a stand-alone and omnichannel digital marketing strategy.

Email binds your online and offline channels together to create a transparent, comprehensive marketing ecosystem. For you, that means email can support and draw strength from other channels to become more effective. Or, it can support your website, mobile, and cross-channel strategies to deliver a greater overall impact instead.

In playground parlance, that means email plays well with others. It can expand your social media reach, for example, to attract subscribers from a wider range of audiences that don’t regularly engage with these platforms.

Search and email are natural partners, too. Your high-ranking keywords can create more subscriber-relevant email content. At the same time, your search campaign landing pages can attract new subscribers. Everybody wins.

Stick with email to build customer loyalty and engagement for 2022

Marketing pundits are always eager to write off email marketing as outmoded or old-fashioned. But, as current stats show, the channel rises to almost any customer acquisition or retention challenge you can encounter. Going forward, don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

According to its latest blog post, Google is officially delaying its phase out of third-party cookies in Chrome from this year until 2023. For many marketers scrambling to find first-party data solutions, this announcement comes as a much-needed relief.

Because the loss of third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms will likely lead to massive challenges down the road where digital advertising and consumer targeting efforts are concerned. Especially if there’s not a widely adopted alternative in place by the time third-party data tracking finally comes to an end.

So, how does this unexpected delay impact you and your work?

Google and the Future of Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

While Google has been hard at work building its Privacy Sandbox, many marketers are skeptical of whether or not this toolset will be enough to make up for the loss of third-party cookies and insights. Even Vinay Goel, Chrome’s Privacy Engineering Director, admits that there’s much work to be done before the organization (and you) are ready to sunset third-party data tracking capabilities forever.

“While there’s considerable progress with [the Privacy Sandbox], it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” said Goel.

However, the organization isn’t simply looking for a quick fix or to replace third-party cookies with an equally invasive form of individual tracking approaches like browser fingerprinting, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, or Lotame’s Panorama ID that have been growing more and more popular in media since Google’s original announcement.

Despite this delay, Google continues to develop its next generation of data privacy-friendly marketing tools. If all goes well, expect a new suite of first-party data-driven technologies to be deployed by the end of next year — giving you and marketing experts everywhere nine months to test these tools and migrate services before Google’s three-month phaseout of third-party cookies begins in late 2023.

3 Steps You Should Take Today

If it isn’t already obvious, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start preparing now for life after third-party cookies. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many marketers who don’t know where to start. So, here are three easy recommendations you can use to ready your future personalization strategies:

Focus on where you already collect first-party data

It’s never been more important to collect insights directly from your customers. But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel — rather than building out new initiatives and campaigns, focus your attention on improving existing efforts like event signups, landing pages, newsletters, and digital subscription forms. That way, you’re able to capture new data points with minimal time and resource investment required!

Always keep consent in mind

This shouldn’t be a new concept after GDPR. But it’s nonetheless an important consideration that is only growing more vital to the ultimate success or failure of your personalized marketing strategy.

Be sure to check the first-party data you already have in order to gain a clear insight into what data you’ve got, and then update your privacy policy to shed light on how you are using this data moving forward to keep your company and customers protected.

Transition to People-Based Targeting

When you combine first-party data with real-time personalization, you’re able to target a desired audience across any channel they engage with. Because people-based marketing doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms, it’s an ideal solution for interacting with customers on their own terms.

If you’re interested in building your own people-based marketing strategy, consider these three key elements:

Every retail success starts with data. Whether you’re optimizing marketing messages or managing inventory levels, a foundation built by high-quality, first-party data is key.

But information on its own doesn’t deliver value. If it’s not accurate, actionable, or accessible at the moment it’s needed, it can lead to inefficient business decisions, inaccurate forecasts, and ineffective long-term marketing strategies.

In fact, the challenge of integrating first-party data insights you’ve worked hard to collect from customers into personalized email is creating a two-tier playing field that separates pretenders from true contenders when it comes to retail success:

Start fueling your personalization with first-party data now

Today, 62% of retail consumers say it’s important for brands to deliver personalized experiences. And with so many more people searching, shopping, and purchasing products online, real-time personalization has become an invaluable tactic for improving customer engagement, loyalty, and intent to purchase.

But integrating your first-party data doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. In fact, here are three things you can start right now to improve your digital marketing results right away:

Take personalization beyond product recommendations. Integrate a personalized content strategy for every customer email. After all, this small change can be particularly useful for retailers with smaller assortments and longer purchase frequency cycles. The combo of first-party data and real-time personalization can even be used to engage and nurture relationships while simultaneously maximizing the value of existing assets like blog and influencer content.

Use personalization behind the scenes. Personalization does not always need to be explicit in order to deliver an effective experience. Identify interest, product, and brand affinities that can help you deliver more relevant content, align your brand with your customers’ values, and deliver a more engaging, exciting customer experience across all channels.

Consumer behavior shifted towards essential goods at the beginning of the pandemic. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, now is the time for every kind of retailer to prepare their strategies. Personalization does not need to come at the sacrifice of branding or creative efforts. Even the most high-strung luxury shoppers’ expectations can be met with effective segmentation and behavioral strategies that can predict a browser vs a high-intent shopper.

Eliminate inconsistency, inefficiency, and lost revenue in one move

When you combine first-party data profiles with the power of real-time personalization, you get rid of the disconnected experience your marketing team faces anytime a personalized email needs to be built, updated, or sent. Transforming any overly manual, time-consuming legacy processes you use into streamlined project sprints that maximize your productivity and efficiency — and your organization’s email engagement, conversion rate, and revenue generating potential, too.

Now more than ever, it’s important for you to integrate first-party data into your email marketing strategies. Because, as you move closer and closer toward a truly omnichannel customer experience, the insights your customers decide to share with your brand are an invaluable tool for building more relevant and engaging email content, establishing more meaningful customer relationships, and aligning your business with future trends and behaviors that are likely to lead to long-term retail success

If you want to boost email engagement, one of the best ways is also becoming one of the easiest: add video.

Video and email are a match made in marketing heaven. Everybody uses email, and more consumers are watching videos online with each passing day.

If video is so great, why doesn’t everyone use it in their emails?

The relationship between email and video hasn’t always been a smooth or lovely experience. In the past, largely technical hurdles like incompatible email browsers and spotty bandwidth have kept these channels separated.

These tech limitations made video in email a hit-or-miss experience for many viewers. And that unreliability, coupled with a hazy ROI and lack of content and production time, also turned many email marketers off the video trend.

But today, technology is catching up with the public’s growing appetite for consuming video. And it’s doing so in a way that makes the value of video in email much more apparent and trackable. Now, all it takes is a few clicks to embed videos into email and analyze the results without a single line of code or concern about platform compatibility.

A few browser holdouts are keeping video from reaching its full email potential (we’re looking at you, Gmail), but every day more and more email environments are evolving to handle video. Apple’s native desktop and iOS email clients, for example, make embedded email videos possible in Outlook across every Mac device.

Why video is worth the effort

In short, people love it. Just putting “video” in your subject line can boost open rates by six percent or more. Not to mention increase click rates by 300% and reduce unsubscribes up to 26% too. 

Especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of highly coveted Gen Z and Millennial buyers. A 2020 survey found 88% of this group watch videos for entertainment, giving the brands that take advantage of this trend a unique opportunity to engage audiences across a variety of digital and social media channels like never before. 

The lesson here: If you want to increase engagement among your younger customers (or any follower, for that matter), add video. Besides expecting it, these active video consumers are much more likely to respond to interactive messages. So why not give them exactly what they want?

It’s not as pricey or complicated as you might think. Marketers spent less than $300 on average on video in 2020. Today, cost is no excuse. You can produce a high-quality video using just a smartphone and a good ring light. And that doesn’t include the dozens of free or low-cost video production tools you can use to edit emails like a pro. 

Video can amplify other advanced personalization tactics. Video is most successful when used strategically. Your embedded email videos can draw eyes to dynamic factors such as real-time content targeting by location, time of day, and more. Ensuring your customers never open an outdated offer or out-of-stock sale alert again.

2 emails that are winning with video

Add the human element: Room & Board features live video in many of its promotional emails. In the email example below, it brings a customer’s story to life with an on-demand interview that discusses their unique experiences and most helpful advice.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Set the tone: Videos got many homebound tourists through a year without travel in 2020. And now, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is capitalizing on both the longing to get away in luxury and the need to feel safe by including video in its emails that takes viewers on an up-close,-personal tour of its newest ships.

video and email
Image via MailCharts

Ready for your closeup?

If you’re ready to add video into your email experience, check out our How to Embed Video in Email guide. You’ll learn the basics of DIY video embedding, different ways to use video, and how to effectively experiment with your emails to improve results.

Personalization: Is it an accepted best practice or just another distraction that’s wasting our time? Like many other aspects of email marketing, there’s a lot of speculation and misunderstanding surrounding the practice of making customer experiences more relevant and individualized.

The evidence is clear that personalized emails outperform “one size fits all” messages on just about every metric you can name. Still, a few dangerous myths refuse to go away at a time when making messages more relevant, empathetic, and valuable is especially important.

Have you heard any of the objections below from your fellow team members, your boss, your mom or your friends but didn’t know how to rebut them? Time to start fact checking!  

1. Personalization doesn’t work

This idea has been gaining traction lately, with some reports noting that traditional personalization tactics are falling out of favor or not delivering the results they used to.

In reality, research supporting personalization’s power to drive more user activity is among the oldest and most trusted in the email industry.

Before 2005, marketers knew only anecdotally that personalized emails outperformed broadcast messages. Then, a pioneering study by David Daniels and Jupiter Research found emails with content based on clickstream activity drove higher opens, clicks and conversions and produced 9 times the revenue of broadcast email. 

And that was back in the days when many marketers had even less data to work with than they do today and fewer ways to analyze it quickly. (More of David’s research on the value of personalization later in this post.)

It may be true that some of email marketers’ basic personalization tools are losing effectiveness. A customized [FIRSTNAME] token in the subject line just doesn’t deliver the punch it used to. Customers’ standards for relevance and value from brands has risen dramatically, and not all of us have kept up.

But there’s still plenty of innovation happening in marketing personalization, and more sophisticated tactics can deliver tremendously better results. In fact, brands utilizing advanced personalization can see 17% more revenue than those still stuck on the basics.

2. Everyone thinks it’s creepy

You’ve probably had seeing an uncannily accurate ad online or received an eerily timely message from a company you weren’t expecting to hear from.

Yes, people can get (understandably) unnerved when they see messages personalized with data that they didn’t expect a brand to have, or if they don’t trust how the brand will use their data. 

Still, shoppers of all ages (and especially younger shoppers) prefer personalized experiences. They’ll share select information if they see how it benefits them and can trust you to manage it properly. They’ll shun brands that don’t get it right. That’s part of why it’s so important to acquire and treat data in an ethical, respectful manner.

What isn’t creepy is personalized data that’s linked to an email’s purpose with a clear benefit to the customer, such as location data to provide a map showing a store’s nearest location or “moment of open” to update an offer. Be clear with subscribers about what they’re signing up for, give them relevant and valuable marketing, and be transparent about what data you’re tracking and you’ll be rewarded.

3. You need a lot of data to get started

Nope. With as little as one data point – like when a subscriber joined your list – can power everything from a welcome email to a customer poll to a reactivation campaign. Or you can pull real-time data from the email client and act on that – information like device, location, and time of day. See this post for more ideas on personalizing even when you don’t have customer data

The more data you have, the more you can personalize, but only up to a point. Data gets old fast, and it’s not foolproof. 

Laws like the European Union’s GDPR, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law and the California Consumer Privacy Act can even restrict you from using third-party data without consent. That makes first-party and real-time data even more effective.

Even purchase data, which drives much of today’s email personalization, can lead you down the wrong path if you can’t distinguish between gift and personal purchases.  

That brings us back to David Daniels, now CEO and founder of the research firm The Relevancy Group. In 2019, his firm’s research showed personalization based on contextual and real-time data generated an additional $20 of revenue for every $1 spent on technology to mine and incorporate that data. 

This is data such as real-time data generated from moment of open (device used, location, time, etc.), rules-based personalization, live inventory and clickstream activity. 

4. It’s prohibitively difficult

We won’t try to kid you. Setting an effective personalization process is a little more complicated than just putting together another broadcast campaign. You have to identify the data you need, figure out how to capture it, set up rules on using it and create email messages to put it to use. 

It’s also true that even bad email can make money. But, as the Relevancy Group’s results show, good email makes lots more. 

Today’s cloud technology means the days of crossing your fingers and hoping everything works are long over. It’s very possible to streamline personalization and make it more accessible and easy. In fact, some personalization technology can dramatically improve your workflow efficiency overall.

Look for a personalization platform that has done much of the advance work for you and doesn’t need hours of IT work to integrate with your database and email sending platform. 

The final word: Personalization done right is worth it

Still a little skeptical? Check out our white paper, Overcoming Challenges to Advanced Personalization. IT goes in depth to address the major issues that stand between a marketer and an effective personalization plan. 

Also, keep an eye on our blog, where we report frequently on client successes using real-time tactics like live offer updates, countdown clocks, live feeds for social posts and customer-generated content, or even a live weather forecast.

Personalization done right delivers big benefits for consumers and email senders alike.

The word (and the trend it represents) is getting plenty of attention in the press as the second decade of the millenium winds down. And it zoomed to the top of the newsfeeds recently when it beat out “equality and inclusion,” “data,” and “in-house” as the 2019 Marketing Word of the Year in the Association of National Advertisers’ annual membership survey.

More star turns for personalization in 2019

Below are five quick takes on personalization – in general or specifically on email personalization, which is our particular wheelhouse – this year:

1. Marketers are finally getting behind advanced personalization. 

A Merkle study turned up these findings:

2. Advanced personalization pays off. 

Real-time, clickstream and live inventory data, rules-based personalization and dynamic offers based on open times can drive an additional $20 of revenue for every $1 invested in these methods of advanced personalization, according to a study by The Relevancy Group, commissioned by Liveclicker.

3. Email is the most commonly personalized marketing channel. 

A study by CMS platform developer Acquia found about 75% of marketers send personalized emails, while 53% personalize website visits.

4. Marketing personalization skills = jobs. 

About 1,250 jobs on LinkedIn alone are waiting for marketers with personalization knowledge and skills. It’s encouraging to see companies recognize the need to dedicate at least one marketing position to personalization – and we anticipate even more specialized personalization roles finding their ways into marketing departments and agencies in the coming years.

5.  Email personalization is trending. 

Our friends at Campaign Monitor dug into the personalization trend and came up with 10 surprising statistics on email personalization, including this one, via Instapage: “Segmented, personalized and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue.”

Scrutiny, skepticism on the rise

Not everybody has the same view of personalization, current or future. In particular, Gartner has recently published some contentious research:

Others also turned a skeptical eye on marketing personalization: 

Consumers pull back on personal data. Consumers are more willing to reveal gender, race/ethnicity and marital or job status and even political or religious affiliations than their personal email addresses to get personalized ads, an Advertising Research Foundation survey found. 

In that survey, 90% of consumers would reveal gender in exchange for personalization, but only 51% would share their personal email addresses.

Personalization isn’t always appreciated. An eMarketer analysis of personalization studies by McKinsey and others concluded consumers balk at the kinds of personalized messages marketers believe they really want. 

“Marketers, especially digital marketers, love data and the promise of optimization it holds,” eMarketer’s Nicole Perrin said. “But … it doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are perceiving those messages as personalized and highly relevant.”

Advanced personalization has a bright future

Despite these cooling views on personalization, there’s other evidence that supports our optimistic view.

Not the same old personalization. Half of the respondents in the McKinsey study said messages about products that relate to their interests were the most appealing personalized content. First-name personalization was among the least appealing.  

This last point dovetails with a finding from The Relevancy Group’s study: Email personalization is least effective when it relies on only first-name or subject-line personalization. 

Personalization based on purchase data was more effective at driving additional revenue, but only the most advanced forms of personalization produced the highest ROIs. (See The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers and download your own free copy.) 

Technology is easier to implement. Gartner’s dim view of personalization rests in part on this finding:

“While personalization comprises 14% of the marketing budget, more than one in four marketing leaders cite technology as a major hurdle to personalization.”

The Relevancy Group addresses that problem in its report: 

“Most Advanced Personalization Solutions are rather easy to implement and often do not require significant IT support.”

Don’t forget the gatekeepers

B2B marketers have a compelling reason to get personalization right. Chatbots and automated services will replace human assistants to B2B customers, says Lynda Partner, VP Marketing and Analytics as a Service for Pythian.

“I don’t think we’re going to be talking to all that many people by 2025,” she says. “We’ll instead be talking to their personal assistants, who are bots. These bots will be the new gatekeepers. They’ll decide whether your prospect should read this email from you, or that message from someone else instead. 

This decision may be based on how personalized the message is, or how relevant it is to what they were searching for on the web in the last three weeks, or what they told their bot they were interested in researching. Either way, marketers are going to have to figure out how to market to bots and not just to people.”

Wrapping up

Personalization is enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight, but it’s more than just the word of the year or the trend of the decade. Personalization that carries out business strategies using meaningful data drives revenue and interactions that more than repay the cost of the technology that drives it. 

In 2020 and beyond we look forward to showing marketers the value that advanced personalization produces both for their customers and their marketing programs.

Sometimes, email works a little too well. That irresistible promotion or clever creative drew tons of conversions; maybe so many that you sold out before you could even send a reminder campaign.

Well done! But what about all your other email subscribers who will open your email an hour or day or even week later, rush to your site and find the dreaded “Sold Out” banner plastered over your irresistible offer? That’s a complaint just waiting to happen (not to mention a missed conversion).

It can happen any time of the year, but it’s especially likely now that we’re in the thick of the busy holiday shopping season, when inventory flies out almost as fast as it hits your store shelves and deals can change in a jingle. It sets up a poor customer experience, one that can drive customers to your competition if you don’t manage it well.

Dynamic email keeps you connected

The same channel that drove all those customers to your site can also bring them back again when you offer to take their names and let them know when the product is back in stock. 

“Back in stock” emails function like abandoned-cart messages. You’ll get more customer action when you give them detailed information about the restocked product, like this message:

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This email is about as specific as you can get. It names the product, provides a photo and details, links to the product page and even reminds the customer why she’s getting the email. 

“Back in stock” emails are popular with customers. They generate some of the highest open rates of any triggered messages – 47.6% to 65.32% according to different sources. For one brand, 7.7% of site visitors who clicked from a “back in stock” email bought the product, compared with the site’s 1.7% overall conversion rate. 

Those figures are impressive. But, your customers are still hitting dead ends when they click from your email to your website only to find they’re too late. 

Here’s an even better way: Use real-time data and content to replace the original email offer with an updated message when products sell out or some other catastrophe happens, like a delayed shipment from your supplier. 

If you can integrate your inventory management and messaging systems, you can substitute a notice that the product has sold, suggest similar products or invite the customer to sign up for an alert when the product gets restocked. 

Your customer might still be disappointed, but she won’t get an unexpected and unpleasant experience on your site and then go away empty-handed or click over to a competitor.  

How Hot Topic drives sales and engagement with dynamic content  

Pop-culture retailer Hot Topic uses moment-of-open technology that keeps its email customers up to date on new-product availability – not just when a product sells out but even before, when it becomes available in-store and online. 

The content automatically updates when the product’s status change, as shown in this promotion for the hot collectible brand Funko :

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If a product sells out, Hot Topic substitutes a grayed-out image that subscribers see at the moment they open the email message.

This tactic reduced customer complaints about missing out on hot sales and generated a 30% lift in clicks, longer browse sessions and higher sales. (Get more details in this blog post: 2 Wins and a Fail: Real Email Marketing Experiences and Lessons from Hot Topic.)

Add a restock alert to your product pages

Dynamic content that updates when customers open their emails can mean fewer unhappy surprises on the website for customers. But what about people who find your site through search, by typing your site name into their web browsers or clicking through from your emails anyway even if the message says the product is sold out?

A well-done “back in stock” email can save that sale. 

Offering to email customers when a product is available again is a standard feature on Amazon product pages. The product page will automatically disable color, size and other options and substitute a message like the one below:

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Logged-in Amazon customers don’t have to type in their email addresses; the system adds those automatically. If you can’t provide that same seamless experience, ask for an email address so you can send a restock alert.

Collect that address in a form on the page, like Amazon’s, or in a pop-up form (often called a pop-over or overlay).  

‘Back in stock’ alerts and email permission

You don’t have to worry about complying with email or data-privacy laws like CAN-SPAM, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) or the EU’s General Data Privacy Regulation because you are emailing your customers at their request. That makes them transactional rather than marketing emails

But, while your have your browsers’ attention, why not invite them to join your mailing list? Highlight the benefits of joining – special offers and discounts, VIP notices, etc. – but assure them they can request a restock alert without opting in. 

Also, remind customers why they should sign up for an email stock alert, such as being the first to find out when the product is restocked.

Be careful that your marketing-driven material is secondary to the restock reminder. Keep reading to see two ways to handle this.

3 tips for better ‘back in stock’ alerts

1. Be specific: We mentioned earlier that “back in stock” email messages function like abandoned-cart notices. They work best when you get as specific as possible, beginning with the subject line.

Instead of saying “Your item is back in stock,” specify the product you mean in the subject line and list details in the message in case you need to jog your customer’s memory. This is important all year long, but it become crucial for holiday shopping when your customers can easily go into information overload.

2. Make them memorable: Many “back in stock” alerts look like a robot formatted them. Design yours to be as attractive as your other marketing messages by using a similar template and adding your brand logo and colors and a little marketing pizzazz, like product alternatives.

This Glasses USA email recognizes that the love affair your customer had with a product when it wasn’t available can cool off by the time it gets restocked, so it suggests similar items from inventory. 

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This email from Lyst gives customers the option to request similar product views by clicking the “Similar products” button. Consider this approach if you are concerned about adding marketing-driven material to a transactional email.

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3. Build urgency: Persuade customers to jump on the alert. This Huckberry stock availability email stokes customers’ egos by noting that they are the first to learn about the restocked product and then ramping up the FOMO (fear of missing out) by reminded them that the new stock is limited. You don’t want customers missing out twice on a good deal!

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No matter how effective your inventory-management system is, you can’t always avoid being sold out of a popular product. But you can retain more sales by using real-time data and dynamic content in email to get out in front of the problem before customers hit a dead end on your website. 

Then, follow up with a persuasive “back in stock” alert that entices them to come back and close the deal. 

Online retailers are talking about this holiday shopping statistic from Episerver’s global shopper survey: 42% of shoppers plan to buy most or all of their gifts from Amazon this holiday shopping season.

Yikes! But the survey also found that 47% of shoppers will buy few or none of their gifts from Amazon. Plus, 43% of shoppers will start their searches on a retailer or brand website, not just Google (29%) or Amazon (30%). 

How can you boost your chances of getting more sales from the 42% of Amazon devotees and retaining your share of the 58% that will shop elsewhere? 

One of the best battlegrounds to contend with deep-pocketed ecommerce competitors is the inbox. As recent research from The Relevancy Group shows, advanced personalization on this channel has become one of marketers’ secret weapons against giants like Amazon.

Beating Amazon at the Relevance Game

Give your customers something they can’t get from the retail behemoth: an email experience that shows your customers you know them as individuals, not just as files in a database.

Of course, Amazon already does email personalization. But marketers can still find room to go above and beyond to provide unparalleled relevance. In fact, according to ground-breaking research, 52% of retail marketers cite ‘providing a more relevant and enriching customer experience’ as their primary way to compete with Amazon.

Cohort recommendations (“people who browsed that item bought this item”) and next-logical-product suggestions (“People who bought that item also bought these items”) are Amazon hallmarks, as are browse- and cart-abandon email reminders. 

All of these have also become standard offerings on many ecommerce platforms like Shopify. 

But they don’t substitute for the kind of advanced email personalization that can help your customers shop more successfully, avoiding frustrating missteps like out-of-stock inventory on a hot promotion.

How Retailers are Winning in the ‘Age of Amazon’

The Relevancy Group’s groundbreaking study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, discovered that advanced personalization drives multiple benefits for retailers of all sizes. 

Most notably, it can add $20 – or more – in revenue for every $1 spent on it, on top of the added revenue from basic or purchase-based personalization.

But advanced personalization, which uses real-time, clickstream and open-time data to drive unique, highly relevant content for each email recipient, can also help retailers stand up to Amazon.

As an allergy sufferer, sometimes I think we should change the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” to “April showers bring … a whole lot of pollen.”

Okay, I realize my version doesn’t rhyme, or even have the right number of syllables, so it will never replace the original. Yet, pollen is still a real part of spring, and an inevitability that millions of people with allergies are very aware of—and dread—each year.

For innovative email marketers, pollen doesn’t have to be bad news. Instead, with a little creative thinking, you can use this annual event as a new way to create personalized campaigns that connect with consumers in ways they may not expect.

Even better, using pollen counts can be an effective approach for a wider variety of industries and brands that you might at first think. So even if your company doesn’t sell allergy medicine—or even anything for the outdoors—you can still use weather conditions to your advantage.

LG turns pollen counts into a marketing advantage

Leading electronics and appliances retailer LG recently came up with a great way to incorporate pollen counts into its email campaigns.

In this case, LG used Liveclicker’s LiveForecast advanced email experience to personalize emails with five-day forecasts of expected pollen counts in the recipient’s city or region. More, these forecasts were displayed with color coding and a custom graphic, both of which would quickly catch a reader’s attention. For example, on the worst days, the graphic would include a red bar with the words, “Pollen level: Very high,” while the custom graphic displayed more pollen than other days.

The entire creative was set against a backdrop of a blooming cherry tree just beginning to shed its early flowers (just looking at it makes my eyes water) and displayed an industry seal to demonstrate that LG’s products are officially certified to be asthma and allergy friendly.

Why would an appliance and electronics company like LG create this type of email, especially considering it sells products designed for indoor use?

It turns out they had a very good reason. LG created this real-time personalization experience to promote its line of washing machines, air purifiers, and other LG products that could help reduce pollen and other common household allergens.

This innovative email approach led to a new way to connect with consumers, “warn” them that they could be facing an upcoming pollen problem, and then demonstrate just how LG products could help them overcome these potential  issues. Clever…and very effective!

Additional uses for pollen counts

On one hand, personalizing emails with pollen counts and other weather conditions may seem too specific, or not an approach every company can use. Yet creative marketing teams in a wide variety of industries can use this real-time information as an effective marketing tool.

Some other powerful use cases:

As you can see from the LG example and the suggestions above, there are many different ways to use pollen and weather forecasts in your email marketing campaigns. Don’t forget, you can use these forecasts in either situation—when pollen is high or low—giving you a rare win-win opportunity.