From the pandemic, to supply chain issues, to big changes from Apple and Google on the near-term horizon, old ways of working have been tossed out the window. Now, marketers are scrambling to innovate and find new, better ways to connect with customers.

And the smartest email experts out there are succeeding by using the combination of automation and first-party data to personalize interactions like never before.

The shift to online shopping isn’t slowing down anytime soon

Today’s consumers are savvy online searchers, shoppers, and influencers. They seek out companies that offer the best customer experience and are quick to leave if they don’t get what they want.

In fact, 66% of consumers agree that the pandemic has made them appreciate well-designed technology more than before. And this has put a lot of strain on marketers—including 59% who have already considered quitting their current position at least once over the past year due to all of this added pressure.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the entire digital marketing game is shifting. Planning in annual cycles, relying on cookies to help with targeting, assuming that customers will do what you want them to—these norms are gone.

Now, you need to be more flexible, more agile, and less reliant on big companies so that you can move at the speed of your customers, capture trends, and remain relevant. And while this sounds like a lot of extra work, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can probably achieve all of this with just a few tweaks to what you already have in place.

Download our latest resource—A Marketer’s Guide to Working Smarter Not Harder—to find out how you can add automation and first-party data into your email campaigns for extra flexibility, unlimited scalability, and even more impressive results going forward!

For any digital marketer, building a highly engaged email list is a must. Because the more people you have converting into customers from it, the more money your organization makes. Considering the average ROI for every dollar invested into email marketing is $44, that’s a lot of potential profit at stake.

Assuming, of course, you can overcome one important hurdle: getting people to submit their email address and personal information.

In fact, many email marketers view this as their biggest barrier to building or growing their email list. Fortunately, the perfect lead magnet can make all the difference. By offering value (and making it clear to every website visitor prior to signing up) via a downloadable content piece, your brand can easily grow email engagement and positive list activity.

So, why should you take a closer look at your current lead magnets? And which lead magnets can grow your email engagement, subscriber count, and online revenue most effectively?

Why you need to pay more attention to lead magnets moving forward

With Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update rumored to be days away and the death of third-party cookies coming next year, first-party data is quickly becoming marketing’s most valuable resource. Moving forward, the personal insights you collect from your most loyal customers should be the foundation you build your email campaigns and experiences around.

But this is easier said than done—especially when someone is visiting your site for the very first time. Consumers are increasingly careful with the brands whom they choose to share their contact information with. Which is precisely why lead magnets are such an invaluable tool for your marketing team.

One of the best ways to convince on-the-fence shoppers to share their contact information is through incentives and immediate value delivered in return. And a free gift in the form of a downloadable guide, exclusive research, etc. for giving you their email address instantly builds rapport, credibility, and trust. Giving your brand a positive first impression that’s more likely to lead to long-term buyers and higher levels of email engagement in the future.

9 lead magnets to inspire email list growth

Okay, so you understand how important lead magnets are to your email list. Now comes the big question: which one(s) do you use?

While each of these nine lead magnet ideas have proven over the years to be your most effective options, carefully consider each depending on your niche and the value you intend to deliver to your visitors and subscribers. After all, not every lead magnet has the same relevance or impact from one audience to the next.

  1. Ebook

For years, Ebooks have been considered a primary lead magnet for business in virtually every industry. They’re easy to write and build, you can share as much (or as little) info as you desire, and they offer customers and prospects alike tremendous value by solving an important problem or answering a strategic question in return for providing their email address.

  1. Webinar

If you like the idea of an Ebook but prefer a more interactive format to gain subscribers, a private webinar can be the perfect lead magnet for your brand. Because it’s a message you’re devoting more resources to and putting an actual face of an expert in front of, visitors perceive the value of these experiences higher than almost any other option available.

Plus, it leaves a lot of potential for follow-up communications and future webinar experiences to go in-depth on more specific topics that are relevant to your targeted audience.

  1. Step-by-Step Guide

The best kind of content is actionable. So, short lists and step-by-step guides are an effective, easy way to get the attention of your website visitors and convert them into longtime followers.

  1. Free Trial/Demo

For brands that have products so good they sell themselves, a free trial or product demo upon email list signup can be a powerful lead magnet. While your competitors offer information and helpful resources to tempt new subscribers, a free trial or demo lets your customers know you’re willing to go the extra mile and deliver solutions instead of just data—instantly increasing your odds of conversion.

  1. Templates

Unfortunately, many companies lack the time and resources to create lead magnets themselves. Meaning that any brand offering time-saving templates and pre-built content can be a lifesaver for overworked marketers who want to stay focused on big-picture strategies—and a trusted resource that keeps your audience coming back for more.

  1. Free Consultation

Not every brand features an industry expert or authority figure. But if yours does, a free consultation is considered the most valuable lead magnet of all. While this certainly requires a significant time commitment compared to other options listed here, a no-strings-attached conversation with a thought leader rapidly expands the growth of your email list.

Plus, this lead magnet option allows you to pre-sell your solutions and services by positioning them in the context of each customer’s primary challenges and concerns—giving you new ways to make a significant sum in the process.

  1. Discounts & Coupons

While there are plenty of ways to get fancy with your lead magnets, a good, old-fashioned discount or coupon can go a long way toward luring more visitors to your email list. Chances are, visitors are coming to your site and browsing your online store with something in mind. So, it makes sense that giving them an exclusive price on the products they’re most interested in right away is a quick and easy way to grow your current list.

  1. Podcasts

In the age of multimedia, why not give your visitors something new to consume? Exclusive podcasts are an easy way to connect new subscribers with conversations they care about—without the need for you to design copy, graphics, or any photo/video elements.

  1. Video Tutorial

If pictures are worth one thousand words, then a video tutorial can be considered an invaluable lead magnet for any marketing effort prioritizing email engagement. After all, there’s a reason video marketing is in trend: compared to books, infographics, podcasts, and other traditional content types, video far and away holds the most value in the average consumer’s mind.

While in-depth video tutorials obviously require more resources to create, there’s no denying that these lead magnets will provide the best incentive for your visitors to submit their contact info and actively engage with your marketing messages.
Now that you have everything you need to make your lead magnets more impactful, it’s time to take your email marketing campaigns to the next level. Download our 2021 Holiday Marketing Success Guide to implement these low-effort, high-success tactics this season!

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will change the email marketing landscape forever. But the good news? Any marketing team that gets ahead of iOS 15 and adapts now will be well-positioned to take advantage of any new opportunities that result.

What is Mail Privacy Protection?

A few months ago, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection—which essentially gives any Apple Mail user the ability to opt into privacy protections that block email open-tracking pixels, location metadata, and other personally identifiable information from marketing email senders.
Considering that these recipients are responsible for anywhere from 10% to 40% of your total email engagement, this update is a big deal. Especially for marketing teams that use open rate or open-focused metrics to measure campaign success.

But—contrary to many headlines out there—the sky isn’t falling. In fact, this privacy-focused pivot creates more business potential than ever for the brands willing to adjust their email strategies now. So, which changes do you need to keep in mind?

How Mail Privacy Protection will change the way you work

In its official announcement, Apple states that “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

For email marketers, that means three new and important changes to prepare for:

Evolve your email marketing strategy

Mail Privacy Protection is going to artificially inflate your open rates, make tactics like geo-targeting more difficult to perform, and ultimately muddy the waters when it comes to measuring email campaign engagement. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to overcome these challenges while simultaneously maximizing your results.

Move past opens. Measure your success using interactions instead.

Did your customer really see that email, or was Apple’s Proxy request responsible for the open? This is an answer that many email marketers will want to know once Mail Privacy Protection goes live. The question you need to be asking, however, is, “What happens next?”

Now more than ever, it’s important you focus on building an engaging email experience that’s impossible to ignore—so that anytime someone does see your message, they do more than simply open it. So, look past open rates to find out where you already have competitive advantages and iOS-optimized email elements before inserting these tools into every new campaign moving forward.

Mail Privacy Protection

If you’re a Liveclicker customer, things like embedded videos and LiveSlides with individual CTAs attached to individual images won’t be affected by these changes.

Focus your A/B testing on conversions

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will make it impossible to accurately measure open-focused metrics like time of request, open duration, or opener location/timezone among your Apple Mail audience. So, re-think your email marketing benchmarks by prioritizing stats such as clicks, conversions, and revenue generated instead.

If you haven’t revisited your messaging in a while, look for opportunities to A/B test across engaged and unengaged audiences with more fun, interactive offers and email elements. By focusing on user engagement and interaction instead of opens and sales with your email interactions, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Mail Privacy Protection

When COVID-19 put Chipotle’s annual Boorito promotion in jeopardy, the brand turned to more interactive email promotions—and quickly uncovered unprecedented results. By including mobile messaging and social media contests in its regular email campaign, Chipotle was able to generate more than one billion online impressions, more than 500,000 social media engagements, and a click-to-open rate that was three times higher than the average industry benchmark.

Use first-party data for highly targeted personalization

With Apple’s major changes right around the corner, now is the perfect time to know exactly where your customer data resides and whether or not you’re making the most of these insights.

Any email you send that suggests a local store to visit or bases product recommendations on current weather conditions, for example, will be impossible to build purely from sender data received. Hide My Email and a host of new, privacy-focused Apple Mail features will mask recipients’ IP addresses and location metadata, meaning that unless you’ve specifically asked for and collected these data points from every customer, your automated targeting will need to be adjusted to capture them elsewhere.

Going forward, tools like ESP tags, CSV files, and API calls will only grow more invaluable to marketers looking to connect data sources and bridge the gaps Mail Privacy Protection causes. By combining fun email elements like embedded polls and surveys with previous stores shopped at, purchase history, and more, savvy email marketers will still be able to make location- and weather-based messaging personal. It just might take a little more work than you’re used to.

Mail Privacy Protection

To learn more about Apple’s upcoming Mail Privacy Protection update and how it impacts email marketers everywhere in greater detail, view our Navigating an Evolving Privacy Environment webinar now!

A healthy email list of engaged subscribers who cherish your messages and click on them regularly is the marketing equivalent of Nirvana, and not just because you can make lots of money with it. 

A strong email database is a microcosm of your customer base. It can tell you who they are, where and how they engage with your brand, what motivates them, their monetary value to your brand, and much more. 

You can also find out whether customers who regularly engage with your emails are more valuable, revenue-wise, than those who don’t. (They probably are.) 

While external threats like security breaches are a growing menace, the real hazard to your database comes—as they say in horror movies—from inside the house through internal misuse and neglect. 

When good email lists go bad

With a healthy email list, you can create valid segments of subscribers and customers who share common characteristics and then target email campaigns to those groups. That’s the essence of relevant messages, which generally outperform undifferentiated or broadcast messages.

So far, we probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t know already. But here’s something to think about:  

A database full of inactive email addresses and out-of-date data can lead you to create unreliable or invalid segments. This translates into irrelevant messaging that begets more unsubscribes and spam complaints and even higher disengagement and inactivity. 

Mailbox providers pick up on negatives like inactivity and spam complaints and use that information to block your messages from the inbox. Your KPIs become unreachable goals. Funding can dry up or move to more profitable channels. That’s when any marketer’s dream turns into a nightmare.

As little as 10 to 15 years ago, this would have been the end of the email story for many brands. But today we know much more about segmentation and other email best practices—as well as how to use them to bring a dying email database back to life (or, ideally, keep it from falling into disrepair in the first place). 

8 segmentation best practices for a healthy email database

A combination of strategy, email automation, continuous monitoring, and list management can keep your email database growing and healthy. As long as you follow along with these 8 suggestions, of course!

1. Choose the right email partner

The best fit for your email program isn’t always the platform with the most bells and whistles, or the cheapest. Consider your team’s size and technical abilities, what email is expected to deliver for your company, how easily your platform integrates with the rest of your marketing technology stack, and dozens of other important factors before making any decisions. 

If you’re not happy with your current platform, figure out why first and then start your partner search once you have your answers. That way, you keep your most important partner priorities and criteria top-of-mind—making it much more likely you’ll be able to work together and accomplish strategic, big-picture goals going forward.

2. Build accurate buyer personas

Now more than ever, buyer persona accuracy is important thanks to the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyer behaviors, habits, and expectations are changing—and fast. Meaning that much of what you currently know about your customers is already out of date.

Suppose one of your pre-pandemic personas is a younger suburban mother with school-age children and a full-time job outside the home. Then along came the pandemic and its many shutdowns. How well has that persona held up? Accurate email data and first-party insights can reveal shifts in buying and engagement patterns your personas should reflect—so prioritize its collection whenever possible.

3.  Segment subscribers by their actions

Where personas help you understand your customers better, segmentation lets you group like-minded customers into relevant groups based on behavior, preferences, interests, and more. 

Newer subscribers, for example, are probably more active than your long-term subscribers at any given moment. So for your onboarding email experience, why not segment recipients by those who did (and didn’t) click a link or convert on a CTA?

This allows you to build a list of brand-new, highly engaged shoppers—and then target this segment with dynamic content and highly personalized, highly persuasive interactions that more closely match each specific buyer’s wants and needs.

4. Ace the test and experience success

With everything you have to do just to get an email campaign out the door, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of building up a full-blown segmentation strategy and accurate customer personas. So, start small and test everything. Because the best results are usually delivered by minimal changes—not brands that reinvent the wheel.

Picture this: Your current audience segmentation strategy hasn’t been updated in years. You’re still hitting your numbers, but you know with a little work it could be doing way more for your business. Instead of blowing everything up and starting from square one, test one or two tweaks first. That way, you can uncover segmentation wins with as little extra work as possible.

5. Collect first-party data from your customers

The only insights you should be focusing on are the first-party data points you collect from subscribers and customers—a.k.a. anything they observe or tell you.

First-Party data is the driving force behind email personalization, but it also helps you create accurate buyer personas and subscriber segments. And here are several easy ways to collect more of it:

6. Keep your email lists clean and updated

Your email platform should automatically remove spam complainers, unsubscribers, invalid email addresses, and other problems from your plate. But over time, even the best email list can accumulate abandoned, fake, or disposable addresses that drive no value. A list hygiene service can identify and recommend actions for dealing with these.

Once you’ve cleaned up your email list, consider dealing with inactive addresses next. While it may be surprising to hear, removing them isn’t always the answer. Create a strategy that identifies the early warning signs of inactivity. Quarantine your nonresponders and test new ways to connect or invite them to unsubscribe.

Speaking of which… 

7. Make unsubscribing easy

This can boost your email performance in the long run because you’ll have less inactivity and fewer spam complaints. A hybrid process can include a one-click unsubscribe with a landing page that offers alternatives like changing frequency, switching email streams entirely, or engagement via other channels like web and mobile instead.

8. Always get permission before clicking send

We left this one for last because it should be so obvious we shouldn’t have to say it, but here goes nothing: Always get explicit permission (no pre-checked boxes or clauses buried in account terms of service) before sending marketing messages.

It’s the law. The United States, India, and a few smaller countries aside, permission is required to email customers in Canada, the EU, the UK, and dozens of other countries that regulate email.

Plus, people expect it. They hate unsolicited email more than almost anything else, and that hatred can hurt your brand. A list full of forced subscribers can throw off your segmentation strategy and degrade list performance. Instead of roping people in against their will, show them what benefits they get by subscribing—and then live up to your promises with your email content.

It’s one of the oldest maxims in the advertising business: People buy from other people, not from brands. 

But in the digital world, there’s no truth-telling best friend standing by with candid advice. So, who can your customers trust to give them the real scoop on whether or not a product lives up to your marketing hype?

The answer is easy: Other like-minded shoppers.

That’s why bringing User-Generated Content (UGC) like customer testimonials, images, and comments into your email content can more than double your conversion rate. People look to others like themselves to see what to buy, what to like and don’t like about a product, how to use it, and more. 

Adding UGC into your email messages has other benefits, too. It adds a human element to any marketing message, instantly building the opportunity for organic brand affinity. Because, let’s face it, social proof—the psychological phenomenon in which people look for guidance from the opinions or actions of others—and word-of-mouth advertising are two of the most powerful, well-known conversion motivators for a reason.

3 ways you can use UGC to increase email conversions

For major brands with high name recognition, a stable full of social media influencers, and a team that can keep tabs on consumer sentiment, finding and incorporating consumer-created content into an email sounds like pretty easy work.. 

But what about the majority of companies that lack a portfolio of glowing reviews or a major following and social media footprint?

With some strategic thinking and the right amount of automated technology in the mix, you can effortlessly pull UGC from review sites and social media platforms into your email experience. Giving even the most overworked one-person marketing teams out there the opportunity to satisfy shoppers and accelerate their path to conversion in three ways:

1. Customer testimonials, reviews, and recommendations

Honest, transparent communications like these should be at the heart of any customer-created content strategy. Because real-time testimonials, product reviews, and recommendations sourced from people actually buying from you aren’t just one of the most effective tools for increasing email conversions—they’re a great way to gain control over the market-driven narrative surrounding your brand too.

It’s no secret that most people like to feel heard and respected. In today’s ecommerce-driven business environment, millions of buyers enjoy rating and reviewing their purchases to help others out. So, appeal to this philanthropic instinct and elevate your customer experience!

Incorporating UGC into your email marketing efforts is as easy as making a simple request, whether that’s asking online shoppers for a 5-star rating at checkout or following up with a personalized email after the sale seeking a review of the product benefits most likely to convince like-minded, on-the-fence buyers to try it out for themselves.


To get started, add an automated review request to your post-purchase email flow. Set it up to trigger after customers have had a few days to receive their purchases and try them out. And don’t be afraid to follow up with a second request if testing shows people need a little extra prodding before they’re ready to give you an honest review.

That way, live content from customers’ social media profiles or ratings featured on a third-party review site can be pulled directly into your emails via data feed. Giving you the ability to create up-to-the-minute promotions and messages with highly persuasive, relevant pitches that feel less like sales-speak and more like a conversation between long-time friends.

If you really want to make the most of your UGC investment, you can review answers and customer responses manually to find the perfect content for your emails and product pages. Done well, customer-created content can even help you choose specific people for more in-depth interviews to uncover further trends and external thoughts about a specific product or marketing initiative.

2. Use UGC on social media to your advantage

By sourcing customer-created content from your loyal followers’ social media posts, you effectively expand your brand’s reach to create a community of like-minded, highly engaged customers. Compared to any one-size-fits all approach or generic sales promotion, adding user-generated social media engagement into your emails gives every recipient an experience that’s refreshing, reliable, and real—not one that was brainstormed in a boardroom or a marketing meeting somewhere.

And now more than ever, authenticity and honesty are values that matter to every brand and buyer. In fact, TurnTo Networks found that 90% of today’s consumers find this type of UGC helpful for making purchase decisions.


So, implement personalization technology that automatically sweeps any social media content your brand is tagged or featured in, meets your specific ratings criteria, and dynamically populates it into specific content modules within your email template to add the voice of the customer into your marketing strategy via social proof.

Once you’ve laid the foundation and started your brand conversation on social media channels, you can even run special promotions and exclusive discounts on these platforms to meet new audiences where they prefer to share their favorite products among friends, family members, and trusted influencers they follow. Making it more likely your brand receives the benefits word-of-mouth marketing brings.

3. Don’t be shy—share your favorite customers’ success

Believe it or not, customer-created content isn’t limited to consumer-facing brands—it has a place in your B2B email sends, too.  After all, many business buyers aren’t looking for a product. They’re searching for a solution to their most important problem. And a timely case study or impressive results achieved by a similar company can definitely be a compelling piece of content that convinces corporate customers you’re the perfect fit for them as well.

Too many email case studies or customer success stories, however, fall into the list of features trap where most messaging space is devoted to the mechanics and tech specs of your specific products instead of the customer benefits achieved by implementing them. Marketers want immediate, easy results—so use these unique perspectives to promote the destination, not the long, overly complex, and (frankly) boring journey it took to get there.

In other words, these emails shouldn’t be about you. Frame your customer-created examples in the context of the recipient’s mindset to answer the one question customers really want to know: “Can we use this product to experience similar results too?”


TL;DR: Authenticity matters, and customer-created content delivers

UGC is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval: An unbiased third-party source of information and support that shoppers prioritize when deciding whether to buy or pass by your store. So, take a step back, relax, and let your most loyal shoppers and brand evangelists do the talking for a change.

When it comes to building, managing, and elevating a CX program, your work is never truly done. Because a personalized customer experience needs constant attention, iteration, and innovation to deliver results—not to mention the rewarding interactions your customers and your brand marketing initiatives deserve.

Unfortunately for too many businesses out there, improving the customer experience is overly complicated. If you’re relying on static tools and siloed databases to inform big-picture decisions, it can be tough to figure out where to make changes or how to take advantage of new market trends from one season to the next.

So relax, take a deep breath, and start with step one: CX program design. Having a master plan that details how, why, when, and where you collect and use first-party data is a huge bonus that elevates any CX program. Especially if you add these three low-effort, high-impact email personalization strategies into the mix:

Keep your customers content with dynamic email content

If you can’t analyze data to determine the bigger picture, you can’t elevate a CX program—much less expect it to perform. “Business as usual,” or “That’s how we’ve always done things around here,” cause too many brands to waste valuable time, money, and customer goodwill because the marketers involved are too afraid to evolve. But not all hope is lost!

If you’re stuck in a similar situation, one seemingly small personalized email element can turn your CX program around by addressing the root of most problems before they have a chance to happen. If you have a headache, for example, you take an aspirin to manage the pain. But if they keep happening every day, you’re likely heading to the doctor to address the cause of the issue to find a long-term solution.

In this case, our recommended prescription is dynamic content. By giving your email marketing team the ability to automatically update and replace messaging, you create a more relevant and engaging message today. But, whether you know it or not, you’re also making it easier to elevate your customer experience going forward.

CX program

Dynamic email content adds value to your A/B testing efforts because it allows you to make adjustments based on buyer behavior changes, market trends, and more on-the-fly. In some cases, even after the original message is delivered.

Now, you’re never left wondering ‘what if’ after clicking send. Rather than trying to make sense of months’ worth of data every time you need to make a change, you have the ability to analyze customer feedback and make adjustments in real-time—keeping your CX program healthy and performing optimally. And, best of all, making it possible to build unforgettable customer experiences in mere seconds.

The customer is always right, so ask them what they want

As you know, getting a customer’s attention can be tough. But keeping them engaged is what separates successful brands from everybody else. To do this, you must understand your buyers at a fundamental level. And while you could spend weeks or months conducting research to find the answers to your most important CX program questions, it turns out one of the most effective ways to collect these is also one of the most fun, interactive emails you can possibly send.

CX program

An embedded email poll or survey gives you a live look at the pulse of your customer experience and how well it’s performing at any given time. By shying away from broad, open-ended questions, you make it easy for loyal shoppers to submit their personal info—giving you a greater understanding of what motivates them to buy, how they feel about your brand, and how you can ultimately increase engagement to elevate your CX program.

After all, personalized email elements like this one increase CTR by an average of 17 times—leading to email interactions that are six times more likely to result in revenue than static alternatives!

Beyond these benefits, however, embedded email polls and surveys take your customer profiling and segmentation capabilities to the next level. Because these tools make it easy to ask individuals about the things most important to their customer experience—giving you all the info you need to personalize their next email based on unique preferences, buying habits, and other critical considerations.

As a best practice, we recommend you take a step back and think before adding surveys into every send. What exactly are you trying to find out from your loyal subscribers? And—more importantly—how can you make this experience feel less like an ‘ask’ and more like a conversation between trusted friends?

These personalized email elements can be especially helpful during seasonal or customer lifecycle shifts when buying behavior changes on a dime once you’re able to confidently answer these questions. So why wait any longer to progress your CX program through live polling?

Don’t build a customer base. Build a community.

A successful CX program is everyone’s job, so be sure to focus your design discussions on how you can include more people in the process to align organizational values and mission statements with your most loyal customers’ needs to build an engaged community of buyers and brand fans.

CX program

An exceptional customer experience is one that reflects seasonal trends and adapts to changing conditions as they occur instead of after the fact. So, don’t make the goal of every email you send or interaction to take part in a sale. Reserve special messaging and campaigns for your most important shoppers to show that they mean more to you than new revenue or a simple dollar amount.

A carefully crafted message, a promotion featuring a timely charitable cause, or a social media campaign that gets your customers involved can take your CX program further than you ever thought possible. By cultivating a community of active, engaged brand evangelists at every opportunity, you add a sense of purpose, belonging, and value to each customer interaction.

And, thanks to these extra-rewarding relationships, you can be sure your customers pay you back big-time for the personalization you deliver now.

First-party data has always been your best personalization tool because it comes from the insights your customers share directly with your brand. At its most basic level, this info can be classified as one of two categories:

You need both kinds of data to get a well-rounded picture of each customer. Because what customers tell you in preference data might be different from what you see them actually doing. Combined, this more comprehensive picture helps you create more relevant, personalized content for every customer in every campaign you send.

So, what’s going wrong for so many companies in terms of email conversions right now?

1. You’re not selling customers the right stuff.

Your goal isn’t just to send an offer. It’s to deliver value and an exceptional customer experience with every email conversion opportunity. 

Yes, you can sell. But you sell best when you recommend products or services that reflect the data you have on your customer—the kinds of products she browses and buys most often, the sports he tells you he enjoys, where each customer lives, and so on. A truly personalized customer experience only comes after you apply the first-party data insights you’ve collected about each customer to your marketing messages. Especially if it doesn’t take extra work or development resources to put into practice.

email conversion

As one of the world’s largest online pet marketplaces, Rover wanted to know if dynamically personalizing its emails based on customers’ dog breeds could have a positive impact on sales. And after applying new segmentation rules and A/B testing of a generic email’s results versus one with a dynamic, breed-specific hero image the answer was an overwhelming yes. Compared to its static alternatives, Rover’s personalized email experience drove 80% more revenue to the retailer!

2. You don’t speak your customer’s language.

An irrelevant message won’t generate clicks or conversions. In the long run, the only way to win is with messages that show customers you know them. After all, emails with dynamic content elements that can be automatically adjusted based on your first-party data insights are more appealing to the average buyer.

That’s because—rather than another one-size-fits-all sales promotion—these personalized interactions are more interesting and engaging. Your customers are excited when they see a new email from you in their inbox, making your messages more likely to not only be read—but your recipients more likely to click and convert on your offer.

And that generates even more first-party data feedback. Which you can use to refine and further personalize your emails for even better results and long-term customer loyalty.

email conversion

Prior to partnering with us, Hot Topic received an uptick of customer service complaints whenever Harry Potter promo emails were sent. After asking its subscribers about their Hogwarts house affiliation and segmenting the audience by their responses, the brand has eliminated this negative noise—on top of growing email engagement, open rate, conversion rate, and CTR too.

3. You’re selling to the wrong audience.

A growing subscriber list is an essential component for any email marketing strategy’s success—but size alone isn’t enough. If you don’t include as many likely buyers as possible in your campaigns, you’ll never see the CTR or conversions you expect. 

So, use the customer insights you can draw from studying your first-party data to divide your email list into meaningful segments and personas. Then and only then are you ready to target your message content to each specific group. 

When FitKit UK needed a more in-depth understanding of its email subscribers to send more targeted, engaging content to its recipients, we helped the organization build an interactive campaign that featured embedded surveys asking customers about their fitness needs and overall familiarity with the brand.

email conversion

As a result, FitKit UK experienced immediate results—including a 272% increase in email clicks, a 59% increase in conversion rate, and a 298% increase in orders placed through these interactions

Everybody wins when you put the customer first

By following these best practices and prioritizing your customer experience, you’ll be ready to send more relevant, engaging messages that help your customers shop successfully in no time! And that’s a win-win that pays dividends for everybody involved.

Download our playbook, The Dynamic Personalization Elements You Can Be Automating to Spend More Time Creating, for a step-by-step guide to enhance your customer experience through first-party data and dynamic email elements.

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