After teaming up with our sister brand Sailthru, we painstakingly parsed through websites, email lists and mobile apps to evaluate retail’s best brands in terms of personalization across almost 100 different data points. And, as a result of all this hard work, the 2021 Retail Personalization Index is ready!

Like always, this year’s Index pays special attention to things like personalized product recommendations based on shopping cart and browsing history. But our research also takes the fact that we are living in an unprecedented time into consideration, too.

In 2021, personalization basics like product recommendations and triggered welcome emails aren’t optional—they’re an expectation. Yesterday’s differentiators are quickly becoming today’s table stakes because the current pandemic is forcing retail to adopt a digital-first mindset.

As consumers embrace mobile and cross-channel shopping experiences more and more frequently, the brands personalizing their customer interactions across every channel set themselves apart from the competition—and up for serious success going forward.

Last year’s edition surveyed 1,500 consumers about their retail customer experiences. This year, we helped Sailthru take this combined research to another level. Because the 2021 Retail Personalization Index includes findings from 5,000 online shoppers and their individual brand interactions throughout COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Changes Your Customers Forever

As the world adapts to a new normal, real-world safety concerns are understandably impacting online buyer behavior. According to McKinsey, in 2020, “Consumers vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks.”

Online shopping across all channels is on the rise. Your customers are taking recommendations from platforms and people they might have overlooked in the past. And almost two-thirds of shoppers are making permanent changes to their routine purchasing as a direct result of the personalized options out there today.

Of course, as your customers’ needs change in response to safety concerns and stay-at-home orders, your interactions with them must change — and the leaders recognized in our 2021 Index are taking advantage of these trends to drive unprecedented growth through personalization.

By offering buyers a satisfying, convenient experience that delivers exactly what they need, brands can make life a little bit easier. And that benefit has never been more valuable.

So, how did this year’s retail personalization leaders stack up in the mind of the average consumer? And which important customer experience trends surfaced in our survey results? 

COVID-19 messaging is top-of-mind

As consumers rely on digital offerings for most retail needs to survive stay-at-home orders, more than half (53%) of consumers feel that it is very important for the brands that they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines. And 25% more rate it at least somewhat important.

Women are generally more concerned about brands having these measures in place than men (56% vs. 49%). Not to mention older consumers as well, who understandably place a much larger importance on these measures being in place. No wonder 78% of 2021’s Top 25-ranked brands make it a priority to incorporate COVID-19 messaging into their digital strategy. 

Personalized product recommendations are more important than ever 

One thing every Top 25 brand has in common this year is the fact that they pay special attention to the personalized product recommendations they offer on their respective websites. But they don’t stop there.

Because 96% also give shoppers the ability to like, rate, or star their favorite products, and 93% percent offer the option to create wishlists. 

The rise of non-product messaging

Many shoppers feel disconnected from the outside world as a result of the pandemic. Which means — for any brand working hard to fill customers’ social gaps with engaging content and personalized connections — non-product messaging has the potential to deliver tremendous business benefits.

By creating interactive online communities for followers, subscribers, and new customers across all digital interactions, these companies are delivering the personalized, non-product-focused content modern buyers crave.

For example, athleisure brand Fabletics offers fans of its Fabletics Men line geo-targeted weather reports in order to help users better plan their outdoor workouts. Most of our Top 25 list — 93%, to be exact — provide non-product content throughout their website, email, and mobile app experiences. And 100% of them are actively engaging these audiences on social media, too.

Many are missing the mark on personalized mobile

Your customers are pivoting to mobile as a means of browsing products, planning in-store visits, and making purchases. And they’re doing so at an unprecedented rate. So, it’s logical to assume that our top-ranked Index brands are focusing heavily on areas like push notifications and app interactions.

Despite this movement, the modern retail industry is still leaving lots of money on the table. Because — compared to web and email — the push to personalize mobile engagement is lagging behind.

So, it stands to reason that retailers who send relevant push notifications and create app experiences that take consumers’ personalized needs into consideration can gain quite an advantage over any competitor sending one-size-fits-all messaging moving forward. 

Online/offline integration is the wave of the future 

As your customers begin to trickle back into stores, they still want to take the ease and convenience of their online experiences with them. Thanks to the current pandemic, consumers are much more likely to shop on their smartphones now, and also much more likely to integrate their smartphones and other online interactions to their offline behaviors.


Download your copy of the results to start building your brand’s personalization roadmap, taking advantage of modern retail’s most important trends, and improving your customer experience across all web, email, and mobile interactions.

This year has required a lot of adaptability and change on the part of email marketers, and it’s easy to feel like you’re always playing catch up. But the core principles of retail marketing still apply, and it’s not too late to capitalize on what you’re already doing right for bigger returns in the new year. 

Keep in mind that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to achieve your goals. With some simple but vital adjustments, you can go back to basic, proven email tactics and make them faster, more personal, and more effective. 

Here are a few quick and easy ideas that build upon basic retail principles to  make reaching those holiday revenue goals seem more achievable while creating a more efficient workflow and helping your team, regardless of size, be more nimble. 

Personalize your greetings

Go beyond just including your customer’s name in your emails. Make your emails stand out with advanced personalization to show off your creativity. Custom greetings and messages based on the time of day the email is opened takes personalization one step further. 

After all, aside from the email’s subject line, the greeting is the first part that your customers will read. Foster that connection early in the email to capture their attention for the long-haul, not just a few seconds. 

 Add power to promotions

Utilize a countdown timer within the email for limited-time offers, promotions, and events to create a sense of urgency. By doing so, you’re building anticipation and using the “Fear of Missing Out” to your advantage. 

For your customers, this lets them know when and where the next big event or promotion for your brand will take place, making that occasion irresistible. 

The best part is countdown timers don’t have to just be for current promotions and events. You can also use a countdown timer to let your customers know how long they have to order to guarantee their items arrive in time for Christmas.

Or you can add to the anticipation by adding a scratch and reveal offer. Customers are going to click to see what sort of offer or promotion was selected just for them. And you no longer have to worry about the need to send a new email once the offer or promotion expires. It’s as simple as swapping out the old deal with the new one so that whenever your customers open the email, there’s a timely offer waiting for them.

Make multiple shopping options a breeze

This time of year can be just as busy for your customers. Utilize the add-to calendar function to schedule a convenient time for curbside delivery and automatically send out timely reminders. 

For your customers, this means that they never forget to pick up their order and reduces the risk of accidentally double-booking themselves. 

For email marketers, the best part is that an expired shipping promotion no longer requires preparing and sending multiple emails, which can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Moment of open customization allows you to automatically replace expired promotions for the current ones, no matter when your customer actually gets around to opening your email. That way your team can focus on the bigger, strategic undertakings and reduce your overall workload.  

 Optimize the post-purchase experience

One easy way to build anticipation for online orders is to add shipping tracking to your order confirmation emails, but it doesn’t have to be boring with just a receipt and tracking number. Capitalize on these transactional emails to send out post-purchase messages to heighten the anticipation and get valuable customer feedback such as an interactive poll to track customer satisfaction. 

Not to mention, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase other relevant products that they may have missed the first time around. 

You can even take it one step further and include a tracker for your loyalty program or membership tiers so customers know exactly how much they need to spend to unlock the next discount level or reward. 

Incorporate other brand messaging into emails

As you’re pushing for those year-end sales, it’s easy to let building community among your consumers fall to the bottom of your priority list. And the idea of one more email campaign that may or may not directly and immediately lead to more sales is daunting when it’s crunch time. 

But making your customers feel like they’re part of your brand’s family doesn’t have to require a lot of time or energy, and it doesn’t have to add to your workload. You can foster that sense of community by adding a social feed of user-generated content such as photos, reviews, and appropriate comments and posts. 

Because it’s user-generated, it is one less piece of content that you and your team have to produce while building community among your brand’s biggest fans.

Get more inspiration by downloading the Retail Playbook here

Retailers have traditionally relied on the RFM model, segmenting customers by the recency, frequency and monetary values of their purchases. Sometimes they also bucket people by the categories they typically shop, whether someone is a dress buyer or more of a fashion buyer, for instance. Rarely do retailers segment by how a customer shops, which increasingly includes click and collect: curbside pickup and buying online, picking up in-store, otherwise known as BOPIS.

Click and collect, BOPIS and curbside pickup have been steadily growing in popularity for years, accounting for more sales every holiday season. Adoption was naturally accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, which all but decimated brick-and-mortar foot traffic in many parts of the U.S. A survey by market research firm Ipsos found that consumers are using BOPIS and curbside pickup 78% more than they were pre-pandemic.

While click and collect is important — especially as you think about retaining those holiday shoppers — it’s a mistake to think of these shopping behaviors as simply being another channel. Click and collect isn’t a channel; the customer is the channel. There are different personas to keep in mind and along with our sister brand Sailthru, we’ve identified four particularly important ones:

These four personas represent unique customers who should be engaged differently. Though some messaging tactics warrant more emphasis with some personas than others, some apply to any click and collect shopper. Communications should always be clear, timely and accurate before, during and after the pickup experience. Personalization is also always important as strong click and collect messaging enhances the personalized customer experience, giving people a say in how they receive their purchases. This is also where advanced personalization really shines. Moment-of-open technology ensures customers see the most up-to-date information when they open a message — not when the retailer sent it.

Understanding the nuances is challenging, but a worthwhile endeavor. Consumer behaviors have evolved in response to the pandemic, and many of the brands having strong years — Target, Best Buy and The Home Depot, to name a few — owe much of their growth to strong click and collect experiences.

Optimizing yours is a must, and along with our sister brand Sailthru, Liveclicker is here to help you do it. Download The 4 Curbside Customers to Know in 2021 to learn more about the four click and collect personas, and the different messaging tactics that work best for each, featuring examples of the brands doing it best.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.


This post is authored by Kerel Cooper, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at LiveIntent.


The fights for racial equality of 2020 have been a catalyst for companies and organizations to rethink their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Across the board, companies and organizations are thinking about how they recruit and develop more diverse talent and how to instill DEI efforts into their everyday way of life.

And while the conversations and efforts are great, there is still a very long way to go. 

These efforts and impact must be sustainable over a long period of time or they are for naught. Regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation and background, we all have a part to play.

Our idea

For an industry that does a great job of talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, the fact of the matter is there was very little progress made.

As you see in the chart from the ANA, only 12% of CMO’s are non-white. That is unchanged from 2019.

Source: ANA Diversity Report for the Advertising/Marketing Industry (2020)

Back in April of 2018, my friend Erik Requidan called me up one evening and said that he had an idea. The idea was to create a platform for diverse voices within advertising technology to tell their personal stories and journey. Erik came up with the idea as a response to the widely held feeling of exhaustion that comes from going to industry conferences and events and seeing only a few of “us” in the room and even less on stage. 

Erik’s idea was fueled by his desire for change and I loved it. He asked me to join him, to which I responded with an emphatic yes! After a few brainstorming sessions, Erik’s idea turned into the Minority Report Podcast, which we launched in May 2018.

Our purposeful mission

Over the past 2½ years, the Minority Report Podcast has evolved into a platform that highlights people of color, women & LGBTQ+ communities within business, media and technology as we tap into their experience and subject matter expertise. To date, we have recorded 65+ episodes featuring a wide range of diverse individuals.

Our discussions dive into family background & upbringing, career journey, career advice, how they’ve dealt with discrimination, ideas for improving DEI, and insights into how they see the world through their unique lens.

Of course, we also delve into business models and the ecosystem in which their businesses thrive, and how their experience informs their leadership.

We know this podcast is having a positive impact on the industry. Here is a great text I received from a former guest of the podcast: ”[I] wanted to say thank you for what you guys did with the Minority Report Podcast. Whatever ppl and companies are trying to recognize ‘diversity and inclusion’, you guys were already at the forefront, shining a light on [DEI efforts] a couple years back.”

Erik and I like to say that we’ve created one of the largest collections of stories from diverse individuals in the world of business, media, and technology. But even more importantly, these stories live on as a catalogue for the next generation of leaders to reference. 

Stories of people like us, their experiences, and their expertise were missing from our careers as Erik and I were coming up in the industry. 

Our hope is that our content will fill that void by shining a light on diverse talent. There’s no shortage of diverse talent out there! Creating this content library is our way of contributing to change and turning an idea into a purposeful mission. 

Minority Report Podcast Guests

Advice for turning an idea into a purposeful mission

Again, regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation or background we all have a part to play. And there are many ways in which we can contribute. 

If you have an idea and may be stuck on how to move forward, here is some advice for turning that idea into a purposeful mission.

Be unapologetic

Do not express regret about speaking up and taking a stand. One thing I always try to remember is to never start a conversation with “I’m sorry but..” Instead, stand firm and don’t apologize for sharing your perspective.

Follow your passion

There are many ways to impact DEI. When deciding how you will impact DEI, the key is to follow your passion. That passion will be what sustains you over a long period of time and help you maintain consistency. You could write a blog, starting a podcast, getting involved in company ERG programs, being a strong ally, assisting with company recruiting efforts, or anything else you can think of. 

The important thing is that, whatever it is you do, you have a passion for it.

Stay focused on your mission

Again, there are many ways to impact DEI and it’s easy to try to get involved in too many things. But if you spread yourself too thin, you’ll burn out and you won’t be able to continue your work.

It’s much more impactful to stay focused on a couple of things and do them really well as opposed to spreading yourself too thin.

Wrap up

There is no one way to impact DEI. The most important thing you can do is get involved and stay involved. If you’ve got an idea, follow through. You might not be able to influence the number of non-white CMOs all by yourself, but any well-placed effort contributes to that change.

The more people involved in these initiatives, the better! No matter how small you might think your idea is.

A few key points to remember:

Remember, all great change starts with an idea.


Kerel is the Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at LiveIntent. He currently leads the marketing team and works closely with sales, product, engineering and customer success to create awareness and generate leads for key products and features. Kerel has 20 years of digital media experience building and leading Advertising Operations, Account Management, Partnerships & Product Marketing teams.

Prior to LiveIntent, Kerel Cooper held positions at Advance Digital as the Senior Director Ad Platform Strategies and JupiterMedia as Director of Advertising Operations. Kerel is also the co-founder and co-host of Minority Report Podcast which highlights people of color, women & LGBTQ community within media, business and technology. Kerel has a Bachelor’s degree in Management Science/Marketing from Kean University, an MBA from Regis University, and Diversity and Inclusion Certification from Cornell University.


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post. 

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay. 

It’s no secret that the next few months can be some of the busiest. After all, there is a reason words like “hustle” and “bustle” are often coupled with the holiday season. Whether it’s holiday shopping or end-of-year giving, email marketers are working hard to put the finishing touches on several campaigns at once. The thought of adding anything more to your workload is daunting and intimidating.

And for your customers, the season is just as busy. Their inboxes are flooded with email, all the while missing what they seek most—connectedness. It’s something everyone is craving after everything that 2020 has brought and receiving emails that seem handpicked for them is one way to give your customers that sought-after feeling of connectedness to your specific brand.

As counterintuitive as it seems, email personalization doesn’t have to be time consuming and add to your workload. In fact, with an easy-to-use platform, adding dynamic content to your workflow can actually save you time and allow your team to be more nimble. Here are a few ideas on how you can use personalized components with your customers to help you achieve your year-end goals. 

Show customers seasonally relevant products

One great way to connect with customers is to ensure that the campaigns you send reflect information and creative that’s relevant to them.

You wouldn’t want to receive an email displaying winter wear if you lived in a warmer climate, and it’s almost insulting to be shown shorts and tank-tops while you don a heavy coat to scrape ice from your windshield. But creating separate email campaigns, segmenting lists, and managing multiple sends takes time — time many marketers just don’t have.

Utilizing dynamic images that automatically show the most relevant content based on an openers location or other environmental context means you don’t have to come up with separate email campaigns for each season and each geographical location. And you don’t have to worry about weather patterns changing. This gets seasonally relevant products directly to your customers while saving you time. 

Share multiple shopping options 

With this year’s pandemic, there have been a lot of unknowns, and it feels like information changes from one moment to the next. Plans for reopening change and then change again the moment they’re put to paper. 

The constant change is no less confusing and difficult to keep track of for consumers, regardless of how they shop. It’s especially true for those that insist on in-store shopping. 

And for email marketers, it can be time-consuming to design individual emails for the options at each location especially as those options constantly change. Using dynamic content emails can display the latest information for the opener’s nearest location, along with details about curbside and in-store pickups and the option to buy online. And if these details change after the email has been sent, there’s no need to send out corrected information because the email will update automatically, saving you time and providing your customers with multiple purchasing options right at their fingertips. 

Strengthen your follow-up game while simplifying online-order tracking

It’s easy for email marketers to focus all of their personalized content into pre-purchase campaigns, but the follow-up is just as important. One easy way to do that is to add a shipping tracker to a triggered order confirmation email. 

For your customers, it makes tracking those packages easy and convenient. It provides updated information while building excitement and anticipation while waiting for their package to arrive. The best part: it keeps you from losing them to the shipping provider’s site and gives you the opportunity to recommend additional products that might be of interest to your customers based on their purchase history without sending multiple emails. 

You can even add the latest best sellers from your website to your post-purchase emails for up-to-date content that you don’t have to worry about maintaining, saving you time and avoiding correction emails and frustrating user experiences as information changes.

How email marketers can snag a spot on the calendar

With the busyness that comes with the holiday season, you don’t want your customers to miss sales, events, and deadlines. With an add-to-calendar button, your subscribers can put your event on their books.

You can add to the hype by including a live counter of the number of subscribers that have added the event to their calendar and specifically target follow-up emails and deals for the customers who added the particular event to their calendars. 

Need more ideas on how to use email personalization to make memorable moments? Download the full email personalization guide here.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.


This post is authored by Bevin Morgan, Brand Manager at Fanatics.


After I graduated from business school, I got my first “real job” as an email marketing specialist in Austin, Texas. Over my 8-year tenure with the company, I would be the only Black woman on my team, barring the intern that I hired for one summer semester. (Incidentally, that intern is still the only Black woman with whom I’ve worked directly over the course of my entire professional career.)

Though we only worked together for about eight weeks over eight years ago, having her on my team still feels revolutionary.

Kiana was unapologetic about who she was in that space.

She would rock giant, early ’90s-style headphones while banging out excellent work. Every time she walked down our corridor of cubicles, the white guy on the team would remark about how Kiana “smelled like vacation.” Apparently, the smell of Shea Moisture daily leave-in conditioner wafting from abundant natural curls smells like vacation. And apparently, this was the first time Winston* was having that experience.

Working with Kiana provided me with my first opportunity to see, from the outside, how it could look to exist as a Black woman in the workplace. This was the first time I heard the way my co-workers talked about Black women in our corporate space.

This was the first time I considered that I might be able to bring more of myself to work — like Kiana was unafraid to do.

Undervalued, overlooked, and all alone

Black women are 7.8% of the U.S. labor force, but only represent 4.2% of white collar employees. This is despite earning 11.4% of bachelor’s degrees, 15.1% of master’s degrees, and 10.4% of doctorates in the U.S. We earn 63 cents for every $1 that our white male counterparts earn, and we make up .03% of executive and senior level positions. There are 3 Black female Fortune 500 CEOs.

What this means for Black women in marketing — and in all areas of corporate life— is that we are underrepresented and outnumbered.

It means that when we are present, you’re not getting us at 100%. It means that when we have a dissenting viewpoint or strong opinion, you’re unlikely to hear it as we know we’ll have to defend it alone. It means that you’re likely only hearing what we think you want to hear, because just by looking around, we’re constantly reminded of how hard it was to get our foot even this far into the door.

Diversity asks how many voices there are while inclusion asks whose ideas won’t be taken seriously because they’re in the minority. After years of having one’s ideas not taken seriously, it becomes strategic to stop expressing those ideas altogether.

After years of being the only one in the room, it becomes expedient to assume that you will be misunderstood. After countless examples of coworkers showing that they’re uncomfortable with the differences one brings to the table, it becomes prudent to be guarded.

Being a Black woman in marketing means providing tacit approval to the annual “diversity message” during Black History Month. Being a Black woman in corporate America means getting reported to your manager by a director-level coworker for taking a “sharp tone” during a meeting, being repeatedly mistaken for the only other Black woman at the company, and finding a noose hanging at your desk because your co-worker didn’t realize that might be upsetting to you. (Yes, these are all my actual, lived experiences.)

But it’s an understatement that America is currently going through a shift. Regardless of your opinion, political ideology or background, it is impossible to ignore that something is wrong. Even implicit in the statement by the CEO of Wells Fargo that there is “a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from” is the idea that Black employees have gone missing from our business institutions.
As small as it is, this realization and acknowledgement that Black people have been disproportionately shut out of corporate America is a radical change.

A change is gonna come

So, the question for corporations becomes, “What can we do to increase our diversity? How do we possibly fix this?” to which my suggestion would be, “Hire more Black people.”

If it turns out that your candidate pool is all white, reconsider where you’re placing your ads. If you realize that no one in your management team is Black, consider the methods you’re using to coach your employees. If you look around and realize that you’ve had the same one Black person on the team for the last eight years, offer to pay for their membership to a local Black networking group like the Urban League.

Because I guarantee you they’ve noticed they’re the only one. I guarantee you it’s affecting them. And, I guarantee you that they haven’t told you about it because they don’t feel safe having that conversation.

Everyone needs a Kiana. Everyone needs someone to show them that it’s okay to be themselves in the workplace, someone with whom they can resonate, someone who has their back.

I called Kiana while I was writing this article to understand what this experience had been like from her perspective. I was completely flattered to hear her say that having me as her “first real boss” created a sense in her that Black women belong in the office. She said that throughout her career, she found it natural and unexceptional to see Black women in positions of authority.
That gives me hope.

Kiana Fitzgerald has gone on to become an incredible journalist with bylines at Rolling Stone, NPR, Vibe Magazine and about a dozen other publications. She continues to speak up with a uniquely powerful voice and a sharp eye for how pop culture and current events intersect. It makes me incredibly proud to be a footnote on her journey as I know she’s still just getting started.

Every voice matters

In my ideal world, these types of relationships will blossom in every business. I look forward to the day when every marketing team can speak to their diverse customer base with an authentic voice because the people they’re attempting to reach are actually represented on the team.

For Black and other marginalized folks, this is your call to show up. Even if it’s scary or you need to start small, start bringing more “you” to the workplace. Speak up when you know something could be done better. Tell someone when the messaging will alienate 12% of your audience.

You’re in your position for a reason, so take up space.

To my people in the majority, I encourage you to listen to the silences. In your next meeting, take note of which voices are getting the most airtime. If you manage someone who you suspect isn’t being heard, start building trust in your one-on-ones. Ask for their opinion. Start soliciting their feedback in a safe setting and let them know when you’ll have their back. You may be surprised by the ideas you’re currently not hearing.

I’m excited by the prospect that a Black woman is getting hired on a team right now because the manager realizes that “fit” doesn’t mean creating a group of identical people who will never challenge his or her worldview.

I believe that we do our best work when we feel safe, supported, understood, and we’re able to bring every aspect of ourselves to the table. God willing, the shift that we’re feeling right now will be the thing that gets us there.


With more than 10 years of experience in sales and marketing roles across five different industries, Bevin Morgan thinks of herself as a Marketing Generalist. She is currently taking on sports licensed apparel and headwear as a Brand Manager at Fanatics.

Bevin left her first career in Atlanta to receive her MBA at The McCombs School at The University of Texas before landing in Lexington, Kentucky, where she now lives.

Bevin has recently founded an organization called The Walker Society, where she supports Black women on their personal financial journeys through coursework and community.


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post.

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.

As an email marketer, you want your messages to show up when subscribers will see them first – at the top of the inbox instead of buried under a mountain of competing messages. Figuring out when to send emails so subscribers will see them is a starting point for email optimization. But if you stop there, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to use this data for greater segmentation and personalization. 

That’s what will make your email break through cluttered inboxes and attract attention and engagement.

Aren’t send time and open time the same?

Not quite. Send-time data uses message opens as a proxy for checking email and suggests general sending times when subscribers are most likely to see them. But this method could mislead you into basing important decisions on faulty data:

If the subscriber doesn’t enable images, the email won’t send the ping, and the open won’t get recorded. You could end up missing a big chunk of data if a sizable number of subscribers seldom or never enable images.

That’s why you need to factor in “moment of open” data. It detects and reports opens based on proprietary elements within the email that get activated when a subscriber opens the message. 

How open-time data can optimize for accuracy and engagement

Send time tells you when someone opens your email. (See the note above about inaccuracy and under-reporting). Open-time data, integrated with dynamic content, opens the door to deeper segmentation and personalization that can drive the results you want – more clicks that lead to purchases, registrations or whatever action your email should deliver.

You can use open-time data in many ways to drive greater insight and engagement, but these three use cases illustrate how it works:

1. Make email personalization more personal and urgency more urgent.

Adding a first name to the subject line or message copy barely moves the needle these days for engagement. What does? A dynamic content module that changes time-of-day greetings (from “Good morning, Jacinta” for someone who opens an email at 9 a.m. to “Good evening, Jacinta” at 9 p.m.) 

Open-time data also helps you get customers moving by using temporal terms (“today,” “tonight,” “tomorrow”) instead of expiration dates, which can be more abstract in the imagination.

2. Test to find the highest engagement time. 

Many people check their email first thing in the morning, even before they stumble out of bed. But is that when they’re buying?

Suppose you send a juicy upgrade offer for a mobile phone service. People might see and open your email at 9 a.m. but not be prepared to act on it.

If you set up sending times using open-time data, you might learn your email gets more traction when your recipients are on their lunch hours or in the early evening, when they have time to consider it seriously.  

3. Keep customers updated on key developments.

This can be a game-changer this holiday season, especially if expert predictions come true about a surge in online ordering, home delivery or curbside/in-store pickup. 

Suppose you send a shipping notice at 3 a.m., based on STO, and your customer opens it at 2 p.m. In the intervening team, the package got delayed at noon. That 3 a.m. email is out of date, but your customer won’t know it based on your email.

Using open-time info, the customer who opens the email at 2 p.m. will see the updated content showing the revised delivery date. 

Making this data work for you

We’re making it easier and more effective to access and tap into this data for your email campaigns and journeys with our new tool, Insights. Want to learn more? Request a personalized demo!

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.


This post is authored by Juanita Velez, Multicultural Marketing Expert and Founder of HYPE.

2020. What a year.

In less than nine months, you’ve brought to light the important issues that have been swept under the rug of many brands and pressured them to share actionable next steps on how to address them. As conscious consumers, our thumbs have eagerly been scrolling through Instagram carousels, reading brand statements, or black squares shared in hopes to find one that supports our values. 

While the discussion around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been the focal point of our attention; all too often we’ve forgotten, dismissed, and maybe even replaced the effort of teams responsible for researching, learning and ultimately building a business case for marketing to diverse audiences. 

Let’s define the terms.

You may have heard of the party analogy when defining DEI:

Let’s imagine that we are on the planning committee for this party with an overall goal to increase ticket sales. Think about some of the questions you may have had to work through as a committee before sending the invitations out.

Perhaps the below come to mind:

The questions you just reviewed are the foundational elements that make up a marketing brief.

So what’s the connection between DEI and Marketing?

While DEI looks to shape corporate cultures to be more diverse, equitable and just; inclusive multicultural marketing aims at growing the business by investing in research and strategic initiatives to authentically market to multicultural audiences. 

After years of research and building business cases for multicultural marketing initiatives within Fortune 50 brands, I define Multicultural Marketing as a niche within marketing growing a brand’s marketing goals within a clearly defined ethnic/race-specific audience such as Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQ+ or perhaps BIPOC and non-multicultural segments as well. This automatically forces this team to be intentional about learning this target audience’s motivations, aspirations and purchase drivers for the brand’s product or service. 

And while we understand that the term multicultural can take on a variety of definitions, it is also equally important to differentiate multicultural marketing from other niches that fall under the marketing umbrella as a profession:

And yes, the above can seem overwhelming, subjective and counterintuitive in a country that’s on an accelerated path to becoming “minority-majority” led by 2040. However, it is extremely important for the differences and similarities to be evaluated thoughtfully and intentionally when building a credible relationship between your brand and audiences that you’re actively seeking. 

Now that we’ve defined the differences between the technical terms, let’s dive into the facts.

In 2016, the Association of National Advertisers’ launched the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) with a mission to create a powerful voice that elevates multicultural and inclusive marketing to promote business growth in an increasingly diverse marketplace. Their efforts have been catalytic in driving awareness of the opportunities that exist. In a 2019 report by AIMM, only 5.2% of marketing and advertising spend was allocated to multicultural efforts even though multicultural consumers make 40% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, 2016). [One of the many reasons why it’s important to fill out your Census]. Top highlights from the the 2019 report by AIMM that are extremely important to consider as marketers:

If brands are looking for growth opportunity, why are advertisers holding back on investment in Multicultural marketing?

Earlier we made a clear distinction between DEI and marketing; however, we’re about to tie it back in because everything is interconnected. 

One of the consequences of insufficient DEI efforts within corporations is the lack of representation within the workforce. When we lack diverse perspectives across teams, especially in marketing departments, our efforts result in non-diverse and inclusive work. The 2018 ANA/AIMM AdSpend Trends Analysis exposed that 50-60% of top U.S. advertisers spend less than 1% of their ad budgets targeting multicultural audiences. This narrow operational mindset has also exposed some truths of why brands don’t allocate more resources:

With a global pandemic and social injustice movements pressuring brands to take a stance, what will the future of marketing look like?

While I wish I could tell you exact details of what the future holds, 2020 is a literal representation of this dynamic and ever-changing thing we call life. If you were to ask me for my forecasted opinion, I’d share that 2020 has and will accelerate the importance of capitalizing on these unique audiences for accelerated business growth, across all sectors and industries.

Why? Because culture is shifting. 

Younger—more diverse—generations are taking leaps and jumping into leadership positions that hold power and influence. 

Communities are starting to recycle their dollars within, empowering and supporting Black and Brown-owned small businesses to thrive. 

Women of color are taking ownership of their lives and careers disrupting the family lifestyle that has for so long ruled our existence and diminished our control to seize opportunities. 

We are not only growing in population, but also in education. Now more than ever, we have the highest graduating numbers of Black and Latinx students. (National Center for Education)

And as education becomes a power tool for financial growth, our median household incomes and purchasing power are reaching the highest levels that have ever existed. 

If the above doesn’t sound appetizing or necessary for your brand,  reconsider understanding the reality of your target audience. Acknowledging the evolution of your marketing efforts is just as important as updating your product or service over time. It takes research, resources, time, and intentional commitment in understanding these audiences and creating authentic relationships with your brand.

I’ll leave with one last bit of advice – don’t wait until it’s too late. As conscious consumers, we are well aware of the brands that have been there from day one, the ones that are just now starting, but committed and the ones that just want our money. 

Make a conscious effort to win with your actions before you win our pockets. 


Juanita Velez is a product of the immigration surge during the 96’ Olympics. Born in Colombia, but raised in the A, she has trail-blazed her way through Atlanta’s UPS and Delta Air Lines corporations as a global social media expert. Having founded HYPE, Hispanic Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs as part of a solution to a gap she experienced heavily during her corporate climb, Juanita has propelled exponential opportunities for the next generation of multicultural Atlanta. Her true passion is serving others by connecting people in the community to opportunities. Juanita is a social entrepreneur and corporate professional who values humility, vulnerability, compassion and perseverance. She has shaped a career focused on inclusion, opportunity and drive.


Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a month for our next guest post. 

CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.

Email and SMS (Short Message Service) messaging are the chocolate and peanut butter of the digital marketing world. Each is great on its own. But they’re unbeatable when you pair them up in a program that uses the strengths of each channel to create a communications mix that recognizes when, where and how consumers want to be reached.

This synergy is even more important today, given the pandemic-drive move from physical to digital commerce. We don’t know whether consumers will continue to stick with digital-first for shopping. But marketers should do all they can to capitalize on this shift, and forging more cooperation between the two channels is one way to do it quickly.

What you miss with an ‘either-or’ mindset

SMS is usually touted as the ultimate email-killer. A 2020 Omnisend study credits SMS with an average 14.2% click rate and having SMS in the mix of an omnichannel campaign increases conversions by 47%
Still, email hangs on as consumers’ No. 1 preference for brand communications. Here’s why you need to create a partnership in your marketing decisions:

1. The two channels share some big benefits:

  • Real-time content based on time, location, transactions and more
  • High ROI 
  • Low barrier to entry
  • Easy to automate and personalize

2. Each channel does some things better than the other. 

The 160-character limit on an SMS message doesn’t give you much room for education and nurturing. And an emailed fraud alert or flight change might not get seen in time. That’s why you need both to serve your customers best. 

3.  Each channel can build up the other one. 

SMS to email: Send a message with a link to your preference page so they can sign up for email messages. Email to SMS: Add a tap-to-text function to your email that lets customers opt in to SMS with just a few taps. 

Both of these help you widen your contacts with your audience and give them more options to stay in touch with you. Win-win for everyone.

Caution: Remember “WIIFM!” Figure out ahead of time how each program fits into your messaging plan, and tell customers up front what you’ll send and when and why it benefits them to opt in. That’s the WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?”

How email and SMS can work together

You can probably come up with dozens of use cases to join up email and SMS that benefit everybody. For example, Thrive Market, an online grocery retailer and Sailthru customer, uses email and SMS marketing in tandem. If someone hasn’t engaged with email, Thrive Market tries to reach them via SMS.

Here are three tactics that you can test and implement quickly:

1. Create a new engagement segment.

If you already ask for mobile phone numbers along with email addresses (that is, you ask specifically for a mobile number and not a general number), run a query to see whether customers who provide both are more likely to buy or use your services. If your query pans out, target them for special treatment in high-traffic periods like holidays or travel high seasons to increase propensity to purchase.

2. Use tap-to-text to contact customer support.

Your email can become another port of entry for customers who need to contact customer support. Add tap-to-text to open an SMS conversation with a customer agent to resolve problems like missed deliveries, rescheduling services, travel hiccups or order errors. Or use tap-to-text to encourage subscribers to opt-in to another form of communication.  A leading brand in the travel industry gained over 1600 opt-ins in 24 hours by implementing tap-to-text with Liveclicker.

3. Combine email and SMS in retargeting sequences.

Abandoned-cart reminders are a natural place to start. Add an SMS alert to your abandoned-cart email series if a product in the cart is about to sell out or go on sale. If you don’t maintain perpetual carts, alert via SMS before you close out the cart. Test to see which actions are better suited for email or SMS. 

Final thought: Set up your SMS strategy before you start sending texts 

Nobody wants a mobile phone that buzzes or pings every five minutes. Decide which messages are suitable for the always-on immediacy of a text and which need email and its richer information environment. It takes less time to type “STOP” on a text than to find and click an unsubscribe link.

Until recently, marketers have been able to reliably look at past holiday performance as a strong starting point to build their email strategy for the next. But this year? Not so much.

Retailers and researchers alike have scrutinized consumer behavior closely since March, looking for trends and changes in shopping patterns. This report title from WARC, based on panel data and insight from media firm Meredith, sums up the general direction of most of the research so far: “Meredith predicts consumers will use e-commerce to drive an earlier, quieter 2020 holiday season.”

The 10 statistics below show a combination of two big trends: Consumer behavior shifted significantly in the first seven months of 2020, but marketers can still base their planning on a few fundamentals. 

1. 48% of holiday shoppers expect to spend less to “a lot less” than last year. Nonretail services like dining out will be affected most. (Coresight

2. One-third of holiday shoppers expect to do their shopping on Amazon Prime Day, which is expected to be in October. Another 28% said they will start their holiday shopping earlier than usual, 18% said they would shop on Black Friday (Coresight)

3. The proportion of consumers avoiding any kind of public places, especially malls and shopping centers, spiked to 85% in late July, reversing a gradual decline (Coresight). 

4. 73% of holiday shoppers will purchase primarily online this holiday (Netimperative/Rakuten).

5. More than 72% of consumers believe the 2020  holidays will be different from past years. (WARC/Meredith)

6. 50% of consumer families have someone concerned about a job. More than a third of them have already experienced some loss of income. (WARC/Meredith)

7. July, August and September have the highest rates of shopper interaction with customer reviews, photos, and questions and answers as they research gifts online. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

8. October is the month when shoppers are most likely to submit reviews and questions as they intensify their gift shopping. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

9. Retailers’ loyalty-program members generate 12% to 18% more revenue for retailers than non-member customers (Accenture Interactive).

10. 36.4% of consumers say they don’t consider themselves brand loyal until they’ve made five or more purchases from a brand, and 36.5% of shoppers said they will spend more on products if they’re loyal to a brand.  (Yotpo).   

What now? How to act on new insights

Most of the evidence points toward an unpredictable, difficult holiday season for email marketers, right at a time they’re under more pressure than ever to drive results and make up for lost time. Creative, innovative measures will be needed to stand out in a crowded inbox, keep revenue flowing, and stay essential to your team.

Download the 2020 Holiday Email Lookbook for ideas and inspiration to update your email strategy for a new kind of holiday season. You’ll get actionable tips and examples to help you pursue revenue growth, engagement, and efficiency when it’s needed most.