The Beauty industry has a long history of resilience and providing comfort in difficult times. As far back as the Great Depression, people who couldn’t afford expensive treatments could still often pop for Tangee or Max Factor lipsticks for a little help feeling special. 

This “lipstick effect” holds true in 2020 as the $75 billion U.S. beauty industry scrambles to make up losses during the coronavirus pandemic. DIY and self-care purchases have helped push online beauty sales up 20% to 30% over 2019, according to McKinsey, after most retail outlets closed.

The digital surge alone won’t be enough to make up the losses from store shutdowns and lower traffic to essential businesses, McKinsey projects. However, the move to digital could signal a long-lasting change for the beauty industry, where up to 85% of beauty sales happened in stores previously.

That’s why marketers must be ready to use all the digital channels at their disposal to stay connected with customers, today and in the future when retail operations begin to ramp up again. In particular, email’s cost-effectiveness and flexibility makes it a prime medium to serve as the foundation for digital relationship building.

Beauty marketers looking for advice can turn to a new Liveclicker guide, Preparing for the New Normal in Beauty: Preparing and Scaling Digital Customer Communications, for quarter-by-quarter strategies, campaign guidance and a new set of best practices that will help them respond effectively when customers are ready to return.

Will customers come back to stores to shop beauty?

Unlike the Depression or the 2008 recession, today’s “Great Cessation” is a double whammy: an economic crisis driven by a health crisis. “Business as usual” is a long way off, and we might not fully return to pre-pandemic conditions for some time, if ever. 

“Be prepared to adapt your hard-earned brand voice. Beauty products have long enjoyed a status as a fun, accessible indulgence, but even as commerce picks up, customers will be watching their money much more closely,” the guide advises.

Strategies and content must evolve

As a beauty marketer, you must be prepared to switch up messages as conditions warrant – especially in an environment that changes so fast. Email is ideal for this because you can get your messages in front of your customers quickly and tailor them by regions where conditions might vary.

Near-term: Use email to keep customers in the loop about store policies on safety, managing returns, gift cards or loyalty points that expired while stores were closed, delivery or supply disruptions (see the example below), options for low- or no-contact deliveries and payment and other key issues. Look for ways to build trust with new customers and maintain it with long-time and loyal buyers.

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Longer term: The months leading up to the holiday shopping can be a time to clear out inventory that built up in slower months. Acknowledge that many customers still face economic hardship. Explain how customers can shop in-store, online, in an app or by phone. 

This Tarte email promotes the payment plan AfterPay with the subject line: “for when you’re on a budget💸💸💸.” 

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Download your copy of Preparing for the New Normal in Beauty: Preparing and Scaling Digital Customer Communications for more strategies like these, along with detailed holiday season guidance.

Follow new best practices to communicate with confidence

The changes we’ve gone through since March mean your traditional marketing playbook now needs a total makeover. The best advice? “Assume nothing.” 

The “new normal” of the moment has generated several new best practices, like these:

Adopt advanced personalization and moment-of-open content

Although no one’s certain yet what life will be like in the next year or so, the best advice is to remain flexible. Advanced personalization and real-time content combined with email allow you to pivot your messages swiftly, using customer data and moment of open technology. 

One example: notifying local customers about a store opening. Many retailers will roll out store openings gradually based on local conditions. Create emails that adapt to location data to let customers in a specific store’s market area know the store is open and what to expect when they get there. 

Wrapping up

Nobody says navigating these next month will be easy as we watch how the pandemic moves and where economic recovery is advancing or lagging. McKinsey even suggests we might not begin to see a recovery until early 2022. 

In this environment, tools that allow your email strategies to turn on a dime if conditions change suddenly and scale up personalization to keep communications meaningful and relevant are no longer “nice to have.” They’re an essential part of a modern email program that puts customers first – something that is more important than ever today and on into the future.

Congratulations to Sandra Cordero, CRM manager for women’s apparel retailer Torrid, the 2020 winner of the Email Experience Council’s 2020 Stefan Pollard Award. Sandra is a good friend to Liveclicker, and her work and leadership are well-deserving of this honor.

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The Pollard Award is the most prestigious award in the email industry. What makes it unique among industry awards is that the email marketers who win it not only have to develop innovative campaigns but must also show that their strategies and tactics drive real results for their companies. 

That’s what Sandra was able to do with Torrid since she joined the women’s apparel retailer in 2016. Working closely with her team and Liveclicker, Sandra has proved again and again how innovation in email can drive revenue and performance for her company.

Her initiatives have contributed to a 44% increase in redemption rate and a 44% increase in revenue from digitizing Torrid’s omnichannel bounceback program. The email program itself has seen a 119% increase in total program revenue over that time, representing consistent double-digit growth year over year. 

“Working with Sandra and her team has been a reward in itself. She has an eye toward innovation and improvement that leaves no stone unturned. She’s so deserving of this award, and Torrid has the email performance to prove it,” Brooke Schommer, Account Development Manager who has worked closely with Sandra, says.

Sandra isn’t the only Liveclicker client whose work was recognized this year by the EEC. Faith Bukauskus of Hot Topic was an award finalist as well.

“Faith exhibits a fantastic can-do spirit that brings success to every project she touches, and has driven so much success for Hot Topic with her email programs,” Brooke says.

As a strong supporter of email for more than three years, Faith has driven double-digit returns in annual growth for the last two years. She reinvigorated Hot Topic’s email initiatives program and re-engineered the Black Friday plan, which included sending more activity-based personalized messages earlier in the season to warm up clients.

Torrid and Hot Topic in action

If you follow our blog or read our case studies and white papers, you’ve seen the innovative ways both Torrid and Hot Topic have used advanced personalization and moment of open technology to make their emails more engaging, useful and compelling for their customers. 

One of Sandra’s big successes was a total makeover of Torrid’s loyalty program that included developing a monthly rewards statement with personalized content based on behavior and rewards for members at each tier of the program. Customers love the email – it generates over-the-top opens and clicks – and have come to rely on it to track their status in the loyalty program.

Hot Topic was able to use dynamic content to solve a perennial problem – email recipients who click through on a tempting offer, only to find the product sold out or the promotion had expired. The brand now uses dynamic images and moment of open technology to substitute new images or offers if the original ones are no longer available.

What would Stefan say?

Stefan’s friends and co-workers remember him as a tireless supporter of email innovations that produce better experiences for customers and stronger results for brands, as well as email education to improve the entire practice of email marketing. 

We think he would be proud of Sandra and Faith and how they have adopted new uses of technology to create better experiences for their customers and their brands.

More than ever today, at-home entertainment providers are helping people connect with work, family and friends for information, education and distraction. Customers are responding by heading online in record numbers.  

Preliminary figures show internet usage has risen 50% to 70%. Video streaming and game downloads are posting massive increases as people seek diversions at home. Brands in these verticals are faced with challenges of scaling up quickly across the organization, especially in areas of communications, marketing, and customer support.

‘Always-on’ conditions require nimble messaging

Even during normal times, companies increasingly see the value in being able to pivot quickly to keep their messaging up to date and accurate. In these times, that “should” has become a must because it will help customers manage new and ever-changing day-to-day realities.

Companies who will success in this pressure-cooker environment will be those who can meet these challenges:

These new demands on messaging can strain the resources of marketing teams that are already stretched to their limits. Technology that allows the team to edit and adapt messaging content on the fly will boost productivity as well as increase message value for recipients.

5 ways to stay competitive in a fast-changing market

1. Gain the gift of the “takeback.” This allows you to edit or switch out content even after you press “send.” This is important for digital content providers like streaming services because so much can change from day to day or even from the start of the end of the business day now.

An entertainment channel or movie, TV show or virtual game that looked like a sure hit in January when you created your promotional plan could be outdated or inappropriate now. Or, your company has to respond in real time to an aggressive promotion from a major competitor.

No matter the reason, you don’t have to worry about canceling email promotions in your send queue. Using real-time technology, you can change out the editable content with the new message as needed.

2. Scale up for increased demand. Each of your customers has unique interests in program and content choices. Your email messages should reflect that so you can send messages read like 1-to-1 communications. 

Use dynamic content blocks and adaptive images to create nearly endless versions of a single message template. You can mix in your regular promotions with content that appeals to customers whose tastes you know and include how-to info and content suggestions for new customers without having to create side-by-side messaging strategies.

3.  Add a real-time news or schedule feed. Adding this real-time, automatically updating content in your emails shows customers what’s playing on your channels at the moment they open your emails. Plus, it gives them a heads-up on what’s playing next. Then, adding a “Play” button can help desktop viewers jump right into the content they want. 

4. Embed video right into your emails: Make your content even more compelling by adding trailers, teasers, highlights, even short pieces right into your emails. Besides showing customers what they’re missing,  you can also help parents and other video watchdogs check out content in advance to be sure it’s appropriate to watch. 

In the past, video in email could be frustrating because many browsers or email clients didn’t support it. However, today’s technology can serve up the right version automatically to give your viewers the best experience.  

5. Expand your reach with “tap to text.” Email is fast, but sometimes SMS is the right choice when you need to send last-minute program updates, reminders and late-breaking offers. “tap to text” makes the process effortless with an in-email call to action that automatically populates a text when viewed on mobile or provides easy instructions to customers checking their email on desktops or other devices.

Real-time content positions your brand for what’s ahead

Industry trend-watchers are suggesting that the changes happening rapidly in online and in-home entertainment will alter how consumers access video, gaming, music and live content long after conditions return to normal. 

Retool your email communications to meet your customers’ short-term needs now, and then revisit them later to keep your brand a welcome guest in their homes for the long term.

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

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

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

1. Personalization doesn’t work

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Everyone thinks it’s creepy

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

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

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

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

3. You need a lot of data to get started

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. It’s prohibitively difficult

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

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

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

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

The final word: Personalization done right is worth it

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

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

We love a good surprise. An email promising a mystery discount gets us every time. And aren’t you always dying to know What’s Behind Door Number 3?

But the email medium has traditionally suffered from technical limitations that make it hard to have a good surprise. Marketers are often left no choice but to make subscribers click through to a landing page to reveal a cool deal or amazing bonus – a disruptive experience that increases drop-outs and conversion attrition.

Thanks to two clever combinations of innovative email content with a ‘big reveal’ functionality, marketers can add some mystery, pizzazz and interactivity right in their emails. Your customers will get a better email experience, and you’ll get better results; it’s a win-win!

What’s in it for you? How about these bonuses:

The big reveal

Teasing a mystery is a time-honored marketing tactic. Innovative marketers have been using ‘reveal’ functions in their emails for some time, often with great success.

The idea is simple enough; you simply hide the content you want to reveal (a big surprise, a special discount, a secret message – you get the idea) behind a concealing image. When subscribers click, tap, or even “scratch” the image, the mystery is revealed. It’s fun, interactive, and can drive remarkable results for your marketing.

For instance; LEGOLAND Increased click-to-open rates by 600% for a Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaign using scratch-to-reveal promotions. See the creative email and the results yourself in this case study.

Adding mystery to make magic

This ‘click/tap/scratch to reveal” functionality is powerful on its own. But you can make it even more effective by combining it with other dynamic, interactive email functions to really impress your audience and increase engagement. Consider these ideas:

Combo #1: Reveal + Content Hover

Consider combining the engaging experience of a reveal element with the interactivity of a hover pop-up!

Using the two together means you can set up an experience in which your customers can either tap (on mobile) or hover their cursors over your CTA to reveal your secret message.

It could be a special promo code, unique discount, new location – get creative! Then on another tap or click, the revealed content is once again hidden so the user can focus on other content or repeat the reveal experience.

Combo #2: Reveal + Personalized Coupon

With this combination, you can create an attention-grabbing offer: the mystery and interactivity of the reveal with the appeal of a unique personalized offer created through your personalization platform, such as a personalized birthday or win-back offer.

Let’s say you want to go the birthday route. Every other marketer in your customer’s inbox is sending a birthday greeting in an attractive but static email. Yet another generic 20% discount or free-shipping offer? Yawn. 

Now, your email shows up with your greeting or offer embedded in a big birthday cake, with copy that says something like “Scratch/Click to reveal your personal birthday message.” Who could resist?

But do they work?

Yes! This is what pop-fashion retailer Hot Topic told us:

“Since we started implementing the code behind the reveal, our average click-through rate has increased by 17%. It has even beaten out click-through rates from a similar campaign that was sent during last holiday! 

“Added bonus: having the live elements automatically populate the coupon code and personalized imagery has significantly decreased the workload on our CRM team, who used to spend days setting these campaigns up manually.”

Your comments, our inspiration

We were inspired to create these combinations in response to client requests for ways to boost the interest and interactivity within email. You wanted new ways to grow email engagement and avoid the losses that can result when you have to push customers to your website to deliver your offers right within our platform, so we made it happen. 

We hope you’ll test these reveal combinations in your own emails, and let us know how they work for you! 

Advanced personalization can add $20 or more to general campaign revenue for every $1 invested in it. But can you get into the game without committing a monumental amount of time and money?

Absolutely! A new Liveclicker report, Cost-Effective Personalization: Relevance the Smart Way, analyzes ROI data from personalization in The Relevancy Group’s landmark study, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers.  

The report shows how incremental innovation and the right technology partner can help your marketing team take that big leap, even if you don’t have an Amazon-size marketing budget.

How to leapfrog from ‘batch and blast’ to advanced personalization

Upgrading from “batch and blast” or broadcast email, where everyone on your mailing list gets the same message, to highly personalized messaging is like going from 0 to 75 MPH in 6 seconds flat. You can’t do that unless you have the right car, and you can’t go from zero to advanced personalization without the right email marketing platform

Cost-Effective Personalization: Relevance the Smart Way analyzes The Relevancy Group’s data and results from a survey of 400 marketers and concludes, “Every brand needs to be using advanced personalization techniques, no matter their current level of personalization efforts or technology sophistication.”

That’s because the ROI is so clear:

Retailers who used advanced personalization reported monthly revenues 17% higher than those who only used basic personalization.”

And there’s this:

“Personalization based on real-time data drove 9% higher revenues than personalization based on click behavior, and 6% higher than personalization based on inventory.”

The key is to define your goals first and then work with a technology partner to find the path that will help you achieve it. Technology like Liveclicker’s RealTime Email focuses on testing and ROI, so you can find out quickly what’s working and how it affects your bottom line. 

Together, these can help you rack up some early wins that can persuade management to invest even more in advanced personalization.

Learn how Torrid and Stella & Dot win with advanced personalization

These two brands compete successfully in two white-hot markets: women’s fashion and jewelry/accessories. 

Download the report to learn just how these brands blow past their campaign goals and build stronger, more engaging relationships with their customers. 

But if you want a sneak peek, here’s this: 

One brand sees promotional campaigns delivering additional traffic and sales even after the promotion ends. The other brand uses live images to make its emails more shoppable. Both brands use real-time data, but each one uses it in a way that’s appropriate to its own goals.

Be sure to get your own copy of the Relevancy Group/Liveclicker study The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, too! Finally, check out our Resources page for other helpful guides that tackle the topics marketers wrestle with most, like using advanced personalization to compete with Amazon and overcoming the challenges that hold them back from implementing innovative technology.

According to new analysis based on groundbreaking research on marketing personalization, email marketers are getting creative about surviving in the Age of Amazon, Whether they go up against the ecommerce behemoth in head-to-head competition or work to gain traction on Amazon’s own platform retailers are finding new ways to compete on the basis of relevance.

These retailers aren’t just using personalization for the sake of personalization, like merging a first name into subject lines or the body copy. 

Instead, today’s shoppers look for a superior experience with a brand on the major touch points, from the website, to email updates to in-store contacts. And, retailers are listening.

Delivering “a more relevant and enriching customer experience” is the No. 1 tactic retailers are using to compete successfully with Amazon, and advanced personalization is one of the tools retailers use to make it happen.

Advanced personalization uses data and automation to add localized and real-time data to regular email messages. This gives campaign emails the immediacy and appeal of transactional messages. They tell your customers that they aren’t just email addresses in a database – you know them as people.

First: 2 Tactics to Steal from Amazon

Personalization is one of the areas where marketers think they can get an edge on Amazon, as our report explains. The ecommerce giant “hasn’t recently shown dramatic advances in personalization, and not in advanced personalization technologies.”

But Amazon does have two email tricks that are worth testing in your own email program:

Personalized customer newsletters. These aren’t Amazon’s usual browse-session follow-up emails. Instead, Amazon sends its Kindle Unlimited users personalized emails designed to encourage them to rent and buy more books and to continue paying for the service. 

The newsletter features in-depth information about authors on the member’s rental, browse and wish lists and suggests other reads – some paid, others that the membership fee covers. Other newsletters, such as those sent to Amazon Prime members, don’t have the same depth of personalized content. 

4 Email Tactics to Contend With Deep-Pocketed Competitors

1. Reassuring package-delivery notice: Do you worry about porch pirates making off with your online orders? Your customers do, too. You can help them  feel more secure by letting them know when their packages are delivered, not just when they leave your warehouse.

This notice from adidas is a follow-up to an earlier shipping notification. It goes out within a few minutes of delivery and includes both package contents and tips on resolving issues, including exchanges and delivery problems.

Bonus tip: Add detail to the subject line: This subject line from Woot! merges the delivered item into the subject line so your customer can see right away what’s in the delivery: “Rejoice! Your Apple 60W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter Has Been Delivered!”

2. Gamified data reports: CVS sends this monthly spending report to members of its loyalty program. But it raises the stakes by turning the report into a game by showing customer progress from one tier to the next. The email also includes an incentive (more Extra Bucks discounts) and suggestions on how to spend them – two moves that encourage shoppers to go back to their store and buy again.

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3. Real-time weather triggered email: Using location data to generate email copy and trigger emails is one way to add relevance and build store traffic. You can add a map to an email or nearest store address to an email. Or, you can use location data to pull weather data and get out ahead of local events.

This email from a movie theater chain took advantage of a major winter storm forecast that affected several cities in its market to promote movie attendance. It sounds like a contradiction, but anybody who lives in snow country will tell you that snow might cancel school, but malls and movie theaters are usually still bustling.   

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4. App-email connection: This ecommerce personalization example looks like your typical abandonment email. But it isn’t.  

Instead of triggering after an abandoned browse session, this email popped into a shopper’s inbox after she scanned a product in-store using her Target mobile app. Although she checked out a cartload of products, the candle she browsed stayed on the shelf. The email beat her home! 

If you want to go for a seamless customer experience, this email can help you bridge the gap between the app and the inbox. Add some context that shows your customers why they’re gettng the email to make an even stronger impression.

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You’ll learn more effective tactics that marketers are using successfully to compete with Amazon in our report, Using Personalization to Win in the Age of Amazon. Download it and share with your team!

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

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

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

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

Beating Amazon at the Relevance Game

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

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

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

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

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

How Retailers are Winning in the ‘Age of Amazon’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Powerful Data Points You Can Fall Back On
  1. Time of day: This single bit of information gives you a wide variety of options to personalize your email. Here are three examples:
  1. Open location: This yields another rich vein of information you can use to personalize your emails. It uses the opener’s location data to zero in on their location and serve up locally useful content. Here are two suggestions:
  1. Device used: Device tracking can detect which subscribers open your email on a smartphone or tablet and customize even further by type of device. Use it to add a tap-to-text function to make acting on your emails more convenient and less frustrating.

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

What If You Don’t Have Open Time Data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Caveat: Be Transparent When Collecting Consumer Data

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

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

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

The recent finding that advanced email personalization can generate an extra $20 back for every $1 invested in it has captured plenty of attention in the email industry. What’s even more remarkable is that this revenue comes on top of email’s already amazing ROI of $44

“Many marketers who invest in advanced personalization tactics can realize an annual return on investment in excess of twenty dollars for every dollar invested,” The Relevancy Group concluded in its report, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, commissioned by Liveclicker.

We know what you’re thinking: “Where did that $20 ROI come from, and how can I get in on it?”  

The Relevancy Group asked marketers about their revenue from different levels of personalization – basic to advanced – and how much they budgeted for personalization. Using those figures, analysts calculated the average ROI that came from advanced personalization alone.

Now, how can you make it happen in your own email program?

First, the good news: Marketers who use advanced personalization effectively can surpass even that additional $20 ROI.

Now, the bad news: You won’t get there just by adding the recipient’s first name to your email or to personalize the subject line. People expect to see first-name personalization. So, by itself, just adding the name won’t move your customers to act.

The next level of personalization, which includes dynamic content based on past purchases, can generate more revenue than just using first-name personalization. But it isn’t enough to earn you that additional $20 ROI, either.

Finding the right personalization tactic pays the big dividends

“To see dramatic ROIs, it’s imperative that marketers adopt the more advanced tactics,” says Liveclicker’s new report, Driving Value with Advanced Personalization, which builds on the data and analysis in The Relevancy Group’s report to show marketers specifically how it can be done.

Advanced personalization – using real-time data and a set of rules based on signals from inventory levels, message open times and clickstream behavior to create “superior individualized experiences,” TRG’s report says. 

These tactics can take many different forms:

The secret to success isn’t just picking one tactic and seeing how it works. Instead, you need to see which tactics best fit your email strategy, along with your customers’ needs and expectations.

Liveclicker’s new report analyzes how one retailer used advanced personalization to increase revenue and engagement. 

Chico’s needed to promote its higher-end Black Label collection but needed to find out how to present this merchandise to customers to encourage more purchases.The company tested two options: one based on a customer’s previous purchases and one that used live inventory data that presented the newest items in the collection.Results: The collection-based test beat the purchase-based test by double digits. Want to know the details? Download Driving Value with Advanced Personalization to get the specifics. 

Download The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers to learn more

Both case studies show how investing in advanced personalization can generate an extra $20 ROI on email marketing and help you increase revenue by generating more sales and higher order values. They increase the relevance and value of your email messages and help your emails meet the growing competition for attention in the inbox. 

The Relevancy Group report, The Value of Personalization Optimization for Retailers, lays out a roadmap for retailers who want to dive deeper into the state of play for personalization among today’s retailers, the actual monetary values generated by advanced personalization tactics and how they compare to basic and purchase-based personalization.

Download your copy now so you can begin seeing the possibilities!