April 1, 2010

Personalize Emails for Better Results


Hostway Team

By Gail Seymour

According to Yale's email and spam statistics, as much as 90 percent of all email sent is identified as spam and filtered out without ever being seen. Even if your email passes these spam filters, it's likely to be one of 50 or so received by your customer on a daily basis. Consider how many emails you open and how many you delete without more than a cursory glance, and you'll begin to understand what your email communications are up against.

So what can you do to give your email the best chance of being opened and acted on?

Personalize the Subject Line

Using your subscriber or customer's name in the subject line lets them know the message is aimed at them. The fact you know, and care enough to use, their name, suggests a prior relationship. Used well, a personalized subject line will improve your overall open rate. Compare the two email subjects below and consider which you would be more likely to open.

  • Massive 25% discounts available on all our products this week only!
  • Hi Joe, how would you like 25% off your next order before Friday?

Personalize the Greeting

Once you've gotten your customer to open the email, you need to talk to him the same way you would if you were sending the email on a one-to-one basis. Use the same style of greeting in your mass mailings as you would in your individual emails. So if you open every email with “Dear Joe,” then open your newsletter the same way. If you open with “Hi Joe,” then use that instead.

Use a generic greeting, known as a slug, to replace the name tag for customers whose names are not on file. Even a generic greeting such as “Dear customer” can improve conversion rates, although according to clickz.com it can also have a detrimental effect, so always test carefully.

Other Elements to Personalize

If you send out after-sale emails, include the product purchase details in the body of the email. This serves a dual purpose. First, it reminds the customer what he bought from you and why he is receiving the email. It also lets him know that you remember what he bought and care enough to send communication that's relevant to his prior purchases.

Of course for this to work, you need to set up multiple auto-responder series and tailor them carefully to the products in question. Avoid the temptation to cross-sell products that don't relate to the original purchase, since that crosses the line from considerate after-care to pushy sales.

Beware over Personalization

Similarly, resist the temptation to show off how much you know about your customer by including too much personal information in the email. Only ever refer to details that are necessary to make your point. Many people are concerned by the amount of data held about them on file, and could see over personalization as anything from cynical manipulation to sinister big-brother tactics. So don't include everything you know about your customer in every email, only the bits you're talking to them about.

About the Author

Gail Seymour has been a Web site designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three design awards, and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.

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