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Are Retailers Wasting Their Time With Personalization?

Are Retailers Wasting Their Time With Personalization?


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In our latest webinar SaleCycle CMO Chris Sheen looked at the topic of email personalization, with help from Kickdynamic CEO Matt Hayes… 
Personalized email campaigns generate 30% more revenue for many retailers, but only 3% are doing it successfully.
Other surveys suggested that just a minority of marketers use personalization. Econsultancy’s latest CRO report found that 34% of companies aren’t using any form of personalization at all, in emails or on site.
So why are marketers finding personalization hard to put into practice? Well, as Matt puts it, ‘it’s bloody hard’

Barriers to Email Personalization

Matt explains two areas where marketers face a challenge:

  1. Data. Marketers need relevant customer data to be able to put personalization into practice. In addition, the data has to be readily available to be used when needed.
  2. Content. You need the content to display in emails – to be able to show thousands of different products to different people depending on how you’d like to personalize the content for them.

Combining these two things together in email on a regular basis can be very difficult. That’s just the start, as getting it right is another matter.
For example, sending customers irrelevant product suggestions is likely to produce the opposite of the intended effect, so it’s important to get the execution right.

What Most Brands Do with Personalization

There are challenges to companies attempting to collect data for personalization, from legal considerations to organisational issues.
As Matt explains, this means many marketers carry out personalization in one of two ways:

Segmentation ‘Dressed up’ as Personalization

Segementation can look a little like personalization and, as Matt explains, this is the path taken by many marketers.
For example, emails will be personalized according to gender preferences and two different sets of emails will be sent out based on this data, as in this example from Adidas:

This isn’t necessarily a bad tactic to use, as segmentation can be effective but it isn’t personalization as defined in the dictionary. This is because it isn’t targeted to the individual.

‘One-Off’ Personalization Campaigns Every Month

The next tactic is using more personalization with some segmentation thrown in, but at a campaign level rather than on an ongoing basis. The use of campaigns generally happens because it’s a major undertaking in terms of resource and time.
This can approach can still work well, but marketers are missing the opportunity to do this regularly in your normal email and lifecycle emails. 

Examples: Which Brands Are Using Personalization Effectively?

Incorporating personalization repeatedly into regular emails is the way to get maximum value from the tactic. Chris and Matt talked through some great examples of brands usng personalization in their ‘business as usual’ emails…

Lyft: Activation Email

Right from the first activation email, Lyft is personalizing the content using the information they have about the customer, location being the most obvious.

“What I really like about this email is the combination of timing and content, and that’s really important. Having signed up for the service, users say where they are and what they want from them, and then the email is sent immediately with that information. This level of personalization and individualization is really important.”

Matt Hayes, Kickdynamic CEO

Asda: Daily Alerts

These are sent every day for ten days at the end of the month to subscribers. Two different products are displayed along the same theme, with different product categories each time.

Even though it’s a daily campaign, it’s fully automated and changes according to an individual’s propensity to purchase.
Asda presses send on the email at the beginning of the ten day period, and just let it go. Every day the email and products contained within the email will change each day.
For Asda, this email performs well anyway, and the addition of extra personalization and automation increases its effectiveness.

Tommy Hilfiger: Browse Abandonment

This email uses shoppers’ on-site browsing behaviour, so the customer receiving this email has looked at several products on the Tommy Hilfiger website.

This email is sent 24 hours later, showing the browsed products, and recommendations based on other customer’s behaviour.
Browse abandonment emails have an 80.9% higher open rate and 50.5% higher click through rate than traditional emails.



Key Takeaways

  1. Think bigger than segmentation. Are emails genuinely tailored to the individual?
  2. Try and use personalization repeatedly. For the best results, it should be part of business as usual, not just occasional campaigns.
  3. Consider the experience. It doesn’t have to be just about selling.

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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.