9 Best Email Personalization Techniques That Actually Work and You Will Find Useful

9 Best Email Personalization Techniques That Actually Work and You Will Find Useful
03 January, 2023 • ... • 820 views
Daria Zhuravleva
by Daria Zhuravleva

Personalization is a must for a successful email campaign. But adding a placeholder for the recipients’ first names is not enough. Read this article and learn about email personalization techniques that will skyrocket your sales and metrics.

What is email personalization and why it matters

Imagine that you went to a house party with three friends: your coworker from the IT department, your ex-roommate who is a huge film nerd, and your gym buddy who is obsessed with CrossFit. Will you discuss the same topics with them? 

Of course, you won’t turn into a completely different person each time you change a companion — but you will make tiny adjustments so both of you could make the most of your chit-chat. The same goes for email marketing — different customers and customer groups need different approaches. Tailoring the email content to fit the needs of these groups and individuals is called email personalization

Wait, but what if you work in a narrow niche market, so your subscribers are very similar to each other? Can’t you send the same email to all of them? Not really. Here’s why email personalization is so important. 

Happier customers

76% of customers expect personalized interactions from brands and marketers. It’s not surprising for many reasons. People like being treated like they’re humans, not wallets with legs. But it’s not just about respect and good communication.

Personalized marketing helps customers achieve their goals and solve their problems. For example, targeted suggestions make the choice simpler— a good thing in a world struggling with decision fatigue. And personalized discounts help people stop overthinking whether they should buy something or not. 

More revenue

It’s a little too obvious but satisfied customers will buy more. According to the Epsilon report, customers purchase 3 times more from companies that personalize their campaigns well.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of personalization and types of personalized emails, check out our article about the best personalization techniques to try out now.

The thing is, personalization creates loyalty, which means more repeat purchases. And nurturing loyal customer relationships is more profitable for marketers than spending a fortune on acquisition.

Easy email personalization strategies that go beyond addressing the subscriber by name

Adding recipients’ first names to subject lines can increase email opening probability by 20%. But just addressing subscribers by name is not enough for a long-lasting effect — and it’s not the only personalization tactic. Here are some less obvious personalization tricks you can use to boost your campaigns.

Segment your contacts

Email segmentation is separating your contact list into groups based on different characteristics and sending these groups different emails to fit in their interests and values. This personalization tactic allows you to make more relevant recommendations and hit your customers’ pain points in your promotional campaigns. Here are some segmentation ideas you might try:

  • Geographic — for example, if you’re promoting an apparel store and it’s December now, send ads for winter coats to Canadian, American, and European customers, and swimsuit ads to customers living in Australia and Brazil.
  • Demographic — you can send different emails to men and women, teens and adults, single and married customers, etc. 
  • Behavioral — tweak the email content using data like browsing history, account information, past purchases, etc., which is especially useful for recommendations and reminder emails.
  • Email engagement — for example, send re-engagement emails to less active users or welcome emails to new newsletter subscribers.

Email list segmentation is at the core of implementing any personalization strategy. To make emails more relevant, you need to define what “types” of recipients you have based on the characteristics that are important for this specific email marketing campaign. The criteria above are some of the most popular solutions — but opportunities are endless and depend on your situation. 

Use subscribers’ browsing data

Behavior-based personalization is a popular strategy in e-commerce. One of its uses is cart abandonment emails. Here’s a classic example from Varley.

Cart abandonment email from Varley
Source: MailCharts

A baseline cart abandonment email consists of a short copy that reminds customers about their incomplete purchase and an optional list of items from the cart. Sometimes such emails suggest a discount code as an extra motivation to complete the transaction. But it’s not the only way to use website data for personalization. For example, take a look at this email from Coach.

Browse abandonment email from Coach
Source: MailCharts

This email reminds customers of the items they browsed — the premise is similar to cart abandonment emails. Like the latter, it gently coaxes customers into moving further down the sales funnel. But can you use browsing data for personalization outside e-commerce? Consider this example.

Recommendations email from Goodreads
Source: Really Good Emails

This email from Goodreads uses browsing data and activity on the website for book and author recommendations. You’ll get an email like this after you tag a book as finished in your profile. Data-driven suggestions are a good tactic for personalizing e-commerce emails as well. 

Make use of triggered emails

According to the Litmus 2021 State of Email report, about 79% of marketers use automation for email campaigns. When it comes to personalized content, automation is vital — it saves time and allows you to scale up email campaigns as your subscribership grows. It comes in the form of triggered emails — these are emails sent to customers after they’ve performed a certain action. There are many types of triggered emails — like cart abandonment and recommendation emails we’ve mentioned earlier.

But what if emails could be triggered by inaction? That’s how you get an automated re-engagement campaign. Let’s take a look at some win-back email examples. Here’s a great one from Skillshare.

Win-back email from Skillshare
Source: Really Good Emails

A common win-back tactic is offering a discount for the next purchase or the next subscription month — but it’s not the only way to go.

Instead of offering some kind of gratification for coming back, Product Hunt highlighted updates to stoke curiosity:

Win-back email from ProductHunt
Source: Really Good Emails

When you notice a sudden drop in sales or product engagement, personalized triggered emails are a way to go. And even if you fail to bring your customer base to life again, win-back emails with a big “Unsubscribe” button will help you maintain the list hygiene, which is still an improvement.

Remember the important (and not so much) dates

You’d probably be upset if your friend forgot about your birthday — why do that to your customers? Especially if you consider how efficient birthday emails are. According to the Litmus report, birthday emails bring almost 3.5 times more revenue compared to other types of email. But birthday emails are not just another way to give out discount codes. For example, look at this email from Fitbit.

Birthday email from Fitbit
Source: Really Good Emails

As a gift, Fitbit offers you average activity data in your age group. Birthdays can be stressful — you might start comparing yourself to other people of your age and think that you’re failing at life. But an email like this might cheer you up — you can look at your statistics, compare them with average numbers, and think “I’m not doing that bad”. Maybe an email like this won’t increase sales today — but it will strengthen customer relationships, which means your customers will stay for longer. 

The year’s end is another milestone important to many people — use it for recaps similar to Fitbit. Spotify gives users detailed listening statistics like top favorite artists, songs, and genres with a different creative twist each year. Here’s how the streaming service notifies its users via email:

Spotify Wrapped email
Source: Really Good Emails

The entire recap is only given in the app. However, the email teases recipients with just one number, which is enticing enough to push the button.

When it comes to personalized emails of this kind, you can get creative with special dates beyond birthdays and end-of-year recaps — for example, come up with your own milestone. How about a “half-birthday”, a day that is exactly 6 months after your birthday? Outdoor Voices liked this idea and started sending emails like this one:

Birthday email from Outdoor Voices
Source: SmartMail

Employ dynamic content

Let’s break down this order confirmation email:

Order confirmation email from Cotopaxi
Source: Mailcharts

Most of this email, from the recipient’s name to order contents and personal information, is tailored to a particular recipient. This level of personalization wouldn’t be possible without dynamic content, or email elements that act like variables. Dynamic content can be implemented in any email part. For example, if you write a subject line like “[Name], happy birthday!”, the [Name] placeholder will look different for each recipient. 

Dynamic content is the main personalization tool — and not just for transactional emails. You can use it in sales emails, along with segmenting your contacts by different criteria, and tweak visuals, CTAs, or even the whole email copy to appeal to certain customer groups. For example, here’s how Nike did their gender-based personalization with dynamic content.

Gender personalization emails from Nike
Source: SendPulse

As you can see, Nike used different CTAs and pictures for men and women. They could’ve chosen a different tactic and sent an email like this:

Sales email from Superdry
Source: Really Good Emails

This sales email contains CTAs both for men and women. The problem is, it’s longer and contains too many links; therefore, it’s less effective than Nike’s personalized campaign. On the other hand, it might be bold to assume that your customers are only buying for themselves. However, using dynamic content for personalization in sales campaigns can make your email drastically shorter and increase your CTRs. That’s why both variants can work, it depends on your campaign’s goals.

Take into account recipients’ location and time

Imagine that you’re promoting an offline event that will also be streamed online. Will you send the same announcement email to all your subscribers?

In some cases, like the one above, sending non-personalized emails is inconsiderate for two reasons:

  • People from other countries and cities are not interested in your offline event.
  • People who are interested in your online stream live in different time zones and might get confused if you at least don’t specify your own time zone.

That’s why taking location into account is so important. But here’s one more nuance when it comes to location-based personalization — it’s not just about the email content but also sending time. 

Imagine that you have a huge subscribership from all over the world, with a 10-hour time zone range. If you don’t adjust sending time to different time zones, you’ll get, for example, higher open rates in the US and much lower open rates in Eastern Europe. It will mess up your campaign metrics and you won’t be able to estimate its efficiency. And, speaking of customer relationships, ignoring time zones is just rude — your subscribers will feel disrespected by your emails sent at 6 AM. 

Consider your clients’ stage in the funnel

We’ve already discussed triggered emails. But you shouldn’t forget the main purpose of automated campaigns, which is guiding your customers down the sales funnel. Personalization in this case means that the process should be similar to a dialogue with a real salesperson, so your customer won’t notice that the email sequence is automated. 

The sales funnel consists of 5 stages:

  • Awareness. At this stage, your customer only gets acquainted with your brand. Help them by sending warm welcome emails and providing them with email onboarding.
  • Consideration. The key objective at this stage is convincing that your product is valuable and it will solve your customer’s problem. Here’s where tailored product or blog article recommendations will help. During the consideration stage, personalization is the most important — your subscribers are not interested enough and they might get off the hook after one clearly impersonal and boring email.
  • Conversion. Once you’ve nurtured your subscribership, you need to convince them to buy the product and follow them through the transactional process. This is where automated confirmation and cart/browse abandonment emails will come in handy.
  • Loyalty. At this stage, you need to convince your client to stay with you — for example, keep purchasing from your shop or using your app. Various tactics are possible but the bottom line is: keep in touch with your subscribers like they’re your friends. Re-engagement, birthday emails, and many other types of email content help you improve customer loyalty and increase the chance for repeat purchases. 
  • Advocacy. Turning your customers into brand advocates doesn’t necessarily mean running a social media UGC campaign. For example, you can ask your subscribers for reviews after each completed transaction or implement a referral reward system.  

Your marketing strategy should include emails that cover all these stages — and you should personalize emails at every step. For example, let’s take a look at this email from Duolingo.

Retention email from Duolingo
Source: Really Good Emails

Duolingo has a great retention strategy — and personalization is one of the reasons why it works. As you see, the content of this email is mostly personalized. It includes a lot of information about the recipient — the name, the language they’re currently learning, and the goal of the day. It also has the CTA button that redirects the user to the app so they could start learning right away. Personalized emails like this work great for keeping users engaged — especially if you have an elaborate email sequence. Here’s another example from Duolingo:

Recap email from Duolingo
Source: Really Good Emails

It’s reasonable to add a weekly recap email after setting daily goals all week. Subscribers need recaps like this one to get the dopamine hit from seeing the results of all the hard work. Duolingo is a gamified learning app, that’s why scores and statistics play an important role in its email marketing strategy. But it doesn’t mean recaps won’t work for other products — gamification is a versatile engagement tactic.

Set a real person’s name as a sender

We’ve talked a lot about the power of an email subject — but sender names are just as important for open rates. Using names of your employees from the one who wrote the copy to, why not, an actual CEO is a great icebreaker for setting up a rapport with customers. It’s more pleasant to receive an email from the founder themselves instead of a depersonalized “brand”.


Personal sender names make customers feel more special. That’s why the Selzy team likes this trick a lot. Here’s an example of two sender name types we use. It depends on the type of email. We use editors’ names for an informal biweekly newsletter and the neutral “Team Selzy” name for more serious content like corporate announcements. 

Personalize email copy

Email personalization has two aspects. We’ve talked a lot about the first one, which is tweaking email content for each recipient or recipient group. The second aspect is presenting your brand as a person.

Here’s the thing. A good branded email doesn’t look like a bulk email — it mimics one-on-one communication, even though it’s most likely automated. Take a look at this example.

Confirmation email from Buffer
Source: Really Good Emails

It’s a purely transactional password change confirmation email — but it mimics a personal email from the company’s CEO. As you can see, it even uses “I” instead of “We” in the beginning, and a hand-written signature, mimicking the one on an actual letter. This personalization strategy might not fit everyone — however, it’s a powerful tool for building customer relationships. 

Wrapping up

Personalization is a great way to nurture customer relationships and stand out on the market. Here’s how to bring some soul into your email campaigns without addressing recipients by first names:

  • Segment your contacts — send different emails to different customer groups.
  • Use subscribers’ browsing data — for cart abandonment or suggestion emails.
  • Set a real person’s name as a sender — and look less of a soulless advertizer in the inbox.
  • Make use of triggered emails — save time on email campaigns, guide your customers through all the transactions, and use re-engagement emails to win your subscribers back.
  • Remember the important (and not so much) dates — show that you care with birthday, recap, and other anniversary emails.
  • Personalize email copy — talk to real people like a real person.
  • Employ dynamic content — it’s a great way to bring personalization tweaks to the same email in no time.
  • Take your account recipients’ location and time — use this data for suggestions, minor changes to make emails more relevant, and optimize sending time to different time zones.
  • Consider your clients’ stage in the funnel — and make sure you have personalized emails for each stage.

Use these techniques to skyrocket your conversion and get loyal and happy customers.

03 January, 2023
Article by
Daria Zhuravleva
I'm a writer with 3 years of experience, knowledge and interest in all things IT and marketing, and a passion for the English language. As a staff author at Selzy, I see my mission as an educator who makes your life easier by explaining complex topics in a digestible and somewhat entertaining way. Hobbies include birdwatching, all things music and art, writing freeform poetry, and hiding in the woods.
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