Eric Elliott on the Importance of Personalization in Email Marketing and Techniques To Use

Eric Elliott on the Importance of Personalization in Email Marketing and Techniques To Use
28 May, 2024 • ... • 6187 views
Diana Kussainova
by Diana Kussainova

By nature, email is a very personal channel: The message you send goes to each subscriber directly, it’s not a “sign on the wall” like in the case of social media posts. And there is a way to make this connection even deeper — personalization. 

Selzy interviewed a personalization pro Eric Elliott about the importance of personalized emails, the best techniques to use, and the results a business can get out of them.

Eric Elliott is the VP of Channel Partnerships and Enterprise Sales at NiftyImages. With over 16 years of experience in the email marketing industry, he’s passionate about driving business growth through cutting-edge digital marketing.

Eric Elliott’s profile photo
Source: Eric Elliott

Tell us about your career path. How come you focused on email marketing and eventually personalization?

My career in email marketing began in 2006 when I began working for an email service provider (ESP).  After 9 successful years and an acquisition, my team and I began to work on the next business idea. We noticed there were a lot of gaps in the email marketing industry when it came to easily adding real-time content and personalization into email. This is where the idea of NiftyImages was born. I’m now going into my 6th year here at NiftyImages where we proudly work with some of the largest brand names in the world helping personalize email content in real time.

Why is personalization important? What is its role in email marketing?

Personalization is important because it enables businesses to create tailored experiences for the user. These experiences invoke a sense of emotion and foster a deeper connection which in turn results in higher engagement and conversions.  

Customers have become hyper-aware of how they are marketed to in their inbox. In turn, they have taken the power away from the marketer. Instead of the business defining the customer journey, consumers want brands to design experiences that help them create their own journeys.

What are the most important types of data you can collect for personalization?

Consumers have made it clear they are willing to share additional information in order to receive a more personalized experience that resonates with them.  Collecting the right types of data is essential for effective personalization. The most important types of data that should be collected to enhance personalization efforts are:

  • Demographic information
  • Behavioral data
  • Engagement data
  • Preference data
  • Polling and survey data

What are some of the most effective personalization techniques to use?

  • Location-based targeting — using geotargeting data to personalize content or offers based on the recipient’s location.
  • Loyalty rewards — send personalized discounts and rewards to each subscriber based on how they interact with your brand.
  • Dynamic content — display images at scale to each subscriber based on purchase history, suggested products, live weather, browsing history, and more.
  • Condition-cased Images — removing the need for segmentation, show the appropriate image to each recipient based on defined criteria.
  • Dynamic countdown timers — show a unique timer to each recipient to create a sense of urgency.
  • Live polls — give your audience the ability to let you know what’s important to them.

How can email marketers personalize emails across different stages of the customer’s journey?

Since all customers have their own unique journey, so should the emails they receive.  NiftyImages allows marketers to easily activate consumer data, geolocation, device type, dynamic content, and more.  Being able to easily activate this data allows the marketer to apply “evergreen” NiftyImages to their emails making sure no matter where in the journey the customer is, the content is always relevant.

Can you share one of the cases when leveraging personalization had a significant effect on email marketing results?

Video game developer Jagex used NiftyImages to make a year-in-review email for their game Old School RuneScape. With our service, this client created beautiful personalized images with 1:1 statistical data for each subscriber. As a result, Jagex had 7.18 times more email signups compared to average numbers and gained 700+ social shares on X, Instagram, Reddit, and Facebook.

An X post with the hashtag #MyYearInOSRS and an image showing this user’s hours played, XP gained, and other data
An example of a user sharing the statistics from their year-in-review email. Source: X

What other strategies do you find most effective for customer engagement?

I’ve always found interactive content to be great for customer engagement.  This could be live polls, surveys, or quizzes.  Interactive content is a nice change of pace from most promotional emails consumers receive.

How do you see the future of personalization? And the future of email marketing in general?

With the advancements in technology along with consumer expectations the future of personalization is well positioned to succeed.  As marketers leverage personalization techniques to interact with their customers, trust and loyalty will only deepen the relationship between customer and brand.  With nearly two decades of “email is dead”, email has shown zero signs of becoming less relevant to our daily lives.  In fact, email is one of the most prevalent communication tools in the world.  Now that personalization has a seat at the table, marketers are now talking with individual customers rather than talking at unknown subscribers.

What brands or companies do you think nail their email marketing, in terms of personalization and otherwise?

I get some great communications from STRAVA, Netflix, and UNTUCKit.

A STRAVA email with a user’s February statistics
Source: Really Good Emails
A Netflix email announcing that The Umbrella Academy’s next season will soon be released and recommending other shows to watch in the meantime
Source: Really Good Emails
An UNTUCKit email with a personal discount and recommendations of products a customer will enjoy
Source: MailCharts

What’s one thing every email marketer or newsletter author should or should not do?

Should do — Listen to their customers and meet the needs of what they want and how they want to interact with your brand.

Shouldn’t do — Treat everyone the same.  No two customers behave the same, so the content they receive should be tailored to their preferences and interactions with your brand.

Article by
Diana Kussainova
Writer, editor, and a nomad. Creating structured, approachable texts and helping others make their copies clearer. Learning and growing along the way. Interested in digital communications, UX writing, design. Can be spotted either in a bookshop, a local coffee place, or at Sephora. Otherwise probably traveling. Or moving yet again.
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