A new survey of email marketers finds that personalization at scale remains a challenge for many companies, despite its benefits.

Personalization can be very effective but, as Matt Hayes told us recently, it’s ‘bloody hard’ to put into practice.

This was the topic of our recent webinar with KickDynamic, in which we looked at some examples of personalization in action. It’s also a key area of focus for marketers, as revealed by the latest Econsultancy / Adestra Email Census.


Examples of Email Personalization

Here are a couple of examples of email personalization in action…

The first is from Asda – these daily alerts are fully automated and the products dsiplayed change according to an individual’s propensity to purchase a product.

It may seem simple, but Asda is able to do this at scale – these alerts are sent to customers every day for ten days at the end of each month.

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This email from Tommy Hilfiger uses shoppers’ on-site browsing behaviour, so the recipient of this email is shown items they have previously viewed on the Tommy Hilfiger website.

Browse abandonment emails such as this have an 80.9% higher open rate and 50.5% higher CTR than traditional emails.

As the report states, ‘the promise of ‘100% personalisation’ remains a distant prospect’, with a minority of marketers being able to offer email content tailored to individual customer behavior and preferences.

The survey asked 1,200 in-house marketers and agency/vendor respondents (split 68%/32%) about email trends and tactics.


How Many Companies Are Personalizing Email?

Progress has been made since the last survey was carried out. The percentage of companies who can send emails based on individual preferences and activities throughout the funnel, and at scale, has almost doubled year on year, from 8% to 15%.

However, beyond this more promising stat, there is much stasis, with 62% either not working towards advanced personalization or in the early stages. 

Which statement best describes your ability to provide personalised
email campaigns? (Company respondents only)

The 62% should perhaps take note of the fact that the minority of businesses using personalization are reaping the rewards.

The cross-tabulated table below shows the performance ratings for company’s email campaigns according to their ability to personalize.

In a nutshell, those able to personalize email at scale are far more likely to report excellent or good results from email campaigns. It’s the personalization that does it…

This is an area where, due to the complexity of personalization, agencies and vendors are currently ahead of in-house marketers.

Agency respondents are seeing faster progress from their perspective, but it’s still tough going. For example, the proportion of clients able to personalize at scale has dropped by eight percentage points. 

Which statement best describes your clients’ ability to provide personalised
email campaigns? (Agency respondents only)


Challenges of Implementing Personalization

In the aforementioned webinar, we outlined two key areas where it gets tricky for marketers: data and content.

Marketers need the relevant customer data to be able to personalize emails, and they need the content for them, to be able to show thousands of different products to different people depending on their behavior and preferences.

Combining these two things together in emails on a regular basis, and getting it right can be very difficult indeed.

It’s no surprise to see data and resources among the biggest barriers cited by marketers.

Gaining access to different data sets across organisations, then integrating email systems to gather and process that data is proving to be a major challenge.

For example, some companies have multiple databases which don’t integrate with email, while for others with large product ranges the time take to build email campaigns is a challenge.

This latter issue is the reason why many companies will implement email personalization at campaign level (i.e. sporadically) instead of integrating email into their day to day email marketing.

What are the main challenges you (or your clients) have faced in trying to implement more email personalisation? (respondents could select up to three options)

The Census also finds a disparity in responses between companies and agencies, with the latter more likely to cite human rather than technical problems as barriers to personalization.

This suggests that agencies and vendors have the tech basics in place, and are having to deal with the organizational issues of their clients.


In Summary

As the survey finds, the challenges in implementing personalization at scale will take some work to overcome.

However, the results which can be achieved underline the importance of personalization for marketers. It’s hard work, but the rewards are there.


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