Selena Blue

Email Marketing: Five test ideas for personalizing your email campaigns

September 3rd, 2015

Personalization is not new to email marketing; but has it lost some of its appeal with marketers?

Only 36% of marketers said they dynamically personalize email content using first names in subject lines and geo-location, according to the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report. The report also revealed that only 37% of marketers segment email campaigns based on behavior.

However, marketers from various industries have seen incredible success with personalization. I dove into the library of MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments’ sister company, to find out how marketers have used both tried-and-true personalization tactics and innovative, tech-savvy strategies to better engage their customers and email audience.

No tactic or strategy is foolproof, so we suggest using these campaign tactics as testing ideas to see what works with your audience when it comes to email personalization.


Idea #1. Turn your email into a personal note, not a promotional email

As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS Institute, says, “People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.”

The same applies to emails. As we saw in a recent MarketingExperiments’ Web clinic, “Personalized Messaging Tested: How little changes to an email send led to a 380% change in response rate,” when inviting your customers to take an action or attend an event, sending the email from a real person on your team can have a huge impact on the results of your campaign.

Several years ago, MarketingSherpa changed up its webinar invite template with the following changes:

  • Used a specific team member’s name in the “From” field
  • Addressed the recipient by their own name
  • Looked more like a letter by dropping the graphic design
  • Signed by a member of team, rather than the whole team


Just by changing the “From” field, the email saw a 137% lift in opens. Additionally, the clickthrough rate (CTR) increased by 129% by making the email look more like a personal note than a corporate chain email. However, take the CTR metric with a note of caution, as a possible selection effect could have impacted the results.

Learn more about the results of this change in the MarketingSherpa post, “Email Personalization: 137% increase in open rate from personal note approach.”


Idea #2. Implement personalized send times

Testing the best time of the day or day of the week for email sends has become common. However, it’s really just about finding the average best time.

The team had hoped to just increase the open rate of its emails as step one in their funnel, but the results proved more than they hoped. The campaign saw an 8% lift in email revenue overnight, and increased total email response by 17%. The team at BustedTees wanted to find the best time for each subscriber, not the list as a whole. By working closely with its email vendor, the Internet-based t-shirt brand analyzed subscribers’ open histories.

Learn more about efforts of the BustedTees’ team in the MarketingSherpa case study, “Email Marketing: BustedTees’ personalized send times increase email revenue 8%.”


Idea #3. Personalize subject lines

Personalized subject lines are nothing new. When was the last time you tested their effectiveness with your audience?

Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, recently talked with Shelley Kessler, Manager of Reporting and Analysis, Experian Marketing Services, about recent data released by Experian Marketing Services on personalized subject lines.


Only about 35% of brands in the study used personalized subject lines for promotional mailing. However, including a name in the subject line increased open rates by 29.3% across all industries, with consumer products and services seeing a 41.8% boost.

The team at AWeber wasn’t sure the tactic would work well in a B2B situation where the audience was other marketers. After all, its audience was probably well acquainted with the tactic.

However, the team moved forward with a series of subject line tests to know for sure how their customers would respond to their names being used in the subject lines.

The result? While the open rate averaged a 5.13% lift for the test series, the personalized subject lines saw a 17.36% increase in average clickthrough rate.

“Clicks actually blew opens out of the water,” Amanda Gagnon, Education Manager, AWeber, said. “It turned out that was where the personalization seemed to have the biggest effect.”

While you might not want to employ it with every send, it could be semi-regular tactic to rotate into your strategy if your audience responds positively.

Check out the case study for more information on how the team conducted their testing: “Email Marketing: 17.36% higher average clickthrough rate in 7 personalized subject line tests.”


Idea #4. Go big with personalized videos

If video integration is already part of your email strategy, it could be worth it to test how adding personalization to the videos affects your KPIs.

The marketing team at Zumba Fitness wanted a way to grab their email audience’s attention in a big way.

When launching its annual Instructor Convention, the team used footage from previous years to invite the recipient to attend.

While 90% of the list received the personalized video and email, 10% received a control version with no personalization.

Wayne Miller, Senior Manager of Email and Marketing Automation, Zumba Fitness, said the result “was pretty drastic.”

He added, “One of the big things was our click-to-open for the personalized video was over 50%. In terms of promotional messaging, that’s the best click-to-open rate we’ve ever had.”

Read more about the campaign’s test results in the case study, “Email Marketing: Zumba Fitness uses personalized video to drive a 50% click-to-open rate.”


Idea #5. Provide personalized content in purchase confirmation emails

Most purchase confirmations are just receipts. Nothing more, nothing less. They could serve as a great conversation point with your audience. According to a report from Experian Marketing Services, transactional emails have a 114% total open rate, indicating repeated opens.

How many of your promotional emails see that kind of open rate?

With so many customer eyes on this email, it could be a perfect spot to test incorporating personalized content based on purchases.

The Microsoft Store, for example, changed from a standard receipt to a product category segmented receipt.


Shawna Dahlin, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Microsoft Store, said her team analyzed what information could be most helpful for their customers after purchase. They included the following types of content into their revamped and personalized transactional emails:

  • Tips and tricks for device and product setup
  • Links to how-tos
  • Support content
  • Limited cross-sell

You can learn about Shawna and her team’s effort in a video replay of her MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 session, “How to Build a Relevant Customer Experience Using Data You Already Have.”


You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.


You might also like

Email Marketing: Unique send times for micro-personalization [Video] [From the MarketingSherpa blog]

Email Personalization: 750% higher CTR and more revenue for e-commerce site [From MarketingSherpa]

Personalized Messaging Tested: How little changes to an email send led to a 380% change in response rate

Ecommerce Chart: The most effective types of personalized product recommendations [From MarketingSherpa]

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Liva LaMontagne

Personality Matters: How one company doubled its ROI by customizing ads based on personality

August 31st, 2015

Today’s algorithms can reliably predict people’s personality traits just by analyzing their Facebook updates.

As marketers, we have the ability to use the digital footprint data of our customers to assess their personality, create messages that resonate with them personally and build more effective campaigns.

To see if this really works, let’s look at return on investment (ROI) results from a recent test of customized ads based on personality traits.

Sandra Matz and her fellow researchers from the Psychometrics Centre, University of Cambridge, collaborated with VisualDNA, an agency helping companies leverage psychographic audience data to better personalize their messaging. Together, they worked with an online beauty retailer to conduct an experiment on Facebook, and presented their results at the 2015 Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP).

The researchers hypothesized that presenting customers with ads that fit their personality traits (extraversion or introversion) would result in higher ROI for the campaign


The test

To test their hypothesis, they created two sets of ads, one customized towards extraverts and the other tailored towards introverts. Although other personality traits could be relevant, the researchers picked extraversion/introversion for the test, because it was most conducive to creating contrasting ads.

Researchers described the typical extravert/introvert to designers, and the designers came up with corresponding ads.

Read more…

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Ken Bowen

How Customers Read Reviews: Four takeaways for marketers from a business school study

August 27th, 2015

For over a decade, MarketingExperiments has stressed the importance of customer reviews.

When our Customer Ratings Tested Web clinic was originally broadcast in 2004, was the third-most popular ecommerce site in America, and Amazon’s annual revenue was a mere 7% of what it has since become.

In the ten years since, customer reviews have gone from being a supplemental component of our marketing strategy to the single biggest influencer of consumer behavior. In a 2013 survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers responded that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. A similar study conducted by Retailing Today found that 81% of consumers conduct online research before making major purchases.

With the knowledge that customer reviews are now one of the most vital components of our marketing collateral, how can we make sure that we are presenting our reviews in a way that best serves our customers?

New ecommerce research by Dr. Raffaele Filieri hopes to answer that question.

Filieri specializes in consumer behavior and digital marketing at Newcastle Business School, whose recent double accreditation by the Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) puts it in the top 1% of business schools in the world.

His independent study, “What makes online reviews helpful? A diagnosticity-adoption framework to explain informational and normative influences in e-WOM,” published offline in the Journal of Business Research, not only confirms that customer reviews carry more clout than almost all other marketing efforts but, for the first time, reveals how customers actually process online reviews.

Below are four key takeaways we can learn from his research:


Takeaway #1. Customers process review data quickly

In his study of brands such as Kia Motors and TripAdvisor, Filieri found that customers are not carefully reading review data. Instead, they are scanning it quickly.

When processing review data, users are looking to gather as much information as they can in the shortest amount of time possible. Users don’t want to search for or through reviews; they want quick visual summaries of the sentiments of other customers.

As marketers, we must be aware of this fact and provide prominent, easily scannable customer reviews whenever possible.

Read more…

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Selena Blue

Mobile Marketing: Four takeaways on how to improve your mobile shopping experience beyond just responsive design

August 24th, 2015

We all know by now that mobile has become an important tool for ecommerce consumers.

However, do we treat it with the same level of investment that it deserves? What experience are we giving our customers: a desktop replica or something better?

In Q1 of 2015, 59% of all retail time was spent on mobile devices, according to comScore’s State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy in Q1 2015. That’s right — consumers spent more than half of their online shopping time on their tablet or mobile device.

Yet, only 15.4% of total digital commerce dollars came from mobile sales.

That leaves a lot of opportunity for marketers and designers when it comes to the mobile shopping experience.

At the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa (sister company of MarketingExperiments), spoke with Gregory Casey, User Experience Designer and Architect, eBags, about how eBags goes beyond normal responsive design to create a truly mobile-adaptive experience.

Watch the interview or read on for four takeaways Gregory shares.

Read more…

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Andrea Johnson

Three Steps to Boosting Conversions by Building Customer Relationships

August 20th, 2015

MarketingExperiments’ Marketer’s Creed, Article 1, states:

“People don’t buy from companies, from stores or from websites; people buy from people. Marketing is not about programs; it is about relationships.”

NextAfter, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits discover what truly makes donors give, put this concept to the test during an end-of-year fund-raising push. Tim Kachuriak, the company’s Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer, is so passionate about this cause that he cut his family vacation short and flew cross-country to join us in the studio for the most recent MarketingExperiments Web clinic to share his results and show how what NextAfter learned could benefit any organization.

Watch it here. 

Background: The Heritage Foundation, a think tank, was soliciting end-year donations.

Goal: To increase donations.

Research question: Which email treatment will generate the most revenue?

Test: A/B split test


Version A

This email drips with formality and reads like a direct-mail piece. It begins with “Dear Fellow Conservative” and goes on to exhort the reader to “make a bold statement by standing with the Heritage Foundation.” It is signed by Jim DeMint, the foundation’s president.

  Read more…

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David Green

A/B Split Testing: How to use the right test progression to get customer discoveries and results

August 17th, 2015

Throughout the year, I talk to a lot of people who do A/B and multivariate testing to increase conversion rates. Even in very large companies with well-known brands, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of many tests without a lot of lifts. 

Often, when they first started testing, there were easy wins. Now, not so much. These companies have all the tools necessary to test but lack one or more key ingredients necessary for sustained success.  In this blog post, I will share one of those key ingredients: testing progression.


What to do after you’ve plucked the low-hanging fruit

Getting great results is not easy to sustain. There are many factors that go into successful test strategies, starting with having a product or service with a compelling value proposition. All the strategy and tactics in the world will not prop up mediocre products and services.

If you do have a great product or service, the right approach to conversion rate optimization will help you realize the full potential of your solutions, especially after you have capitalized on the “low-hanging fruit” leadership is forever hungry for.

The best testing strategies are not a collection of random, disconnected tests. They are also not the product of blindly copying what your competitors do. 

Rather, tests build on each other, ideally in a series of logical if-then statements.

For example, the below flowchart shows a series of “if-then” statements that can be filled in based on the cost per acquisition (CPA) test results. 

  Read more…

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