We’ve all gotten those emails with our first name in the subject line. “Andrea, Spinning a Yarn wants to give you free yarn and books for a year!”

If you’re me, an avid knitter and general fiber art lover who reads a ridiculous number of books a year, your mouse smokes from how fast you open that email and click through the links to see the fabulous, fabulous yarn. But chances are, most people aren’t quite as excited about product newsletters as I am about yarn (or books). It’ll take more than calling them by name to capture their attention. Why? We’ve become used to it. Yes, saying, “Hello, Catherine,” is better than, “Hello there!” at the opening of your email newsletter, but it’s no longer enough.

So how can you personalize a marketing campaign to be effective in terms of opens, click-throughs, and sales conversion rates?

Ask the right questions

First, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish. Spinning a Yarn, to continue with our example, has two, possibly three types of customers:

  1. those interested in the fibers arts
  2. readers looking for the books on offer
  3. and those who like both

How can Spinning a Yarn’s owner tell the difference and send the perfect message to each target audience?

One option is to add a quick poll on the newsletter sign up. By asking which segment of the business the customer is interested in, the customer has the opportunity to place themselves in the correct grouping.

So when the shop’s proprietor has a local author signing books, or book club meetings, they know which customers specifically to email rather than blanket their whole list with information not entirely relevant to everyone. On the other hand, hosting an online or in-house workshop about different cast-on methods could make the readers on their list seek out the dreaded unsubscribe button.

This is called segmentation. By tailoring aspects of your business to specific micro-targets of your overall audience, you’re producing more relevant content to a smaller segment. Sure, it’s smaller, but the likelihood of them clicking through goes up because the details are specific to them, and can result in higher sales bumps per segment.

Regardless of your industry, you can always drill down a level or two with more specific questions than gaining the customer’s name and email address.


Data, data, data 

Another option for personalization is to capture data and LEVERAGE it. This works particularly well for ecommerce sites because you can track shopping behaviors on your site. Amazon in particular does this remarkably well, taking your browsing history on their site to offer “similar items” or “recommended products.”

I’ve said I’m an avid reader, so when I’m looking at the new release of a favorite author, underneath it I see a whole list of similar books as well as titles other customers have bought in addition to the one I’m contemplating. So perhaps something in the reviews gives me pause because, “This book is filled with typooooozzzz.” I can, without clicking on another page, see a slew of other options that might be enticing for my spending dollars.

The perk of this is capturing impulse purchases. A reader browsing Spinning a Yarn’s book pages might have discovered a new author, and hey, they have 55 more books out. Score! Both for the reader and Spinning a Yarn’s bottom line. That’s next week’s reading list handled.

This can only be accomplished by knowing what items to recommend to your customers. The more time they spend on your site, the more data you can mine, and the more beneficial it will be for both you and the customer.

Consider timing as part of personalization

This is a great big world, and the internet has made most corners of it accessible to us. If Spinning a Yarn is located in England, and I’m in the United States, chances are sending an email at 8 a.m. their time will hit my inbox when I’m asleep, sometime between 1 and 3 a.m. depending on my time zone. For me, that wouldn’t matter as much; I’d read it when I first checked my inbox. But for time-sensitive promotions, where a discount is only offered for a short time, I’d be miffed to find a 5-7 hour lag made me miss an opportunity.

This is easily resolved if they have my time zone data, or can tell what time I usually open their newsletters or browse their site. By targeting me in my own time zone, they give me more chance to participate in effective short-length promotions, making me feel like I’m getting a great deal and boosting their conversion percentage. The perk here is timing it right so both of us win. I get my discount, and Spinning a Yarn gets a sale.

Another way to take advantage of timing is knowing when someone hasn’t participated in your marketing efforts lately. Facebook does this with users who’ve not logged into the site for a select number of days. This is called a behavior trigger, and these have to be sensitively handled. Saying, “Hey, Margaret, you haven’t checked your timeline in a week,” isn’t incredibly helpful. There’s a bit of a judgmental tone there, and maybe Margaret has better things to do. However, reminding Margaret what she’s missing out on could bring her to log in. “Margaret, your cousin Oliver posted a photo. You should check it out!” She doesn’t care about checking Facebook for the sake of it, but she does care about her cousin Oliver, so which is she more likely to respond to in Facebook’s favor?

Is email the only option?

No, personalizing isn’t restricted to emails, and in fact, those personalized emails can lead to yet more data when used in conjunction with specific landing pages on your site.

If Spinning a Yarn sends me an email touting their new hand-dyed store brand wool, but the link on the email sends me to their homepage where I have to search, I may lose interest before finding the product they wanted me to see. By taking me to the specific landing page displaying that new product, I get immediate satisfaction of seeing the beautiful fiber without searching. When paired with recommended related products, a landing page can be almost as targeted as if I were paired with a personal shopper. Say Spinning a Yarn knows from my shopping history that I love knitting socks, and they link two patterns that go well with this particular yarn, I’ll be more tempted to buy not only the yarn, but the patterns as well. And instead of selling one product, they’ve sold three.

What does this tell you as a business owner?

By embedding a customized landing page link specific to a particular version of your newsletter, you can see which email is most successful to open, click, and conversion rates, and you can tailor later messages along the same vein, increasing overall efficiency of your email campaigns. By handpicking which landing page fits which customers, you’re streamlining the browsing process for them, and the result is a faster shopping experience for your customer.

Personalization is becoming ubiquitous in marketing campaigns to the point where if you don’t do it, you stand out as slow on the uptake.

You want your marketing to be innovative and eye catching for the right reasons, and personalization gets our attention as customers. When someone pays attention to our likes and preferences, it’s flattering. We feel like that business “gets us” in a way others don’t. And that connection is more likely to gain our loyalty than being blanket spammed by someone shouting, “Hello there!”

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