4 Signs It’s Time To Move Beyond Your ESP’s Personalization Functionality
Despite their many strengths, brands must look to connect their ESPs to more advanced personalization solutions for emails based on real-time, cross-channel customer behavior.
Today’s tailored website, SMS, and mobile app experiences would be unfathomable in the early days of the internet – or even 10 years ago. But when you compare these with the level of personalization in today’s email marketing landscape, you start to see a gap. Despite email remaining one of the strongest channels for driving engagement and revenue, the level of personalization within email inboxes doesn’t match that of other channels, leading to inconsistent experiences and lost opportunities.
So why is this the case?
Historically, personalizing emails for each recipient required an extraordinary manual effort that did not justify the ROI from this channel. And while email service providers (ESPs) have recently begun layering capabilities into their offerings to meet the demand for more individualized experiences, they haven’t quite matched those offered by pure personalization players. But as those solutions have been able to more easily integrate their advanced personalization capabilities across channels (including email), it’s opened a new door for teams to create tailored email experiences with greater agility and speed.
The strengths and limitations of personalizing with an ESP
Email service providers deliver brands tremendous value in the form of:
- Contact organization and management
- Email marketing (like promotional email blasts)
- Email automation (like triggered emails and lead nurturing sequences)
- Orchestration of transactional emails
But when it comes to incorporating personalization out of the box, ESPs typically offer fundamental recommendation capabilities that are basic and limited in functionality, struggling to comprehensively take into account real-time customer behavior across the entire brand’s touchpoints. Thus, brands that want to accelerate revenue growth from email will need to complement their ESP with deeper personalization capabilities.
So how do you know when it’s time?
- You’re only able to include entry-level personalization in emails
- You’re personalizing emails at send-time instead of open-time
- You’re missing out on leveraging advanced behavioral triggers
- You’re unable to create consistency across email and other channels
Let’s dive into each of these signals, taking a closer look at their limitations and the alternative way to achieve powerful email personalization with a more advanced solution.
1. You’re only able to include entry-level personalization in emails
Today’s limitation — Most ESPs allow marketers to tailor emails based on contextual and behavioral data, which includes basic CRM data and broad audience segmentation. However, it’s not possible to incorporate deeper personalization capabilities like dynamic content and banners that are based on a customer’s real-time affinity profile – reflective of their most recent behavior, preferences, and intent across all connected channels. Moreover, ESPs often cannot leverage customer loyalty or cross-device behavior data, and don’t allow implementing multiple recommendation algorithms in a single email with the ability to auto-dedupe items. This results in emails that appear to be personalized, but in reality, are too broad and generic.
The better way — By plugging a personalization solution directly into the ESP, brands can build emails around multiple recommendation strategies. These strategies may include recently viewed, recommended for you, top-rated, and recently added algorithms, as well as more sophisticated predictive and deep machine learning recommendation models to surface exciting and relevant products that self-update according to changes in:
- A customer’s entire purchase history, including online and offline purchases
- A customer’s entire browsing activity and recently viewed products, while taking into account recency of activities, sequence of events, and type of activities
- A customer’s unique affinity profile that reflects their most recent preferences and intent (For example, if a customer has recently purchased a refrigerator, a smartphone, or a new laptop, an affinity recommendation algorithm can identify what would likely be interesting as complementary products)
- Trending products and social proof data like reviews and ratings, affinity towards product attributes like brands, colors, sizes, and more, as well as geographic dimensions that may be relevant (e.g. trending products in your area)
As a great example, The Warehouse Group’s email personalization strategy involves embedding recommendation widgets from Dynamic Yield into its ESP, with algorithms automatically generating which products to show based on special filters created by the team. This enabled them to serve 40+ modules of personalized content across three brands in a single send, which generated a 14% uplift in click-through rate and saved them 28 hours in operational costs per week.
2. You’re personalizing emails at send-time instead of open-time
Today’s limitation — Many of today’s email marketing sends are personalized at the time of send rather than when the email is opened, meaning the content and recommendations are predetermined and may not necessarily reflect the customer’s most recent behavior, preferences, and intent. For example, if an email is sent on Friday but opened on Monday and the recipient browsed and purchased over the weekend, the fixed send-time content may now be completely irrelevant to the recipient.
The better way — Using open-time email product recommendations, content can be rendered upon email-open for each recipient, resulting in every email being personalized for that specific moment in time. Combining this open-time technology with affinity-based email personalization in this way ensures that brands get exponentially more value from each send as every message is tailored to every recipient.
3. You’re missing out on leveraging advanced behavioral triggers
Today’s limitation — While ESPs provide automation by triggering emails based on predefined events such as when someone makes a purchase, engages with an email, or is added to a list or segment, they often don’t incorporate triggers using more meaningful behavioral data. Further, setting up custom trigger events likely isn’t possible, leaving marketers to miss out on valuable opportunities to engage customers with timely and relevant content.
The better way — Category view, product view, cart abandonment, and even price drop are just some of the important events that an advanced personalization solution can bring to the table and trigger behavioral emails off of. In fact, any custom event can be supported, allowing marketers to automatically send emails based on specific user interactions from the website or app that are deemed important by the business.
4. You’re unable to create consistency across email and other channels
Today’s limitation — ESPs can incorporate transaction, email, CRM, and in some cases, site data to either deliver the basic trigger-based emails discussed above or create targeted lists from which to send more tailored email promotions. And while this may be enough if viewed in a vacuum, the harsh reality is that customers have come to expect greater personalization, similar to what they already receive on the site and mobile. This requires real-time personalization to occur on and between channels.
The better way — Connecting your ESP with a personalization solution grants you the ability to not only supercharge your email campaigns with real-time content tailored to the individual but also ensure that when a recipient clicks through, the experience on the site or app (e.g. messaging and creative) is consistent with the email experience that brought them there in the first place. Then, activity from the site can be used to further personalize interactions across channels, including email, creating a continual feedback loop that maintains consistency and relevance.
True 1:1 email personalization is closer than you think
Today’s consumers browse the website, click an email, scroll through the mobile app, and make purchases offline. And they expect each interaction to be cohesive across channels. While ESPs deliver value in many powerful ways, relying solely on their out-of-the-box personalization functionality will not only fail to deliver these tailored experiences but also diminish the derived value from email sends and sink valuable hours in operational costs.
The good news is that teams can supercharge their ESP’s email-sending functionality with predictive email personalization software, enabling them to individualize every send in new, exciting, simplified ways and capitalize on the exponential revenue potential from an already powerful sales channel.