Individualisation is one of the essential success factors in email marketing. A recent survey by Certona of 500 retail companies concluded that personalised emails can lead to a turnover increase of up to 412 % per opened email. Individualised email marketing contributes directly to turnover. No wonder that the development in email marketing is moving away from standardised mass sending to more mature measures, such as lifecycle emails. This is shown by artegic’s study Direct digital Marketing in Retail 2016. While the use of unsegmented mass mailings has decreased from 74.8 % to 33.3 % in the past three years, the use of customer intelligence emails has seen an increase from 8.4 % to 25.9 %.
In summary, this means individualisation from a user point of view: the right content at the right time in the right channel. Real individualisation however, is more than a personal salutation and a more or less precise target group segmentation. We have identified six to-dos for individualised email marketing.

1. Identify Relevant Touchpoints in the Customer Lifecycle

Individualised email marketing does not only include the sending of individualised newsletters. It is about identifying all touchpoints along the customer lifecycle, where users can be activated via email marketing and customising all relevant communication: Series of welcome emails, event-related campaigns, transaction and service emails, re-targeting, loyalty programmes, digital coupons, reactivation campaigns, trigger emails for personal events, geolocation-based communication etc. Truly individualised email marketing approaches the user at each point of the customer lifecycle with exactly the measure and the content, which match his current preferences. In the best case, individualisation does not stop at email marketing but includes other touchpoints, such as websites, which are individualised in real-time when accessed.

2. Profiling Through User Data

Individualising is more than sorting users in target groups according to a few rigid characteristics. It is important to individually profile each user. To do this, we need personal user data, e.g. response data from email marketing. By assigning the data to a customer profile, we will create structured and usable information. Which product has the user bought and when? What type of content does he click on and what does he not click on? What socio-demographic features does he demonstrate? We can then use analysis methods to identify preferences from this data, which are relevant for the communication. Interests, preferred products/brands/product types, price sensitivity, position in the lifecycle, consumer behaviour, life situation, attitudes, activity, etc. Through data mining procedures, we can identify connections between different attributes or action triggers. We need to anticipate this knowledge and transfer it to operative dialogue measures, e.g. for cross-sell/up-sell, loyalty measures. When the user passes through these measures, he generates new data. A closed loop is created, where the knowledge about the user is successively constructed and communication can be targeted more and more precisely according to the user preferences.

3. Use All Data Sources

Relevant data for user profiling is not only generated in email marketing. In order to obtain a truly comprehensive picture of a user, data from all touchpoints, where the user has been in contact, should be used: social media activity, purchase history in the online shop, use behaviour on the website, information from personal conversations, geo-data, etc. All this data needs to be compiled in one central CRM system. The fusion of personal data from different sources to one profile is only allowed with the user’s explicit consent.

4. Content, Frequency, Send Time

All components of an email can be individualised: Products and topics, graphics, salutation/wording, prices, layout/format, order of articles, call-to-actions, subject line, etc. Even when there is no general answer to which elements may be useful for individualising, the following applies: Whatever can be individualised, should be individualised as long as the expenditure justifies the returns. Not only content can be individualised. The likelihood that an email is read, increases the closer the send time is. When an email arrives in the inbox and accumulates with many other emails over days, the likelihood that it is read, decreases. As each user collects his emails at a different time, the send time should be individualised. Even the preferred send frequency is different from user to user. Some users only wish to receive one newsletter per month, others may want one weekly or daily.

5. Marketing Automation is a Must

Individualised email marketing also means a significant effort. Instead of creating one individual email and sending it to the entire mailing list at one specific time, individualised email marketing allows you to send a unique email to each recipient at a unique time. This means that each email has to be created, sent and its success measured individually. Manually this is close to impossible. Individualised email marketing needs to be automated, IT-supported email marketing. Our article Individualised Lifecycle Communication in Online Dialogue via Marketing Automation deals with the automation of email marketing.

6. Unique Content for Mobile Devices

Email content cannot only be adapted to user preferences, but also to the terminal device, which is used to open the email. This Ultra Responsive Design allows you to deliver different content to each terminal device. An example: When an email promotes an online shop, this will only be linked directly, if the email is viewed on a desktop PC. iPhone/iPad users will receive a link to the app in the Apple Store, Android users to Google Play.

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Individualisation is just one example of significant trends in digital marketing in the following years. You will find further trends in our free whitepaper 7 Digital Marketing Trends 2015