Neil Patel

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What is Email Personalization and How to Leverage It Effectively

What is email personalization and how to leverage it effectively.

We are living in the era of personalization. Marketers have abundant data at their fingertips, but they don’t always make the most of the opportunity it provides.

Less than three-quarters of marketers implement personalization in their email strategy, according to research by Digiday and Jeeng. And while 78% of those that do personalize emails with the subject’s name, just 51% personalized the body copy.

It’s time to change. If you’re in the 49% of marketers who aren’t going all out with email personalization, I’m here to help.

When it comes to personalizing your email marketing, you don’t have to struggle. There are relatively easy ways to use personalization in your emails that go beyond just using a name. In this article, I’ll show you exactly what they are, as well as explaining what a personalized email is, what you can personalize, and why personalized email marketing is so effective.

Ready? Then let’s begin.

What is a Personalized Email?

Email personalization is a marketing strategy that involves customizing email content to the specific preferences, interests, and behaviors of individual recipients. Truly personalized email marketing goes beyond addressing the recipient by their name in either the subject line or body content. It tailors almost the entire email based on the data you hold about each customer.

For example, you could create personalized email blasts based on user data from your SaaS platform. Each customer would receive a personalized email showing how often they used each of your tool’s features and an estimate of the ROI they generated.

Grammarly’s insights email is a fantastic example of this:

Grammarly weekly writing update.

It details how many weeks in a row you have used the software, how many words you have checked, your vocabulary choices, tone, and many more insights. Every part of the email is personalized based on your usage of the tool, while also showing how you compare to other users. It’s a great way to increase engagement and get you excited to use the tool again.

Email personalization doesn’t have to be this detailed. They can be as simple as an abandoned cart email that highlights products that users have left in their online shopping basket without checking out. Only two parts of the email are personalized (the user’s name and their products), but it’s still incredibly effective.

What to Personalize in an Email

There is certainly no shortage of things you can personalize in customer emails. I’ll give a rundown of the most common elements below, but the world really is your oyster here. All of these elements can be personalized differently, and if there’s a strategy or approach you want to take, then go for it.

  • Subject lines: Subject lines are the first impression your email makes on the recipient, so make the most of them. You can personalize subject lines with the recipient’s name, a reference to their interests, or a recent interaction with your brand. Doing so can significantly increase the chances your email gets opened.
  • Preview text: This is the snippet of text that appears next to the subject line in your inbox and serves as a brief introduction to the email’s content. You can customize the preview text to align with the recipient’s preferences or needs, further enticing them to open your email.
  • Body content: The body of the email offers multiple opportunities for personalization. Obviously, you’ll want to include the recipient’s name. But don’t miss the opportunity to tailor the message to their interests, and use dynamic content to showcase relevant products, services, or articles based on their behavior. This is a great way for e-commerce brands to personalize emails based on a customer’s recent shopping history.
  • Images and videos: You can tailor the images, videos, and other visual elements in the email to appeal to the recipient’s tastes, preferences, or demographic. This can include featuring products they’ve recently clicked on.
  • Offers: If you are creating personalized emails, you should definitely be creating personalized offers to include. Targeted discounts, exclusive deals, or personalized product recommendations are incredibly effective ways to encourage users to take action.
  • Timings: It’s not just the content of the email you can personalize. You can also tailor your sending schedule to personalize the delivery time based on each user’s past engagement patterns or time zone.

Why Personalize Emails?

Personalized email marketing has become essential to successful marketing strategies, and for good reason. Here are some of their biggest benefits:

Increased Engagement

Email personalization has a much higher chance of capturing your recipient’s attention. When they receive an email that speaks directly to their interests, needs, or preferences, they are way more likely to open it, interact with the content, and, possibly, make a purchase.

Enhanced Customer Experience

Personalized email marketing creates better, more positive experiences for your customers. By delivering content that is specifically relevant to each recipient, businesses show they understand their customers on an individual level. This level of personalization leads to significantly higher customer satisfaction levels.

Improved Conversion Rates

Email personalization has a positive impact on conversion rates. By delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, businesses can significantly increase the likelihood of users taking action. In particular, personalized offers can be very effective at encouraging users to make a purchase — especially if customers understand the offer has been created for them and them alone. Exclusivity sells.

Higher ROI

Personalized emails offer a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to generic, mass-marketing emails. By focusing on individual recipients and delivering tailored content, you increase the relevance and effectiveness of your personalized email campaigns.

Does Email Personalization Work?

The short answer is a resounding “Yes.” According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing report, segmentation and personalization are the two most effective email strategies.

Email personalization offers multiple other benefits, too, such as:

  • Increased open and click-through rates
  • Decreased unsubscribe rates
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Opportunities to re-engage customers

Email personalization is also easy to implement. For instance, you could:

  • Send an offer only if a recipient has recently brought an item.
  • Change wording based on location or time zone.
  • Personalize language and images.

However, like any other area of marketing, email personalization has its limitations. For example, some techniques, like customer recommendations, may not work for everyone.

You can also over-personalize and sound too familiar, which can, frankly, freak people out. Stick to critical areas, which we detail later.

Now you’ve got a picture of email personalization and its benefits, let’s discuss my 15 best practices to ensure you’re personalizing emails effectively.

Steps to Ensuring Effective Email Personalization

Do you want to increase your personalized emails’ chances of being clicked on, read and drive conversions? Then read my 15 best practices to follow below.

1. Collect the Right Data

If you’re not collecting the right kinds of information, you won’t have a good starting point for personalization.

That sounds simple enough, but where do you start? By collecting information from readers using sign-up forms.

When subscribers sign up to your email list, you can ask them some additional questions beyond their email address or name.

For instance, you could ask for their:

  • location
  • birthday
  • interests
  • occupation

Whatever information you ask for, keep it short and sweet, like this example:

Kylie cosmetics email signup.

Next, use integrations to gather even more data.

Mailchimp third party integrations.

Integrations are perfect if you don’t have internal resources to collect information. You probably have a lot of data stored on third-party platforms (like your Shopify store) that you can use to personalize emails.

Finally, you should create a subscriber preference center to find out what your readers want.

Once you’ve started collecting the right kinds of data, you can personalize your subject lines.

2. Use Personalized Subject Lines

Subject lines have always been important in the world of email marketing, but they must be specific for the best results.

For example, they should differ from industry to industry, audience to audience, and so on.

You can run tests to find the most effective ones. For example, you can modify the content of your subject lines based on all the data you’ve already collected about a subscriber’s wants, interests, age, location, and more.

Open rates and conversion rates are only up from there.

Once you’ve got subject lines down, you should focus on triggered emails.

3. Use Behavior-Triggered Emails

Behavior-triggered emails are real-time reactions to how your customers are using your product. This is where the future of email marketing is heading — and triggered emails have a good open rate to boot.

Using behavioral triggered emails.

Behavior-triggered emails can streamline customer communication. They let you communicate with customers without having to think about it, help you convert readers, and could extend the lifetime value of existing customers.

You might not always realize it, but you get these types of emails all the time. You know when a website emails you because you haven’t logged in or made a purchase for a while? That’s a behavior-triggered email.

You can send out triggered emails for tons of reasons, such as to welcome readers, re-engage them, or upsell products or services.

Analytics tool Moz delivers unexpected but ingenious trigger emails that are a perfect example of personalization. They send an email to a user when Moz has uploaded new data to the user’s account. It simply informs them that there is new data to see. There also is a conspicuous call-to-action button that states “View My Campaign Data.”

Moz analytics.

It’s a clever use of behavior triggers, as it brings customers back to their website and gets them to use the product. It’s an expertly timed and implemented reminder that Moz is there and has value for the customer.

Several tools for sending great trigger emails are available. For instance, there’s Intercom for B2B, for marketers, and Klaviyo for e-commerce.

4. Use Subscriber Tags

Subscriber tags let you send personal CTAs in your email content and for triggering emails.

With this technique, you can tag subscribers based on their choices, like visiting a specific page on your site or clicking on a link. Then, write out emails to recipients with matching tags.

This approach saves a ton of time because you can segment all your workflows through just one email. Most mailing list providers, such as ConvertKit, offer this feature.

5. Ask the Right Questions

You need to know your subscribers before you can start personalizing effectively. And that means asking them questions. Add a couple of questions to your email signup form to learn more about each user and start personalizing their emails from the start.

For example, create a customer survey that asks customers:

  • What brought them to your website?
  • Why did they start using your service?
  • What do they need help with most?

These questions can help you find out what you’re doing right (or wrong) pretty quickly, and it makes targeted emails a breeze. Don’t be too generic, though. To stand out, you can entice customers using emotional appeals, emojis, humor, and freebies.

Alternatively, ask opinion questions. People like to feel like you value their thoughts.

6. Add “Recommendations for You”

We’ve already talked about some email personalization techniques, and now it’s time to dig deeper.

Start personalizing your emails by recommending more purchases or actions according to a reader’s past behavior.

Amazon is notorious for this with its “Frequently Brought Together” upsell feature, and Netflix uses a similar approach to encourage customers to view another movie.

It works because readers often appreciate the “recommendations” if they’ve liked similar previous purchases.

Rather than trying to reach all your readers with a single promotion, just send it to those who have shown interest in a related topic. You can do this in any industry by suggesting related products and services. Perhaps offer a discount to encourage sales.

7. Use and Optimize Landing Pages

Although personalizing your emails is a valuable step toward targeting your customer more effectively, there is more that your business can do. You can pair personalized emails and landing pages to push your success rate further.

Not only should your email and landing page have a consistent look and copy, they both should have the same personalized call to action for the customer. This will lead to the customer having a unified experience, which will make them more likely to convert, as you are showing them personalized content based on data.

Nuffield Health, a fitness organization, decided to make this part of its strategy, and the results were impressive.

Their aim was to increase membership subscriptions and generate more leads by pairing personalized emails and landing pages. They proceeded to build several landing pages that matched different customer segments and wrote custom emails for each segment. Both the emails and the landing pages contained similar content with the same focus that aimed to convert customers based on their specific interests in the business.

The plan worked, as Nuffield Health experienced a substantial increase in click-through and conversion rates. They went from a 1% conversion rate from past campaigns to 8%. It proved that customers would respond well to a more personalized and targeted campaign that was in sync across all areas of their contact with the business.

8. Add a Sense of Urgency

There are tons of tools to help you incorporate dates and times into your emails.

Doing this is the perfect approach for driving engagement because these limited-time offers focus on urgency to push people into action.

By creating a sense of urgency, you can build toward a paid offer. Just don’t let your customers forget or hesitate to order. That’s why creating a custom deadline is so effective.

Are you thinking of applying this approach? There are templates available, or your mailing list provider should have a tool.

You can also sync your emails with countdowns for sales, product launches, and giveaways.

9. Build Customer Personas

A customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer. Companies use them to identify the features of their perfect customer and their usual behavior.

The more specific you get with these personas, the better you will understand who your customers are and what they need from you. Ultimately, this enables you to improve your business and enhance email personalization by fulfilling their needs.

You create customer personas by using a span of data. Instead of asking just one question, you can group customers using a combination of actions they take and attributes they have.

Once complete, your personas might look something like this:

Example resume.

There are plenty of step-by-step guides on building personas to help you develop them per best practices, including:

  • identifying your target audience
  • seeing the world through your customers’ eyes
  • understanding your customers’ needs and frustrations by doing research
  • using data about your target audience’s online behavior, likes/dislikes, etc.
  • implementing email personalization techniques to match your customers’ wants and needs

10. Use Location and Time Zones

It’s common marketing wisdom that it’s better to send emails at certain times of the day compared to others. Depending on your target audience, they may prefer getting your email as they are about to sit down and start working. Or they may prefer it at the end of the day.

You can use that information to send emails at an optimal time, but what if your customers are spread across different time zones? Bulk sending your emails at one time is n’t going to cut it.

If you want to truly personalize your emails, you need to personalize the delivery time, too.

Send time personalization is easy to set up with a few clicks, and companies like MailChimp allow you to do this.

Mailchimp schedule setup.

This tactic can be incredibly effective. For example, skincare brand AHAVA partnered with Sailthru to personalize email delivery times and saw a:

  • 5% increase in open rates
  • 13% increase in total clicks
  • 20% increase in average order value

11. Personalize Your Brand

Email personalization doesn’t have to be achieved through customer data alone. You can also take steps to make your brand more personable. Creating a more personable and relatable brand can help make your company more appealing to customers and help you forge a deeper, more meaningful connection — as if they were speaking to a friend.

There are several strategies you can use to personalize your brand:

One of the easiest ways to personalize your brand is to make sure you send every email from a real employee.

That’s what WordPress SEO plugin Rank Math does:

Wordpress plugin rank math.

Every email the company sends comes directly from Bhanu, the company’s co-founder, and is complete with all of the niceties you would expect when speaking to someone. He asks how you’re doing, offers advice, lets recipients know they can ask questions and wishes them well at the end.

It’s still a corporate email, but it doesn’t feel like it.

12. Mark Milestones

Marking customer milestones is another effective email personalization tool.

It shows your customers you’ve noticed their achievements and that your company appreciates them. In turn, this enhances customer engagement, making them feel valued.

Milestones worth marking include:

  • your customer’s first anniversary
  • a customer’s birthday
  • the accumulation of a set number of points
  • the completion of a course or similar

13. Imagery

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Or, to put it another way, a single image can express a thought much better than a heap of text.

Keeping your messages short is vital now as people tend to skim-read emails on the go, but it’s not just about that. Imagery can impact your customers in other ways.

Personalizing the imagery in your emails allows you to build an emotional connection with your customers, driving them to take action and potentially influencing their buying decisions.

One of the other advantages of pictures is their flexibility.

You can use images in many ways, from showcasing products to illustrating the benefits of a particular product or just brightening a customer’s day.

There are just a few things to consider.

Images must be:

  • Eye-catching
  • Engaging
  • Relevant

Additionally, you can personalize images to specific customers by their data, preferences, and their location.

14. Reach Out to Customers

Cart abandonment, poor engagement, and lack of follow-up all affect your bottom line. However, you can overcome them with email personalization.

Reaching out to customers can get them back on track and keep them from abandoning their carts. For instance, you could send:

  • A coupon code in your abandoned cart emails
  • An offer for something a customer looked at but didn’t buy
  • An email asking why they left without buying and offering assistance
  • A follow-up email three days after their visit

Next, engage.

Send out email tutorials or similar. You can personalize these messages by looking at your data to see how your customers use their purchases and where they most need your help.

Finally, follow up.

  • Does your customer understand everything their purchase offers?
  • Are there features they could be making more of?
  • Anything specific about the product/service that can make a particular buyer’s life easier?

Yes? Then follow up and solve their problems!

15. Pay Attention to the Small Details

Aside from the areas already discussed, you can use email personalization further by:

  • A/B testing different versions of an email
  • Changing the copy of an email with each click based on customer data
  • Addressing any previous interactions
  • Including a call to action
  • Segmenting your audience into groups that share similar interests or use cases for your product

As I’ve already said, there’s no limit to the things you can personalize in an email.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is email personalization?

Email personalization is the practice of customizing email content for individual recipients based on their unique characteristics, preferences, behaviors, and interactions with your brand. It goes beyond basic personalization elements like addressing the recipient by name and includes subject lines, body content, offers, and calls-to-action to create a highly individualized and relevant communication experience.

Does email personalization work?

Yes, email personalization has proven to be highly effective. Personalized emails outperform generic mass emails in terms of open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. By delivering content that resonates with recipients on a personal level, businesses can capture attention, drive engagement, and increase the likelihood of desired actions, leading to improved marketing outcomes.

Are personalized emails more effective?

Yes, personalized emails are generally more effective than generic mass emails. By tailoring the content to the specific interests, needs, and behaviors of recipients, personalized emails create a more relevant and engaging experience. 

What is the benefit of personalized email marketing?

Personalized email marketing offers several benefits, including:
Improved open rates
Increase click-through rates
Higher conversion rates
Enhanced customer experiences
Stronger customer loyalty

How much time does it take to personalize emails?

Customized emails can increase engagement and deliver a better user experience, so it’s worth taking some extra time.

How much does it cost to set up personalized emails?

The cost of setting up email personalization usually depends on two main factors: the number of emails you need to send and your plan.

What kinds of emails should you personalize?

You can personalize emails that are promotional or transactional.


Email personalization is one of the most efficient marketing channels, and many small and medium-sized companies are using it to grow their businesses. This strategy can increase customer loyalty, boost conversion rates and deliver serious ROI.

However, if you’re not taking the right approach, you won’t get results.

If you want conversions, you need to take email personalization deeper than just using a customer’s first name. This includes adapting to different time zones, addressing customers’ wants and needs, and using imagery.

In short, email personalization can make your customers feel valued—and people who feel valued are more likely to make purchases from you.

Do you use email personalization in your campaigns? Which techniques work well for you?

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