Automation & Personalization; a look at the numbers

After reading the latest Econsultancy/Adestra report there’s a few email marketing stats I’d like to bring to the table for discussion…


As email marketers, we know that showing the right content to the right person generates results. But how many of us can honestly say that we regularly achieve the level of email personalization we want? And if we do, how repeatable and scalable is it? If you’re regularly sending emails out to multiple segments, how manual is the email content build process?


These are questions that we need to be thinking about regularly and honestly. It’s all very well getting one email out each week with a level of segmentation. If we look at retail, it’s pretty standard that brands do a base level gender segmentation. This is achievable at some scale and it’s repeatable – create 2 segments, build two html versions, one for each gender and press send. Women receive womenswear, men receive menswear. This does work - brands that do basic email segmentation are more than twice as likely to report ‘excellent’ ROI from email marketing as those who say they don’t do this. The reason it works? There’s some level of content relevancy there, even if it’s at a very basic level.


Despite email’s continuing ability to deliver, the proportion of marketers who rate the performance of their company’s email campaigns as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ has declined from 56% in 2016 to 52% this year. Could this be because email marketers just aren’t achieving a deep enough level of content relevancy through personalization? I believe it is. Whilst many are nailing the email basics, in the last 10 years of email, very few brands have got beyond a multi-segment approach to personalizing email content.


Partially that’s due to the lack of resource – sourcing and building content per-email segment takes forever – it’s a long winded, manual task that gets brushed aside as soon as the email team is up against it.


Partially it’s due to the fact that there are very few content automation options for the email channel. Automating content from a blog or from a product catalog has previously been a real challenge, there just hasn’t been the technology to automate and personalize at scale using such content sources. The main challenge for those trying to implement more email personalization is integrating data, cited as a top-three barrier by 55% of client-side respondents in the survey. For that reason, true personalization at scale remains elusive for many businesses, though more companies are starting to reap the benefits through technology like open time content automation which bridges the gap between CRM data and email content.


Very few businesses are doing email personalization to its fullest, at the extent to which it can be done. Realistically how achievable is it for you to deliver truly personalized email content to every single one of your subscribers? Whilst the proportion of companies who say they can send emails based on individual activities and preferences throughout the funnel at scale has almost doubled from 8% to 15%, there’s still a whopping 85% of companies that just aren’t doing it. Of the 15% that are, almost three-quarters reported an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ performance from their email campaigns.


It’s promising to see that in the report that personalization is the area of email marketing that most respondents say they need to focus on during 2017. To give you an idea of the results you could be seeing, brands that deliver advanced email segmentation are twice as likely to report excellent ROI as those who don’t do it. That’s a huge potential! I wonder how much additional revenue that could equate to for you? A significant amount, I’d be willing to bet.


Whilst the consensus is that companies are still under-investing in a channel which drove an estimated £29bn in UK online retail sales in 2016, it looks to me that there will be significant email investment in the coming months and years as brands search for technology to plug the automation & personalization gaps that their ESPs aren’t able to fill.


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