Segmentation vs Personalization: They’re not the same.

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In a typical day I’ll probably say the words ‘email personalization’ a hundred times. What I’ve noticed is that my definition of email personalization is not always the same as other people’s. It seems that there can be some confusion between segmentation and personalization. Are the two interchangeable or are they very different?

IMO they’re very different. Let’s start with segmentation.

Segmentation allows you to put people into pots and target them with content deemed ‘relevant’ to that pot. 

grouped M&MsCustomers are split into groups and receive the content that best serves their needs as a whole group. Persona based segmentation uses aggregated data to split the market into sections according to shared attributes which may be gender – male or female, or preference – menswear, womenswear, home or kids etc. A slightly more advanced level of segmentation could be the splitting out of customer type based on their buying behavior.

As marketers we’re very good at at creating the process to put people in the pots, but we don’t have a way to change preference easily and fluidly once a customer lands in a particular segment. As time moves on and customer needs evolve, segmentation typically doesn’t; once a customer lands in a pot, they’re there for a while, so the content being sent can become irrelevant very quickly. If a contact indicates an interest in home, they may not want to receive home content forever – it’s possible they were doing a renovation and were only interested in ‘home’ at that point in time or for a couple of months.

Further to this, the segmentation categories tend to be purposefully broad to fit as many recipients into the pre-determined pots as possible. The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t necessarily make a female communication more appealing to me – particularly if I’ve recently browsed men’s clothing for my partner.

The biggest challenge with segmentation is that people change over time. What you told me when you signed up, or what you bought two years ago is a much less useful indicator of what you’re interested in than what you browsed last month. Is it better to continue battling with segmentation or look for more advanced ways to achieve real personalization that doesn’t go out of date?

We ask everybody we speak to if they’re personalizing and it’s fair to say that majoritively they respond with what we’d consider segmentation. Whilst segmentation does provide some level of personalization, at some point the content for that segment was deemed relevant to that individual, it’s not personalization in its truest sense.

At a real base level, personalization is saying ‘Hi Firstname’. This is so basic though that I’m not even going to consider it.

Real email personalization is the consistent delivery of content truly personalized, at an individual level.

For many email marketers this is the goal but it often feels unrealistic and not easily achievable. That’s because it’s just not possible using segmentation – you’ll never get to 1-2-1 personalization using dynamic content or segmented sends.

The best place to start when considering achievable personalization is data. One of problems people face with personalization is the speed of processing data points – picking up an abandon browse and actioning it the next day is tough, but with the advent of single customer view databases, businesses are getting better and better at this – the main problem is content creation.

Red-dressThere’s so much data available in your CRM, perhaps relating to previous purchases, average order value, browse behavior, customer type, propensity to purchase and so on. CRM data can be used in Kickdynamic Tags to automatically personalize email content based on each individual’s behavior & data. For example, if you have data in your CRM that says I’ve browsed ‘dresses’, I have a propensity to purchase ‘red’ and ‘size 12’ you can automatically show me red dresses in my size. This model can be applied to every individual in your CRM to deliver content that is always relevant to them. Kickdynamic bridges the gap between your CRM data and your email personalization – with no need for time-consuming dynamic content conundrums. The content source in this case could be a product catalogue or Google shopping feed – we’ll use the CRM data and business rules you’ve defined to find the right products from the feed to display to that individual.

PersonalizationInstead of clustering customers into set pots as you do with segmentation, you can now use an individual’s CRM data combined with Content Automation to deliver content to them at a 1-2-1 level. Connecting CRM data to live images powered by feeds, makes email content personalization achievable at an individual level. You can even merge product SKUs into our tags to display specific products. At the time of send, a product SKU can be merged from your ESP into our Tag, we’ll match that in the feed and show that image content automatically at open time. You only need to set this up once to generate an endless variation of personalized email content. An additional benefit of using open time technology to personalize is that every time the email is opened the product information is live – we’ll serve the latest product content from the feed every time the email is opened. Prices, offers and availability will always be up to date, eradicating email shelf-life.

If your CRM doesn’t contain this level of customer detail – that doesn’t matter.  If you have category based information such as whether a customer has a propensity to buy shoes, bags, shirts, dresses or sportswear for example, this information can be used to completely remove the requirement to build complex, dynamic content. It only needs to be setup once and will automatically display the the latest products from the propensity category by utilizing open time technology.

Approaching personalization in this way removes the stagnation around content irrelevance. Content Automation gives you, the marketer, the power to let recipients decide what they want to receive. Use your CRM to keep track of real-time activity and use that information to keep content relevant all the time. Personalizing at this level boosts engagement; you’re showing the right content to the right person – it’s a proven recipe for success. Every customer using Kickdynamic in this way is seeing significant increases in both engagement and AOV.

In short, personalization and segmentation are not interchangeable. Many marketers do segmentation but it is inefficient and resource heavy. But whilst 1-2-1 email content personalization is becoming more prevalent, many email marketers feel they need segmentation as a route to get to doing more personalization. This isn’t the case. Marketers should be utilizing real-time CRM data and automation to revolutionize their email activity. It’s a shift in mindset certainly, but the results will be unprecedented. It’s also repeatable at scale – something that isn’t true for segmentation.

Trust us, be brave and make the leap to content automation. It’s the trend that nobody is talking about.

P.S. I hope you like the M&Ms. From no personalization, to colour segementation, to M&Ms with my face on!

Are your emails keeping up with new data sharing attitudes?

It sounds simple, send the right content to the right people –  yet still so many email marketers continue to miss the mark. And this is becoming ever more a cardinal sin as attitudes of the everyday consumer shift.

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(A daily thought in the Kickdynamic office)

I’m going to speak now as a consumer, not an email marketer. I know day-to-day that retailers gather a lot of information on me; be this from store cards, loyalty programmes, or generally acknowledging that more of my online movements are being tracked by retailers. Even people who don’t work in online marketing notice and appreciate that when they’ve browsed a certain website or product – it’s likely to follow them around the internet in the form of retargeted ads.

Personally (and I’m sure the majority will agree), if I’m going to be retargeted with adverts, I prefer seeing products I’m actually interested in and the same goes for the content in my emails. It’s annoying to glance at an email for a second, decide instantly that none of the products really float my boat and hit delete. If this happens a few times in a row from a specific sender I’ll unsubscribe. On the flip side, when personalization is done well in email, I enjoy looking at the products and this is probably very evident in my dwell time. 

I stumbled across a recent report by Salesforce ‘The State of the Connected Customer’ and it came as no surprise that there has been huge movement and talk around new data-sharing attitudes amongst customers. According to the survey, the majority of UK customers are more willing to share personal data in exchange for offers and discounts which are personalized to them (I mean why would you not want to be notified when your favourite product is on special offer?!).

“63% of UK customers say being sent personalised or exclusive offers and discounts has a direct influence on their loyalty.”

With these changing attitudes, there is an increasing level of expectation when it comes to marketing. In the study carried out by Salesforce, it was found that one in two UK customers say they’re likely to switch from a company that doesn’t make an effort to personalize interactions. Now that’s a scary number when you think that 50% of your subscribers could unsubscribe as a result of you not using the data you have at your fingertips to personalize your emails in the best way you can. Nobody wants to be marketed a product they’ve just purchased or repeatedly shown items they’re not interested in.

In our world, with marketers having access to an abundance of data about their consumers AND the highlighted changing attitudes of their market – is there really an excuse NOT to be sending highly personalized emails?

In a word. NO.

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At Kickdynamic, we believe everyone should be connecting their CRM data (including browse behaviour) with a product feed enabling you to send highly personalised emails. This automated way of producing content is truly a no-brainer, ensuring your email content is always highly individualized and live at the time the email is opened all whilst saving resource and build time.

And just incase you needed some more persuading why high level personalization is so important, here are some more key stats from Salesforce’s Report that suggest by 2020:

  • 48% of UK consumers will expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they contact them
  • 45% of UK consumers will expect companies to use AI to automatically purchase or recommend products based on their preferences

I am at war against manual processes.

This Fantastic quote from Dan Grech of Trendeo in the latest Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide goes to the heart of why our Content Automation solution makes such a difference to email marketers’ lives. Do you spend Friday afternoon building the emails for the weekend? Do you spend days editing dynamic content scripts in your ESP interface? Does this sound like your working environment:

‘….juniors, freelancers, interns are extracting CSVs of personally identiable information about customers from one system, running some queries and cleaning, then uploading it to another system’.

Dan Grech p. 18 of Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

Do you sometimes have to stay back at the office to re run an personalisation upload or manage the editing of an image because a price or offer has changed? Every single one of these examples of stressful, error-prone manual processes can be removed, yes removed, by using Kickdynamic Content Automation.

I find it frustrating that many thought leaders in email still ignore the manual work required for building content to match what we can now do with data. As this Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide shows in many places e.g. this from p.3

‘Alongside this evolution, automation and machine learning are further freeing the marketer from hours of data manipulation and analysis.’

Yes, in some cases, this is true. Some retailers have invested heavily in CRM infrastructure and are well down the track of the recommendations by Michael Leander, CEO of consultants GIDMA on p. 5 of the Smart Insights 2017 email trends guide

‘First, create a solid and committed strategy backed by top management. Next, aim to establish one data repository, a strong content and offer strategy aligned with the interests of the target audience across the customer lifecycle. The ability to track and use behavioural and transactional data, and automate certain processes along with a realistic view on which resources are required to get results.’

If you now have a CRM infrastructure that is capable of making meaningful product and messaging recommendations for your customers, you are in a very exciting position, you can move beyond segmentation. But, how will you create content that matches all those thousands of individual recommendations? You are used to creating one email or maybe 4 variants for 4 different segments. Now, you need to be able to slot in content for thousands of variables. You need more than a ‘strong content strategy’ you need a content automation solution that allows you to match up relevant live content with those customer recommendations. Even if you just want to move beyond 4 segments to 8 segments, you will need to change your approach to content building. It needs to stop being a manual process.

When we think of building automated content – we think of production recommendations, right? There are lots of solutions that will produce a strip of products, based on best sellers, for example. This is not what we mean. Sure, automating the right product images is important, but you also need to automate soft content like blogs, recommendations, social content and so on. For example, look at how P&O Ferries has used Kickdynamic to automate soft content in their emails.

Kickdynamic image tags build images for email live at the time of open. Kickdynamic can build images based on results from an API query, or product feed, live at the time of open. By simply merging a customerID into the Kickdynamic image tag, Kickdyanmic can submit that ID to an API, live at the time of open and receive recommended Products as a result. Kickdynamic can then build personalised images for each recipient at the time they open their email. We recommend replacing a static mail merge for all recipients at time of send (current process) with Kickdynamic tags building images via an API query or from a product feed. This also opens up possibilities for using Browse data to match recipients with products they will be interested in and to prioritise products displayed, based on conversion rate.

The Power of Personalization

Personalization is a top priority for email marketers; from contextual levels to more obvious name or product specific personalization, there are many different ways to do this. Send highly targeted, well personalized emails to your subscribers and you will see an increase in your opens, and better conversion rates. Ultimately you’ll build a better relationship between your brand and your subscribers, however, despite all of these benefits and the many methods of personalizing email, a huge 60% of marketers admit that they struggle when it comes to personalizing content in real-time.

A prime example of this is a recent email which I received from British fashion retailer OASIS with the subject line:

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Working in this industry, it instantly caught my attention (not just because I’m on the lookout for a personalized clutch bag) but also because I was intrigued at how they may have personalized this email. With such a specific subject line, I presumed SURELY there would be some sort of individual personalization happening…

I was wrong…

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Now, I doubt I was the only person in OASIS’ subscriber list who was disappointed upon opening this email. What a wasted opportunity!

As well as the lack of personalization within the email, there is also no obvious indication of how limited this ‘limited’ time is for.

This would have been an absolutely perfect time to add a personalized name to the image to actually show potential customers exactly how their bag could look.

With a few simple customizations, this email could have really stood out of the inbox and enticed more readers to purchase the product.

 

Firstly, this would have been a perfect opportunity to personalize the image to show readers what their bag would look like. Using a Kickdynamic Tag, this is easy to set up and implement and has a great impact on readers.

Secondly, to create the sense of urgency of the limited time this product is available, it would have been a great addition to include a countdown timer within the email. The urgency of the offer would be driven by the seconds counting down live. Additionally, when this offer/option has expired, swapping the image to an ‘after’ image, or showing a 1×1 gif in place of the timer, would ensure the content is relevant and always up to date. Ensuring the most up to date offer information is shown to the recipient will improve their customer experience and affiliation with the brand.

From this:                                                          To this:

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-14-37-46

 

What do you think? Would seeing your name or initials over the product image have encouraged you to click through and complete a purchase?

Live Product Availability in Email for Black Friday

On shopping days as big as Black Friday it can be a toss up for Marketers. Do you fire out generic promo emails promising big savings on every product whilst stocks last, or do you take a more refined, product based approach?

Understandably you may be wary of taking a more product-centric approach. What happens when the products in your email sell-out for example? Chances are, that on high-volume shopping days, products promoted in-email will have a higher sell-through rate than usual.

To overcome the very real problem of promoting sold-out products you can leverage live data to provide a great customer experience. The case for only including available products in email is obviously strong. Those that click through are doing so because they’re interested in the product and possibly have an intent to purchase. Only including products available to buy at the time of open is going to drive revenue.

You can also drive product sales by providing open time product availability in email. Using an API, or other data source, pull in live product stock levels and the latest pricing, delivery and product information at every email open. Each time the recipient re-opens the email the stock level and product information will automatically update.

Here’s an example of a live product feed generating email images that are live at open time:

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Use layered visibility rules to create image layers for stock level callouts and discount stickers as required. As the data source updates with real-time availability, discounts, prices and available products, the images in the email will update at every open with the latest, up-to-date content. For example, you could show a live stock availability call out over an image when the stock level dips below a certain number. This stock availability is live at every open, meaning that products featured in your email will always be available to click through and buy. For example, show a stock call out sticker over the image when there’s only 10 left. When the stock level drops to below 5, change the messaging on the stock call out to introduce urgency, such as ‘Hurry! Only 3 left.’. If a product goes out of stock, we’ll automatically swap it, on open, to display the next available product. Likewise, all product information will automatically update too, so if the discount amount changes or the price changes throughout the day, the email will reflect these changes live too.

Here’s an example of live products with stock level callouts:

live-stock-example

Not only does using Open Time Content Automation give you to flexibility to promote products that are in-stock and available to buy at email open, it also enables you to automate much of the email content. You can create on-brand product images from a data source for your email without requiring any support or resource from your design team, perfect for those on-the-fly campaigns that you’re likely to need to send out as Black Friday and Cyber Monday unfold.

Dynamic Content 2.0

Kickdynamic Open Time Content Automation is the next generation of Dynamic Content for email. It gives you all the power of highly targeted and engaging content but saves huge amounts of time in set up, maintenance and management, leaving you and your team more time for marketing. Traditional Dynamic Content is a great concept – you can personalize email text and images down to the individual recipient level, using coding language provided by your ESP. This means that if John has browsed smart shoes last week and you have that information in your ESP platform, you can use Dynamic content to merge in some smart shoes in the email you send to him today. You can do this without creating loads of segments. Dynamic Content is particularly useful in transactional or triggered email. You need to go beyond Dear %%Firstname%% to get a good response to your email. So far so good.

So why doesn’t everyone use Dynamic Content in email?

Many marketers do use Dynamic Content, but it does come with a number of challenges, principally:

  1. Setting up Dynamic Content scripting and testing it can be a long process
  2. Maintaining Dynamic Content (keeping it up to date, repairing it when it breaks) is labor-intensive
  3. Dynamic Content can cause send out speed problems

Kickdynamic’s solution addresses all three of these issues by managing and creating and serving image content on a separate system (not the ESP), with its own management interface. So, the set up can now be done by marketers with no scripting knowledge. Maintenance is automatic, as data (such as pricing/products/blog content) can be taken automatically from a feed or website. Using Kickdynamic separates out the database activity required for sending email from the database activity required for personalizing content. This means you can send out highly personal email at the same speed as ‘flat’ HTML. This is particularly important when it comes to peak season for retailers and we are fighting for inbox real estate on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Furthermore, Kickdynamic’s Content Automation creates the content at the moment of open, rather than the time of send. This means that key information such as price and stock availability or offer expiry will be correct at the time the recipient reads the email. The content can also be adapted, in the moment, to the recipient’s context: to their device, place, time or weather conditions. Because the content is created at the time of Open, it can also reflect the most recent browsing behaviour, for example, products or categories browsed after the email was sent, but before it is opened.

Here is a useful summary of the differences between traditional Dynamic Content and Kickydnamic Open Time Content Automation:

Traditional Dynamic Content Open Time Content Automation
Content produced at time of send Content produced at time of open
Scripts produce personalized content for every single recipient Personalized content produced ONLY for those who actually open the email
Uses ESP scripting

Uses ESP database

Content Automation handled by Open Time image server, not ESP

 

Slows down infrastructure of ESP when sending because content production and send out use the same Database and infrastructure No impact on send out speed because all personalization handled at image level
Can personalize ‘system text’ in emails

 

Can personalize text in images but not ‘system text’
Cannot reflect offer expiry, latest offers, stock levels or price changes

 

Can be in complete synchronization with website on pricing, stock and offers, even once the email is in the inbox
Requires IT team involvement Can be done without IT team
Needs to be set up again if you move ESP You can take this from ESP to ESP with no extra set up
One time set up then send out requires no creative, coding or testing – only infrastructure management for speed One time set up then no creative, coding or testing – no worries about speed of send out
Bring in best selling products at time of send Bring in best selling products at time of open
Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of send Show recommendations based on browsing behaviour up to time of open

How do you personalize when you have no data?

Personalization is a top priority for marketers this year according to Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2016 report (and every marketer we’ve asked too!). ‘Personalization is a priority’ is often followed by ‘but it’s hard to do’.

The phrases ‘big data’ and ‘single customer view’ are frequently bandied around, and tend to make personalization sound like a difficult beast to tame, especially when it comes to dynamic content and actually using your data. After all, how can you possibly personalize an email when you’ve got such complex data structures (or unstructures in a lot of cases), and, even if your data ducks are in a row, is it even possible to use this data in your ESP in a useful way? It suddenly becomes tricky.

But here’s the thing: It’s actually never been easier. You can achieve significant and effective personalization without ‘big data’. You can use the recipient context (location, time, device) to personalize a message even if you have absolutely no data.

The next step is to use recent browsing behaviour to personalize a message. If the recipient has been looking at dresses, show them your best offers in your dresses category, or the newest dresses, just in. Suddenly, from ‘no data’ you are confirming a great brand experience. All of this is possible within a couple of weeks of set up and requires nothing more than access to a tag manager or Google Analytics.