Especially for you…. email personalisation

4 minute read

We usually talk about email personalisation as a positive thing. But with all of the behavioural targeting technology available, when does personal become invasive or just plain creepy? It’s an interesting question and one which was raised on the panel discussion of last week’s 123-reg Conference.



Especially for you? Although it might feel different, the vast majority of marketing emails are not personalised to any great degree – my snap survey of my own email inbox (am I average?)found that just 4% of the promotional messages I received in a typical day had any form of meaningful content personalisation.

Personalisation is one of those tricky things to get right. Yes, on the whole, it can add a degree of relevance which in turn will boost engagement. But as the questioner was alluding too, given that email is always a remote communication, without all of the other visual and voice clues that we rely on to convey and understand meaning, it can sometimes feel just a little too much.

So when is personalised too personal? We generally ‘feel’ when it’s right or wrong but defining where the line is can be a little harder. Nevertheless, consider these three scenarios – all likely to make the recipient feel uneasy.

1. Personal and new.

Effective email marketing is about building a trust relationship. It doesn’t all happen on the first message. That’s why, even if you’ve collected information which could add a high degree of personalisation to your campaigns, you might want to think again. At least until your relationship has evolved a little. This is especially true of targeting information which has not been collected directly by means of behavioural observation, for example web browsing interests and possibly location. Showing that you are aware of and using such information can make the recipient feel a little too ‘observed’ and may actually lead to a change in natural behaviour.

2. Personal and irrelevant.

It’s easy to drop profiling or other behavioural targeting information into a campaign but it’s only valuable if it’s really relevant. Just demonstrating that you have the information and know how to use it has a confusing effect. If you’re going to personalise, keep it simple (don’t refer to profile information too frequently), and make sure it’s relevant not only to your recipient but also to your campaign objective.

3. Personal and inaccurate.

This follows along the same lines as personal and irrelevant but plain inaccurate information is a sure way of losing the faith of your subscribers. Needless to say, personalisation relies on a robust data collection process. Inaccurate personalisation can range from wrong or unintelligent name personalisation for example like ‘Dear Info’ or ‘Hi Smith’, to including detailed information which is just not applicable. I recently received a nice personalised email inviting me to register for the all ladies tennis tournament at my local sports centre. Duh!

However, when you get it right – that is your relationship is such that a little bit of personalisation feels comfortable (on both sides), and the content you include is both relevant and accurate – then it’s a winner. After all, receiving engaging content which is relevant and timely is all that all of us really want from those we sign up to hear from and personalisation is a key technique in achieving this.