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Tailored content in emails: be clever but be human

December 17, 2013

For the world of B2C Retail email marketing it is now technically possible to send some really cleverly tailored emails. The days of batch and blast are truly over for the leading edge of B2C marketing.  For example you can now include images in your email that change according to the weather when the recipient views it and geolocation services can display the nearest branch of your shop or restaurant based on your location.

So how can, and should, this technology be used? 

This beauty supplier is a great example of how to do it. Rather than send me a standardised email ‘blast’ they have put email images of the products I’ve viewed on their site recently.  This is much more likely to persuade me to buy than just a newsletter of their latest offers. However they have been very subtle and haven’t said eg. ‘Jenni we know what you’ve been looking at’ and have laid it out as a standard newsletter. 

Thomson holidays are usually very good at this and send a lot of behavioural emails based on holiday searches.  I have been on three annual family holidays with Thomson in the last three years and so they have a lot of information about me. This email below boasts ‘tailor made offers’.   However they have offered me flights from Gatwick.  I live 15 minutes away from Manchester airport and have never flown Thomson from Gatwick nor searched for holidays from Gatwick.  Next, they suggest ‘why not try Majorca’ which is odd when I’ve been with them to Majorca for the last three summers at great expense.

I don’t mind if their emails don’t reference my purchase history before sending but why parade it as an email tailored to me?  It feels like they’re telling me that they really know me which of course grates when they get it wrong.  More of an own goal than clever content. 

Spotify is another company that make an effort to send emails based on usage of their product.  They seem to have some sort of algorithm that links bands and recommends artists based on music you’ve listened to.  I could see the merit in this for new artists but do they really think I’ve never heard of Blondie, The Who and The Clash?  Music taste is a strange thing and can’t be understood by a computer.  They get a lot of negativity for this on twitter from people who find it a little patronising/ insulting or are violently opposed to one of the bands they suggest!  Their other attempts showing new material by artists you listen to a lot are much more welcome.   

When it comes to sending variable content there is no excuse for not making the effort.  Technology now means that, particularly for retail brands, the sky is the limit. Look at the best retail brands out there and try and emulate their emails.  You can get really clever with your emails within a reasonable budget now and you should, but remember: be subtle and humble.  Don’t show off your knowledge and presume you know your recipient.  Remember - no one likes a smart arse!

Posted by Jenni Malley
Email Design

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