Email marketing is one of few time honored online marketing strategies. Moving beyond the classic ad hoc, batch and blast email strategies requires some investment and new thinking.

For a long time, email marketing strategy was a numbers game. Essentially, the more emails you had in your database, the better overall results you saw. I refer to this as a “list-driven” strategy. You have an email list and you send general messages to this list and refuse to consider that the content you’re sending is NOT relevant for everyone on the list.

Well, it’s 2017, and time to move your email marketing past “list-driven” execution and into “behavior-based” campaigns. Here you’re sending to unique segments and the emails they receive are relevant to their specific interests, location or behaviors. In many ways, these changes are stepping into marketing automation, but the notion is to connect on a personal level based on your audience’s behavior for better results and a bigger ROI.

I know what you’re thinking. Executing email campaigns based on personalized segments means creating unique emails for every audience – that’s too much work, too much creative, and too expensive.

Yes, those are valid concerns, if you over-segment your database. Creating too many or unneeded segments can nickel and dime your campaigns out of profitability. The key is to start slow by segmenting high priority categories first. Lead in with a small number of segments and simple automation (your campaign canvass should not resemble a plate of spaghetti) and personalization and dynamic content delivers a worthwhile ROI. If you doubt this is true, you can always test and ensure your goal return rates are achievable.

We recently tested the very simple concept of personalization and dynamic content with one of our clients. Considering one test is worth a thousand expert opinions, I figured we’d share the results illustrating why personalization and behavior-based marketing is a must.   

A Little Bit About the Brand




Red Wing Shoe Company is a nationally recognized brand with over 500 retail locations. We’ve worked with them for a few years now to transition into more mature behavior-based strategies. Most recently, their goals were to reach younger consumers at the right time, with the right message. Enhancing personalization and behavior-based marketing became a necessity.  

Testing to Identify What Works

Every test should begin with a hypothesis that is tested to prove true or false. As most marketers would assume, personalized content almost always performs better than non-personalized. In fact, that was our hypothesis, which we tested to be true. However, the results were far more significant than we imagined.

In this case, we defined engagement as: 1. Readers opening an email, and 2. Readers clicking a call to action inside the email. 

Readers Opening an Email
We tested a control group who received a general subject line and body copy compared against a test group who received a subject line and body copy that was related to a product they had previously purchased. As mentioned, the outcome supported our hypothesis that personalized content will outperform the general content of the control group. The variation between the two open rates was 21%. Overwhelmingly showing personalized content has an impact on open rates!


Readers Clicking a Call to Action
Personalization can exist in both text and images. The subject line mentioned above is an example of text. However, the personalized body copy we tested also included images that were related to the reader’s previous purchase behavior. When comparing the personalized body content and image to the general content of the control group, click through rates increased were a 42% variation in favor of personalized content!

Campaign Results
Engagement should lead to revenue and results otherwise it’s purely a vanity metric in my opinion. Related to this specific test, including personalized content increased revenue by 17% over the previous year’s promotion.

What Comes After Personalization?

More personalization, which means getting creative. In this case, content was personalized based on the reader’s previous purchase behavior. All that data is collected at the point of sale by the brand itself. Taking personalization to the next level will requires more data, and data beyond what the brand collects on its own. Adding third party data and external factors like weather, economic conditions, industry trends, etc. creates more opportunities for personalization and future communications strategies to reach the right consumer, with the right offer, at the right time.

As I stated earlier, start simple especially with marketing automation. Something I heard recently that has stuck with me, think evolution, not revolution. Whether you’re a large retailer like the one in this example or a home services company starting simple with personalization is the first step in building your marketing automation campaigns. And if you have any questions, we’re happy to help!