data-driven email marketing

How Access to Real-Time Subscriber Data Affects Email Design

Any email marketer worth their salt can tell you that data is everything when it comes to getting the results you want. Customers have never been more discerning about what hits their inbox, and it’s never been more challenging for brands to break through the clutter and get customers’ attention in the inbox. So many factors go into getting that initial open — from an intriguing subject line to brand trust — but once you get that first engagement, visual design is a big part of what prompts recipients to do something other than hitting the back button. Many email design choices come back to the data you’re using and what information you can access quickly. For many marketers, gaining access to data to use it for personalization can be a headache, particularly if that data is sensitive or if the customer data in their ESP’s cloud isn’t synced with the in-house system. Fast data access is key, whether it’s available with your ESP or with a custom-built in-house tool, because it can have a big influence on how you design your campaigns. Here are some examples:

Customize Modules Within the Email

Because there’s so much personalization you can do with access to real-time data, you’ll want to think about the design of the email in a fundamentally different way. While you may consider building an email with some simple personalization or creating a few versions sent to different segments, your easy data access gives you more personalization possibilities. You can divide your email template into modules that are customizable to the recipient.

Make Your Images Stand Out

Once you have your module-based email design, creating one campaign with numerous versions becomes simple. This is where real-time data access comes into play. With up-to-the-second data, you may decide to customize the header image based on the recipient’s local weather. During the recent cold snap in the Midwest, maybe the image will show a young family playing in the snow. Or, if you’re a travel company, you might take the opposite approach by showing a couple on the beach to entice the subscriber book a trip to the Bahamas. But the weather can turn fast. If the subscriber’s local weather is back in the 60s by next week maybe a “Ready for Spring?” header image with a family and their dog playing in the park would be more likely to engage and, potentially, convert. For the marketers, it’s all simple with real-time data access — a basic script that taps into weather data from the recipient’s home area to insert a conditional image based upon whatever weather variables are relevant for you will do the trick. Then the only question is which images best fit each design, and which ones will entice the reader to take the action you want.

Make Timely, Relevant, Data-Driven Recommendations

With real-time data, you also have the information you need to make more personalized product recommendations. You can design a module that displays product images tied to a customer’s most recent purchase. If a customer in Chicago buys winter boots in October, you could have a trigger campaign set up with scarves and down coats that would send an hour after purchase. Or if a customer books a trip to New York, perhaps you recommend a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty he can purchase with the points he earned from the purchase. The idea is to hit subscribers with a message when they’re ready to buy and to design the email so that the customization seems organic and seamless from one recipient to the next.

Render at Open to Get More Personalized

To take your live data to the next level, tools that allow you to render emails at open can create even more personalization opportunities for your email design. Taking the New York trip example from above, maybe that ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty from the first open turns into a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden the next time he adds points to his balance. Your design should be ready and flexible for that sort of change. Another option might be to have a short sale with a countdown timer that changes each time the recipient opens the email. You could add the following:
  • Your design could have a large countdown clock in the header that’s red to grab attention in the closing minutes.
  • The prices of the featured items can go back to normal (non-sale) prices within the email if the subscriber opens it after the clock hits zero.
  • The clock could morph into a header that reads, “Sorry, you missed this flash sale. Catch you next time.”
When it comes to highly personalized email campaigns, it’s crucial for your design to be flexible, creative, and responsive to your marketing needs. With real-time data access, you can take your design to the next level and the potential for personalization gets dialed up to 11.
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