Beyond Personalized Email Marketing: 4 Ways to Add a Human Touch
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) like the now famous ChatGPT (or maybe infamous depending on your opinion), people have been talking about the benefits of having real humans behind marketing communications.
There are a lot of ways that technology such as AI and automation can make the job of email marketing easier and even more effective. However, just as it’s important to remember that there are actual human beings opening your email campaigns, subscribers also want to know there are real people behind the brands they love. Your subscribers want to feel seen, they want to feel connected, and they want to be more than just their data.
Email personalization, for example, has the potential to make messages feel more personal. But that’s not always the result. Get personalization wrong and all the magic immediately disappears. And simply adding a subscriber’s name to subject lines and email copy isn’t truly creating a 1-to-1 inbox experience.
There are certainly opportunities to get more creative with email personalization. Email marketers can totally use AI for ideation and optimization. Automated email campaigns and behavioral or triggered emails can also do a lot of the heavy lifting. But the truth is… there are simple ways to add a human touch to email marketing that don’t require advanced technology or fancy techniques.
In this article, we’ll give you some ideas for making sure your email efforts come across as human. Because unless you know how to make emails personal, your email personalization efforts may fall flat.
How can you personalize emails in effective ways?
To personalize your email, you don’t necessarily need to know a subscriber’s name. Personalization goes beyond variable mapping to populate a template with your subscriber’s name.
Email personalization really comes down to providing value to our subscribers. In other words, you want to make a subscriber feel like you wrote and designed an email just for them, even if you’re sending it to many users on your mailing list.
You might be able to send personalized recommendations based on what your customers have bought in the past or what content they’ve downloaded. You can also use other data to craft compelling messages specific to certain customers (and don’t forget to keep empathy in mind).
But what if all you have is a name? Take a leaf out of Really Good Emails’ book, as shown below. They personalized an image with each subscriber’s name to give them their email rap name. It’s fun and goes way beyond a merge tag.
Here are some personalization strategies to implement in your email marketing campaigns:
- Analyze your data, so you know what messages resonate with which kinds of subscribers.
- Use dynamic content.
- Draw on the customer data you already have. Pay attention to purchase history, browsing behavior, and survey answers.
- Use list segmentation to create segments of audiences who exhibit similar characteristics drawing from demographic, geographic, or psychographic data. Then, send targeted emails to these segments.
- Offer tailored coupons, special offers, and product recommendations.
- Send celebratory emails for anniversaries or birthdays.
- Take into account your user’s time zone. Use personalization to optimize your send times for this.
- Create a personalized call-to-action (CTA).
Beyond personalization: Four ways to add a human touch to emails
Personalization is a great start for adding a human touch to your emails. However, you can do so much more. Marketing is essentially customer service, and email is a great way to let your customers and subscribers know that you care.
Here are four ways to go beyond personalization and add a human touch to your emails:
- Get your subscriber’s consent.
- Make your emails accessible.
- Show empathy.
- Be authentic.
By using these four elements, you can add a human touch to your digital marketing efforts and improve your customer’s experience with your brand.
1. Consent: It’s mandatory
You need to have permission to send your subscribers emails. This isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a law in the EU and Canada and a requirement for most inbox service providers (ISPs) and email service providers (ESPs).
We’ve mentioned this several times, but purchasing an email list is not a good idea. Buying a list does not count as getting a subscriber’s consent to email them.
Here are some ways to obtain consent:
- Use either single or double opt-in when people sign up for your list.
- In your welcome email series, let new subscribers know exactly what type of content you’ll send so they know what to expect.
- Always include a clear unsubscribe button. You may also choose to include a preference center, which helps subscribers choose what kinds of content they want to receive.
2. Accessibility: Just do it
Always make sure that your entire list can read your emails. According to the CDC, 26% of Americans have some degree of disability, 4.6% of whom have a visual impairment.
How can you make your emails accessible?
While devices and tools can help people with visual impairments access the internet, email developers and marketers can help users have the best possible experience with a few code and design adjustments. Building genuine relationships with customers means removing barriers.
We recommend looking at our Campaign Precheck tool, which walks you through a full email QA workflow. It helps you optimize your emails by automatically adding table roles and alt text, and setting the language attribute, so assistive devices and screen readers can easily read them.
3. Empathy and inclusivity: Caring is cool
It might also look like cause-based marketing – you should care about what your customers care about. Practicing empathy is the key to building long-lasting relationships with your customers.
Empathy in email includes::
- Your personalization efforts, like considering what pronouns your customers use.
- Allowing opt-out for certain holidays/events.
- Drafting content using inclusive language.
- Fostering diversity by adding images featuring people from all backgrounds and body types.
- Using gender-neutral terms instead of specific ones.
Look at this example from Bloom & Wild. Mother’s Day can be a difficult holiday for some people, so Bloom & Wild offered the option to snooze emails during that holiday.
Can we just talk about how fantastic @BloomandWild are at customer satisfaction? This email is so thoughtful – I don’t know of any brand that does this. I’ll always buy my flowers from them for this reason! ♥️♥️♥️ pic.twitter.com/w6S0AEoEmy— lottie l’amour (she/her) 💖✨ (@Lottie_Lamour) March 3, 2019
Allow customers to respond and give you feedback. They should be able to respond to the email address you’re sending emails from. It’s tempting, we know, but don’t use a no-reply email.
4. Authenticity: Just be yourself
Just as a reminder: Real people are reading your emails, and they’re (hopefully) opted-in to receive them. That’s a huge gift that should not be wasted. Stay true to what you promised subscribers when they signed up for emails and maintain your credibility.
How to be authentic:
- Don’t use gimmicks in your subject lines or sender names. Be clear about who the email is from and why you’re sending it.
- Use (and own) your brand voice.
- Only send an apology email when you really need to.
Subscribers trust authentic brands. But if bad actors and spammers start impersonating your brand in the inbox with email spoofing, that could erode the trust you built. Thankfully, there’s an aptly named practice that can help: email authentication.
The quickest way to erode trust with your subscribers is by trying to trick them. Phishers and spammers that try to steal data don’t have a great reputation – are you sure you want to join their ranks? Trust isn’t easy to win back once it’s lost, and using tactics that temporarily boost open rates or click-throughs could ultimately hurt your reputation.
Email testing: Because we’re all human
Part of being human includes making mistakes. But mistakes are probably something you want to keep out of your email marketing… at least as much as you can.
The pre-deployment platform from Sinch Email on Acid is designed to help designers and developers catch mistakes before hitting send. That includes typos and accidental profanities as well as email accessibility and email client rendering issues. Run your emails through our Campaign Precheck automated workflow and preview it on dozens of clients and devices.
Email on Acid helps humans like you deliver perfection to every human on your list. Try it out free for seven days.