How to use dynamic content to increase email engagement
- Messaging and Automation
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We’re living in a world where customers want to be treated as individuals rather than just names in a database.
According to Salesforce, 84% of customers say that being treated like a person, not a number, is key to winning their business.
And 70% of those customers view contextualized engagement, based on earlier interactions, as very important.
Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify, have leveraged the power of personalization to spur rapid growth and increase user retention. For a long time, personalization at scale could only be done by large companies with the resources to handle the technical challenges.
Times have changed, as anyone can now create personalized experiences for their customers without spending a fortune.
What is dynamic content?
Dynamic content describes any web-based content that changes based on user data, preferences, and behaviors. This data is largely supplied by the user, who provides and then consents to its use.
When most people think of personalization in email marketing, merge-tags or subscriber segmentation comes to mind.
Dynamic content can do so much more than that. It’s not just limited to tags and segments. With dynamic content, you can customize every aspect of an email to target a particular user.
Everything from a user’s interests, gender, purchase history, and even geography can be used to personalize an email.
Take this email from Clubhouse as an example:
This was sent out as a single email, but it renders differently for each user based on the data Clubhouse has on them. So no two users will see the same thing.
It isn’t possible to create such an email using traditional personalization methods. Dynamic content is at play here, and here’s why you should be using it for your email campaigns.
Benefits of dynamic content
1. It creates better customer experiences: Dynamic content lets you create custom experiences for your customers, in a way that traditional personalization techniques simply can’t. You can customize email content depending on what your users bought last, where they live, and even offer them discounts based on how long they’ve been a customer.
2. It leads to higher engagement and conversion rates: People are more likely to interact with your messages if they feel like it was made for them. Personalized email campaigns have, on average, 29% higher unique open rates and 41% unique click rates than non-personalized ones.
It’s no wonder that 65% of marketing executives cite dynamic content in email marketing as the most effective personalization tactic.
3. It saves time: With traditional email personalization methods, creating relevant experiences involves creating more segments. And including more customer data requires you to shape data with SQL and multiple CSV exports/imports.
And these traditional personalization tactics can get really complex, as your messaging becomes more personalized.
Dynamic content lets you create a single template that you can configure by inserting dynamic blocks that change based on user data.
In essence, dynamic content saves time, increases engagement, and improves customer experience. All of which reflects positively on the growth and profitability of your business.
Using dynamic content in your email campaign
Just because you’re creating dynamic emails doesn’t mean that you should just fill in user data wherever possible. Instead, consider what aspects of an email would add value to a user.
How can you use existing customer information to create relevant experiences for them?
When it comes to dynamic email content, the level of integration can move from simple to complex depending on how much personalization you want.
We group these under three levels of depth:
Level 1. Basic customer merge tags:
This involves using merge tags in your email content. Merge tags are placeholders replaced by actual content when the email is sent.
With merge tags, for example:
Like this email from About.me for example:
Merge tags are easy to implement, but are the barest minimum of what you can do with dynamic content.
Level 2: Collect and insert on-site data:
Merge tags can only get you so far. To create a truly personalized experience, you’re going to need more than just the name of your user.
Collecting data usually requires you to connect to an API so you can pass that data from your website or app into your email service provider (ESP). This allows you to track events and properties in real-time as users browse your site, app, or store.
Based on that data, you can then create dynamic content when messaging the user. At Vero, we use the Liquid Templating language to handle these dynamic content blocks.
An abandoned cart email is a great example of using on-site activity to personalize emails.
Here’s one from Huckberry:
In this case, an event was tracked on the store – Added to cart – with an event attribute that is an array of all the items in the cart – including, for example, a 6″ Service Boot.
An email is then triggered by the event – Send after 24 hours of inactivity – while the event attribute is used to populate the product field.
The result? After adding an item to cart, the user gets an email 24 hours later reminding them to complete the transaction. As SalesCycle points out, 28.2% of emails clicked will lead to a recovered sale, so this is a great way to reign a customer back in.
Level 3: Pull data from your own database
Sometimes the data you want to use changes in the period since it was tracked. Or it isn’t available in real-time as the customer browses your site.
That’s where Level 3 comes in, and it’s a game-changer. By connecting external APIs to your ESP, you can take dynamic content and email personalization to a new level. To explain how it works, I’ll use a real customer example:
Uniplaces is a marketplace for students to book accommodations, and for landlords to find tenants. When a user signs up and begins searching for a house or apartment, Uniplaces tracks events and event properties related to their search, that allow them to send impressive email campaigns later.
Here’s how it works in detail:
When a logged-in user views a listing, Uniplaces records an event – View listing – and an event property – event.city. If the user fails to complete the next event – Complete booking – Uniplaces sends an email with suggested listings.
Here’s that email:
The four suggested apartment links in the user’s target city are inserted dynamically. Then, regardless of the city, the email will be personalized with relevant listings.
Uniplaces only has to create this email once, and can use it to provide personalized recommendations to thousands of customers. That’s the beauty of dynamic emails.
We’ve covered what dynamic content is and the different ways you can include it in your email marketing. Now we’re going to go over examples from companies that are using dynamic content really well.
Inspirational dynamic content
This email from SUITENESS is a great example of how you can create great experiences for your customers with dynamic email content:
SUITENESS used a past event relevant to the user, when they first planned a trip to Chicago 2 years ago, to remind them of how long they’ve been a customer. They then used that as an opportunity to reward them with free credits as they planned their next trip.
This email from GasBuddy is an example of how personalized an email can be with dynamic content:
GasBuddy shows how fuel efficient you are, compared with other drivers in your area. It also tells you your average speed, how often you’re speeding, and offers tips for improvement.
This ultra-personalized email feels like it was meant just for you, because it’s designed that way. Dynamic content makes it possible to create messaging that’s feels personal, even if it’s happening at scale.
Ritual helps teams save time by ordering ahead and skipping long lunch line-ups. Ritual is made for teams, and their email reflects this:
They tell you about restaurants trending in your area, where your coworkers are buying lunch, and even lets you know who picked up the most food for everyone in the office. This email offers a lot of useful information and is made possible by dynamic content.
We’ve talked about how abandoned cart emails are a great example of using events to create dynamic emails. Uniqlo takes things a step further. Their store also tracks when a user likes an item, even if they don’t add it to the cart.
Uniqlo then uses that data to send relevant offers at a later date. For example, here’s an email they sent after an item a user liked had a price drop:
Uniqlo, like every company on this list, understands that great emails aren’t just about personalization but providing value at every interaction.
The way forward
Email marketing has one of the highest ROI of any marketing channels, and personalization is a huge contributor to that.
Customers want to be treated as people, not numbers, and dynamic email content can help you create amazing personalized experiences at scale.
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