Personalise your email marketing with dynamic content

Most eCommerce operations have dynamic content systems in place, does anyone actually know what to do with them?

Dynamic content is an intelligent way to automate email content and add value to your messages. It’s also a route to drive increases in customer satisfaction and engagement.

Imagine you are a partly engaged customer of an online clothing retailer. Not very difficult to imagine, as most of us already are. You make purchases from this clothing retailer; tops, or trousers, or shorts, or jeggings or flip-flops. For some reason, week on week, without fail, they send you their latest offers on hats. Why? Because they want to sell more hats and you’re on their mailing list.

Imagine if this same online retailer set up a template email which included dynamic content targeted specifically to you. The greeting is universal, the seasonal offer banner in the middle is unchanged but the top right corner shows an image and link to the last product you viewed. How much more valued would you feel when you opened that email?

“I was just looking at that!”
“It’s like they know me…”
“I’d forgotten about that. I really wanted one of those.”

Chances are you would be more likely to look at the email for longer, possibly click on the link to the product you were interested in and look more favourably on future emails.

Even in its simplest form dynamic content can be a great engagement booster.

So, how much are you actually doing with your dynamic content?

Talk with us if you want to do more, drop us a note and we’ll help you out.


Segmented Reports – How to get greater insight into your customers

Segment Reports is a feature within your email platform that allows you to drill down on your email reports to see how each segment of your database is performing.

This can be done on an individual send or a whole series of emails giving you say the average open and click rate of each segment over the last 12 months of your newsletters.

Here are some ideas of who this could be used:

  • Male versus female – does one gender perform better than others? If so how should you tweak your emails accordingly and does any change you make show a closing of your ‘gender equality gap’?
  • Location – do you have a North/South divide in your list? Do customers around certain retail stores perform better?
  • Welcome Programme – do those people that received a Welcome email have stronger open rates on subsequent emails?
  • Re-activation emails – If you have re-targeted those non-openers can you now see an uplift in future email engagement?
  • Product Category – Do customers who have bought a particular category of product have higher click rates on emails where items in this category are included in the subject line?


Dynamic content: a 10 step plan

It can be a daunting experience when marketers move away from ‘spray and pray’ email marketing, towards a targeted and tailored approach using dynamic content.

However in reality if you come up with a sensible plan it is relatively pain free and easy to deploy. Here are our 10 recommended steps to get you on your way:


Decide what you want to tailor in your emails. At this point don’t concern yourself with what technology limitations you think you might have, really think about what the most relevant content for your customers would be. By thinking about technology you will always limit yourself to what is currently achievable.


Based upon what content you will be tailoring you need to think about what data you require for this. Do you need to request extra data feeds? Is the data in a usable form? How much data do you have and do you need to pursue a data capture exercise?


How many variations of content will there be – a handful or all the way up to several thousand? How often will these different content variations need to get updated? Daily, weekly, monthly or other? This influences whether you can manually build the content each time or if automating the production of this content is the only feasible option.


Where does this variable content come from? Will you need to request this gets produced by your content team? Does it exist already and if so where and in what format?


Once you have worked out where your content is going to come from is it going to need to be automatically turned into ready HTML and text content? If so what rules do you need to ensure that automated process selects the right content so it is as good as a human would select. For example for a client we select the best holidays for each person our tool will only select one holiday offer per country.


What are the rules that need creating to decide who gets what content? Will these stay the same each time? If they stay the same then it is just going to be a case of refreshing content but otherwise you will need an efficient (or automated) means of creating them.


What will the emails look like? You need to have the HTML for each of the variable sections designed and also create the email template with gaps for the variable content. To aid the control of layout it is best to use tables.


Once everything is built the next stage is to test it. GraphicMail provides a preview tool that allows you to scroll through different records to see the different versions.


In order to justify your additional efforts in using dynamic content it is always advisable to use a control group to measure the difference between an old style generic email and a tailored email.


You are never finished with dynamic content as there are always tweaks and tests you can run to move towards an even more tailored version. You may find the first email you send may look completely different to one 3 months later.

This should prompt you to think about all of your considerations of setting up dynamic content.


Are images a bad thing in marketing emails?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to using images in email.

There are many people that think you should minimise the usage.

However these are normally given from a functional and technical point of view. From a marketers point of view we know that images say a thousand words and are aspirational.

So what are the reasons given by people for minimising the use of images? Lets go through them one by one and analyse if they are an issue.

Images give you a spam score

Yes they do but not much of one. As long as your entire email is not image based and you have a reasonable amount of text this should not be an issue. Indeed as deliverability is moving away from content towards reputation filtering this will become less important anyway.

Images get blocked

While images get blocked consumers are savvy enough to display them. Just because images do not get displayed immediately does not advocate not using them as when they are displayed they are more effective than just text.

Images can take a long time to download

We are not living in 1999 anymore, most consumers have broadband connections. It’s true that more people are using mobile but even these connections are reasonable and mobile email clients are generally optimised to make the experience with HTML email smooth. And let’s face it mobile email clients are a tiny fraction of who will read your email anyway.

So we have dampened these negative claims about images but is there anything we should be aware of when using images?

You should still make sure your email is not over-reliant on the images being rendered. There needs to be sufficient text in the email to grab the attention of the recipient and explain what the email contains. Our rule of thumb is text is fine up until you feel you are making compromises by not using images.

If you are still not sure which route to go down, why not send a split test!


What is the optimum frequency of send?

There is always pressure on marketers to send more and more email. But how to deal with “list fatigue”.

There are a number of factors to consider that will help you to choose what the right email frequency is and determine whether it is advisable to send that extra email.

First of all how often would someone purchase your product or service? If it is relatively infrequent then you cannot get away with a one email a week strategy like some retailers. Imagine receiving 52 emails throughout the year and you are only in a position to take up the wonderful offers for maybe a 3 week period when you are looking for a holiday. You can see why it can be too much.

This example not only relates to holidays but purchases ranging from annual car insurance through to buying a car. The approach to take here is to increase the frequency when you know it is of interest (when people sign-up, request a brochure, click on a link in an email etc) rather than blast throughout the year.

Another factor is making sure you send when you have something worthwhile to say. Again different people will put a different value on your emails but this is perhaps where you can allow people to choose how often they want to hear from you. This could be daily email alerts versus a weekly or monthly digest.

Then there are those people that never open your emails or have not purchased anything in a long time. It does not make sense to carry on bombarding these people with a high frequency as it will only lead to a negative association with your brand and complaints. It might work in your favour to send infrequent emails as these at least will be of novelty value and perhaps catch the eye.