Pros and Cons of Email Personalization

To personalize, or not personalize? That is the question du jour.

Personalization – sending an email that contains the recipients personal information making it look the email was sent to only them – is an easy enough task in most email marketing programs these days. But should you use it?

Most experts waver back and forth between the answers yes, no and maybe so. Some vehemently protest: “No! It’s a thing of the past!” Others believe, “Yes, there’s a certain level of familiarity that can’t be obtained otherwise!” And still more fall into the “maybe, sometimes” category.

Even though we see an incredible amount of emails on a daily basis, our own team members are divided on whether or not personalizing email is a good idea. Find out what they think!

The Pros

Personal details can still grab a reader’s attention.

“When it’s just my name, I tend to roll my eyes. But send me an email based on my past activity, whether it’s events I’ve attended or things I’ve bought, and you’ve totally got my attention.”

-Awesome Amanda

Customary personalization can inspire recognition.

“While having a user’s name in a subject line or email body may seem cliche, there is no denying it’s power. Users instantly recognize their name, which in turn makes them more prone to open your message. It’s a simple way to get noticed in a sea of nameless cookie cutter messages.”

-Enthusiastic Eric

Personalization sets expectations and leads to stronger engagement.

“Using personalization can lead to better engagement with your list. People respond to tailored content.”

-Nice Nick

Nontraditional personalization makes messages truly custom.

“It’s not just about personalizing with first names anymore. With email analytics, you are able to see so many stats for your messages, so you can say with certainty that an individual visited a particular page on your website, or clicked a particular link in your last email. I mean, a lot of these things really fall under segmentation, but it’s just as easy to customize emails with stats as first and last name.”

-Kool Kelly

It’s helpful for split testing messages.

“Personalization is a great tool to use when split testing broadcast subject lines. If you want to see if your subscribers are more likely to open messages with their name in the subject line, you can create one broadcast with personalization and one without in a split test. In turn, this can help you increase opens.”

-Lovely Lindsay

The Cons

People provide false information all of the time.

“If people are not consistently entering names, or entering something other than a true name like “Test,” then it could have the adverse effect of proper personalization.”

-Jive Jeff

It’s a tactic widely used by spammers.

“I can’t even tell you how many emails in my spam folder right now include my first name in the subject line. It’s a tactic that many spammers use – why would you want to identify with spammers? Instead, I’d suggest using a branded subject line: something that identifies your company and serves as a recognizable message in the inbox.”

-Tyrannical Tracey

It can show how poorly you know your subscribers.

“Let’s say Robert signed up for your email list and entered his full name in your form because he always uses Robert for business stuff. But what if they go by Bob? They might see Robert in your subject line and be turned off.”

-Mean Matt

It’s 2010. Most people know that marketing messages aren’t individually sent.

“Sometimes it comes off as fake, transparent and “markety.” As a reader, most of the time I realize I’m subscribing to a newsletter that will also be sent out to a lot of other people. So for that newsletter to try and play it off as if its being sent specifically to me seems almost cheesy and ironically impersonal.”

-Brash Bob

Weighing Your Options

Personalization tactics aren’t bad in and of themselves, but a truly personal email will address a subscriber’s needs, desires, fears and preferences.

Does populating an email with the data you already have available take those things into consideration? It’s not a question that we can answer for you – it’s, well…personal.

Let us know how you feel about personalization in the comments below. We’d love to discuss it further with you!