According to Litmus, personalization and dynamic content is the number one trend for email design in 2019.

With a quick Google search, you can find hundreds of stats and case studies of companies and brands that made incredible improvements in their email metrics simply by adding some dynamic content to their emails, making them more personalized to the individual subscriber.

However, designing beautiful looking, responsive emails while using highly personalized email content might be tricky for some.

We want to explore the correlation between professional-looking email design and personalized dynamic email content.
And answer the question: Can we do both?

What is email personalization?

Email personalization is the email marketing process of using personal information on each member of your email list to create and send targeted emails.

Personalized emails are great because they provide subscribers and users with more relevant information, that interests them specifically, instead of the generic, “mass-produced” email content, that attempts to accommodate to all customer types.

The information and data you collect on every individual in your email list can be used in your email marketing strategy to create personalized emails that will create the feeling of a 1:1 experience with each subscriber

Objective

The goal behind email personalization is to make the large scale emails feel like they are 1 to 1 emails and were tailor-made to the specific individual. The objective is to build a stronger relationship with each subscriber, and ultimately convert them into loyal, long-term customers.

Collected Data

The data you collect and use in your email marketing can be your subscribers’ names, the last products they purchased, the last pages they viewed on your blog, where they live, their birthdays, how many times they looked at a specific type of product, when they last used your application, etc.

Level of Personalization

There are different levels of email personalization ranging from basic personalization, such as mentioning your subscriber’s first name in the subject line, to advanced personalization that requires utilizing different types of data to alter the content of the email entirely based on the individual.

Why is email personalization important?

Email personalization is the number one trend in email for 2 years in a row, according to “The State of Email Marketing” study conducted by Litmus.

38% of email marketers confirmed that improving email personalization was their number one email marketing goal.

This is due to the fact that email personalization is a proven, full-proof technique to improve email marketing metrics.

In fact, email personalization has been guaranteed to boost email ROI, increase email engagement rates, which in turn improve the sender’s reputation, and increase open rates.

36% of email marketers chose personalization as the most effective email tactic.

In other studies, more than 50% of respondents found that email personalization is the most effective out of all other email marketing and design techniques.

Most-effective-email-tactics-chart-1

This is due to the multiple benefits of email personalization. In fact, this email tactic helps improve email metrics, from higher open rates and click-through rates to lower unsubscribe rates. Email marketers have also indicated that email personalization helps them increase sales and customer satisfaction, by making the emailing experience more customized to the individual.

Benefits-of-Email-Personalization-1

What are the email personalization challenges?

According to the 2019 Email Marketing Survey, 23% of marketers chose personalized emails as both the most effective type of email marketing techniques and the most difficult type of emails to produce.

Producing personalized emails basically comes down to manipulating data. And dealing with data doesn’t come naturally to all marketers.

Email personalization has been listed as the most difficult email tactic to implement. Email marketers find it hard to create and send personalized emails, whether in the data collection phase or designing highly personalized email designs.

Effective-VS-Difficult-Email-Designs-2

Email Personalization & Responsive Email Design

2 email design trends that will never go out of style

We asked 11 email experts a series of questions about email personalization and design:

  1. Which is more important: responsive email design, or email personalization?
  2. How to create highly personalized emails without compromising the responsiveness and aesthetics of the email design?
  3. What are the biggest mistakes that email marketers make when creating/designing personalized emails?

Feel free to jump to the question and answers that interest you the most. We have compiled the experts’ answers and provided examples in each section, to help you get the most out of every piece of advice.

Q1. Which is more important: Responsive Email Design or Email Personalization?

Without Email Responsiveness, Personalization is wasted

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

Responsiveness comes first. It doesn’t matter if the email is personal if the recipient can’t read it.

Amy Hall

Amy is a results-driven email marketing strategist who provides creative consulting, strategic planning, and meticulous implementation services for growing businesses.

Amy Hall, email strategist and consultant, makes a good point. If your subscribers can’t easily read an email, then the personalized messages don’t really matter anymore.

A few years ago, we used to advocate for the importance of responsive email design, but today, this is no longer an option or a choice that email marketers have to make.

With over 42% of emails opened on mobile (both smartphones and tablets), mobile responsiveness is a must.

But Remember: The goal is to Convert!

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

In my opinion, you need to have a well-designed and built template in order to achieve 1:1 personalization easily. Just because an email has been built using a template doesn’t mean that you’re compromising on aesthetics. But also remember, we’re in this business to achieve conversions, not just to deliver aesthetically pleasing emails.

Kath Pay

As the Founder of Holistic Email Marketing, Kath Pay devotes her time to developing customer-centric eCommerce journeys using a holistic, multi-channel approach. A renown international speaker, Kath is recognized as one of the UK’s leading Email Marketers.

Kath Pay, the founder of Holistic Email Marketing, acknowledges the importance of a well-designed email template but reminds us that the goal behind email marketing is, and will always be to convert.

So if we had to choose between an aesthetically pleasing email or a highly personalized email, we would have to answer the question: which one will convert more?

We know that email personalization is the most effective email tactic, for 2 years in a row. But is it still as effective in a plain text email?

 

Responsive Email Design and Email Personalization

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

Email design shouldn’t be limited in any aspect. If you have a vision of how your email template will look like, the email code or your email builder of choice shouldn’t stop from fulfilling that vision. How your email looks is something that you can control. It should adapt to your email content, and if you want to include dynamic content in your email message you should be able to do so.

Roland Pokornyik

Roland is the CEO, Co-founder of EDMdesigner.com & Chamaileon.io. A retired bass player, husband, and father, he helps companies speed up their email production processes and is on a quest to figure out what makes an email stand out in any crowded inbox.

I don’t think personalizing emails should limit the design in any way. – Zoran Orak

We couldn’t have phrased it better. Email content personalization shouldn’t limit the email design and its responsiveness in any way.

However, you should always keep in mind the specificities of your email during the design process, and come up with a flexible email layout that best presents your email message.

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

I’ve found that personalization rarely impacts design if you design the email to be flexible enough to accommodate personalized content. If the content is text, allow the text area to expand/contract based on the amount of content. If it is visual, have an established placement for the personalized imagery.

Adam Holden-Bache

Author of “How to Win at B2B Email Marketing: A Guide to Achieving Success” and Director of Email Marketing at Enventys Partners.

But for those of you out there who are still a bit hesitant to create and send personalized emails, it can be a bit tricky.

Throughout the rest of the article, we will give you pro tips to avoid sending broken personalized emails and be more confident using personalization tactics.

Q2. How to design highly personalized emails without compromising beautiful and responsive email design?

Start by personalizing the email Subject Line

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

The first point (and the most important one) of personalizing an email is in the subject line – no impact on the design, yet just by doing this you’ll see better performance with your emails.

Zoran Orak

Helps businesses develop and implement a profitable email automation strategy with a mix of common sense and magic

The subject line (and preview text) are responsible for open rates. It is the first interaction that your subscribers will have with your email.

Experts argue that email personalization is not just adding a name to the subject line. But that doesn’t mean giving up on subject line personalization completely.

It is the easiest form of email personalization and has absolutely no impact on the quality of your email design.

Subject line personalization can go beyond including your subscriber’s first name. Zoran goes on to explain that “personalization in email subject lines can be a mention of something we know that the subscriber is interested in.

Let’s say for example that we know our subscriber has browsed women’s perfumes when they last checked out our online store. Based on that, we can mention women’s perfumes in the subject line (and include a tempting offer in the email message). And there we go, we have successfully achieved email personalization and sent an email that is relevant to our subscriber.”

However, it’s important to add fallback personalization tag, that will replace any personalized content in your email subject line, in case there is a shortage of data.

Make sure that the fallback tag is connected to your email content, and that it would make sense for any type of subscriber.

Here’s an example, courtesy of CampaignMonitor.

personalized-email-fallback-personalization-tag

 

If the subscriber had provided their first name during registration, this is what they will see.

email-personalization-email-subscriber-name

 

If not, the fallback tag is set in motion, and the subscriber sees this.

email-personalization-fallback-name

Here’s an example of bad email personalization. This is basically what not to do.

Bad-email-personalization-example

Use Modular Email Design

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

Modular email design absolutely makes personalization easier. That’s a big reason that modular email build systems are growing. Modularity makes email personalization much easier to execute and, if done thoughtfully, doesn’t have to detract from your email’s aesthetics.

Chad S. White

Head of Research at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting. Chad is also the author of “Email Marketing Rules” and the Email Experience Council’s 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year.

What is Modular (Email) Design?

Modular email design is an HTML email design approach that consists of building a flexible email template using modular email content blocks.

You are basically breaking your email template design into small parts. Those small parts are the modules. Each module (or email block) is created independently. Modules are then combined together to come up with a complete and responsive email template.

This email design approach is very efficient. Because each email block is designed separately, email modules can be exchanged, added, removed, and rearranged, making email template design extremely quick, customizable and easy. Additionally, the email blocks can be reused over and over, which maximizes productivity.

The best example of modular design is IKEA furniture. Let’s take this bookcase for example. Thanks to the modular design, customers can rearrange the furniture blocks and come up with multiple different pieces of furniture.

IKEA Blocks

Each block is independent of the other. And that’s what makes it flexible, scalable, reusable, customizable, and cost-efficient.

Modular Email Design & Email Personalization

Modular email design is a very smart solution to facilitate email personalization and avoid any issues that might occur.

Chad S. White, head of research at Oracle Marketing Consulting, showcases the benefits of using modular email design to help preserve the aesthetics and responsiveness of email templates.

“For example, in our 2019 Email Design Look Book, we feature a highly personalized email from Grammarly that has a highly modular design but is very inviting and easy to follow.”

Email subject line: Now Available: Your Writing Stats from Last Week

Grammarly-Copy-scaled

“Our Look Book also highlights an email from Alaska Airlines that integrates its modularity seamlessly into an overall design structure that doesn’t read as blocky at all.”

Email Subject Line: [Name], let’s celebrate a year of going places.

Alaska-Airlines-1-scaled

Segment your Email List for Easier Personalization

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)

Primarily, our recommendation is to change what content you show to which visitors so that it’s more curated per the individual or segments. Treat your customers like people you know. If you knew your dad needed a screwdriver would you send him to Walmart 20 miles away or to the gas station down the street? It’s much easier to find a screwdriver at the gas station and a lot faster because the amount of stuff is smaller. Same thing applies to emails. Curate your emails to serve customers directly and business thrives.

Matthew Smith

Matthew is the CEO and Founder of Really Good Emails, he also runs the digital design studio, Fathom & Draft.

email personalization, Email Personalization & Design: What, How, & Why? (Featuring 10+ Email Experts)