Balancing Time and Effort for Personalization

December 7, 2020 | 4 minute read
Jason Rodriguez
Community & Product Evangelist, Litmus
Text Size 100%:

For the last few years, digital marketing world focused on personalization. With the advent of big data, more advanced marketing tools, and a focus on marketing automation, there has never been a better time to invest in sending more relevant, personalized emails, especially considering that personalization can lead to an increase in email open rates and conversions.

Personalized subject lines can result in a 50% increase in email opens, and subject lines are one of the easiest things to customize. When it comes to more advanced personalization through content and messaging, 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides a personalized experience. Unfortunately, many marketers might not feel like they have a handle on personalization or are facing challenges in personalizing emails.

Which begs the question: How do you balance the time and effort invested in personalization with other priorities?

To answer this question, smart brands weigh two things:

  • Your team’s priorities

  • Your level of resources

Email marketing teams have all kinds of priorities driven both by business needs as well as industry trends. In a report from 2019, Litmus found that personalization and dynamic content was poised to be the leading trend and priority for email marketers. But personalization is often fighting with other priorities, such as redesigning templates to reflect a recent rebrand, creating new content for channels other than email, migrating tools, or onboarding new team members.

When it comes to resourcing, marketers are often constrained by a slew of obstacles, such as head count, varying skill levels, limited technical capabilities, and shifting tools, not to mention tight budgets as companies respond to things like the global pandemic.

First, audit your team’s priorities (both what is talked about and what is actually invested in), as well as your existing resources, to get an idea of what to tackle and how to do so. Ask yourself a few of these questions to get started:

  • What are your business goals for the coming year and beyond?

  • How do you need to support sales and other departments?

  • What strategies can you use to achieve those goals?

  • What budget do you have to expand head count or invest in tools?

  • Who on your team has skills to help with personalization?

What can be personalized in email?

Email personalization runs the gamut from basic text replacements to full-blown, dynamically-generated emails based on customer preferences and past interactions. Most marketers are familiar with different types of personalization. What they may not be familiar with is what level of personalization their team, data, and existing tools afford them.

We can easily rank the level of sophistication for email personalization from easiest to hardest:

  1. Simple text replacement, such as including a first name

  2. Segmentation and automated customer journey paths

  3. Dynamic offers and recommendations based on past purchases

  4. Completely dynamic content, designs, and imagery

This last one is often termed ‘hyper personalization’ and effectively results in unique emails for each customer, with different copy, offers, imagery, and layouts based on their interests and past interactions with your company.

While the first two levels of personalization can be accomplished in most email service providers and with minimal data collection and analysis, the next two tiers require an investment in data collection, data warehousing, integration with ESPs and other marketing tools, and resources to act on that information.

Write down the list above and then compare it with your existing martech stack’s capabilities. After that, compare it with your team and their collective skills. Those comparisons will give you a good understanding of where you can realistically invest in personalization. Want even more comparisons? See how other companies tackle personalization.

Are you using a marketing automation tool that allows you to segment customers and create specific journeys? Start focusing on the first two levels of personalization. Do you have the tools to collect engagement data and pipe it back into your ESP? You may be ready to tackle more advanced strategies.  But time and effort shouldn’t be invested if you don’t have a realistic understanding of your priorities and, perhaps more importantly, your capabilities.

Is it worth the effort?

Ultimately, that question can only be answered by your team based on your collective experiences, resources, and goals. What is increasingly shown is that creating personalized experiences in email is one of the best ways to engage with customers, increase sales, and grow businesses. What’s more is that consumers now expect a personalized experience from companies, no matter how big or small they are.

When you do start investing in personalization, be sure to track your campaigns to make sure the investment pays off. On top of watching open and click rates, there are other things you should look at, too. Click-to-open rate gives you a more realistic picture of engagement, while tracking conversions based on personalized emails will help show how personalization actually impacts your business’s bottom line. Oracle’s Chad S. White has some great tips on the questions you should be asking to get the most out of your email marketing efforts.

There are many ways marketers can spend their time, but getting to know your customers and providing what they need, when they need it, regardless of the channel (although email works well here), is almost always worth the effort.


For more information about personalized marketing, please visit:

Jason Rodriguez

Community & Product Evangelist, Litmus

Through writing, speaking, podcasting, and webinar conducting, he helps the email industry send better emails and create deeper, more valuable relationships with subscribers. When not writing, Jason helps organize and host Litmus Live, the premier conference for the email industry. He routinely speaks at industry events and hosts practical, hands-on workshops to teach people how to design and develop better, more accessible email campaigns.

Previous Post

The 5 New Must-Have B2B Marketing Skills

Michael McNichols | 2 min read

Next Post

Email Rendering Continues to Grow in Complexity, Wildly So at the Fringes

Chad S. White | 9 min read