You have the data. Are you making the most of it?

Relevance. It’s what drives the most effective marketing. Also called “context” or “contextual marketing,” it’s an idea that’s always been a holy grail for lifting CTR in email. It’s all about making your content valuable to your customers on an individual level.

Why deliver the same email to every name on your list when you can target them by name, geo-location, weather pattern, purchase preferences or any other number of data points you’ve been collecting in your relationship with them?

Relevant Equals Effective

It’s not a new idea. ESPs have been claiming dynamic delivery for years, but new tools offering truly dynamic solutions for email are making it not only easier than ever to deliver customer-specific content, but exponentially more effective, too.

It all begins with one simple question: What do you know about your customer?

The earliest promotional email lists were just that, a list of email addresses and nothing else. Consumers were reluctant to share any more information with brands than was absolutely necessary. And carpet-bombing strategies by spammers did nothing to alleviate their fears, even with brands they trusted.

But customer-volunteered information isn’t the only source of data you have. You also have information about how your customers interact with you through the digital channels specific to your business.

For example, if you have an online store, you also have customer-specific data like order history, product preferences, products viewed, abandoned carts and more. You may even have a history of in-store purchases. This information is invaluable to an effective contextual email program.

After the open

While the open rate is an important initial indicator of success of an email campaign, it’s what happens after the open where there’s a real opportunity to raise the stakes and engage your readers. And if you don’t step up your game and give them something they value, they’ll be off to the next message in the inbox.

People read digital material differently than they do print. They tend to grant their attention in short blocks of time scanning for a useful link or a point of interest. Then, they decide to grant another short block of time until they click through, lose interest or read to the end.

The data you hold on your customer gives you an opportunity to deliver on this model. If you can give them interesting tidbits, a compelling product offers or actionable calls to action in short, blocked increments, you’ll have a successful email.

Know what they want

Segmenting lists based on customer preferences, demographics or geography is nothing new. But today, if you have the data, your email can tailor a message right down to the individual customer.

Each piece of the story should be designed to deliver on what the individual customer values.

Example 1:

You know a male customer purchased a pair of running shoes from your online store on a certain date.

The next email could include:

  • Suggestion of complimentary products, like:
    • Socks
    • Athletic wear; or
    • A GPS watch.

Email 3-6 months from now:

  • Information on shoe durability and a suggestion it might be time to replace.
  • Reminder of what he purchased last time.
  • Comparable product with reviews.

Example 2:

A female customer visited your online store, but decided to make her purchase of a rain jacket in your bricks & mortar store near her home, instead.

The next email could include:

  • Store hours, phone number and location and directions.
  • In-store offer.
  • Special event promotion.

Since 2007, industry-wide, open rates are down 34% and click through rates have dropped 28%. One of the main reasons is brands are delivering content that is not relevant to their customers. Customers value these messages less and less over time and it becomes difficult to win them back. And your “from” line begins to be associated with messaging that’s irrelevant.

Depending on the depth of your data and the size of your list, parsing information like this to deliver truly context-driven content is not only possible, but highly effective.

Know where they are

More than 65% of all emails are opened first on smartphones or tablets. Consumers no longer simply receive offers and make decisions at their desks. They’re on the go. Sometimes they make a decision on the fly and sometimes they come back to open an email on another device in another location at another time. If your email can recognize this and adjust the content to match, you’ve already scored a big win.

In the end, as your customers interact with you digitally, you are collecting a massive amount of data about who they are, how they behave and what’s important to them. Integrating the right tools into your email program will help you parse and leverage all of that information to deliver value to your customers and at the same time drive more business for you.