Personalization Is Essential To Email Success, But You Need The Right ESP To Do It Well

How to Micro-Personalize Your Emails in Real Time

Have you ever wondered how some companies consistently send millions of highly targeted, personalized emails in real time? The very nature of email makes sending real-time, personalized messages a challenge for any company. Real-time marketing’s key is speed, but email marketing’s success is based on a series of time-consuming tasks. These include list creation, data syncing and batch delays. Each activity introduces another delay, all of which can quickly turn a real-time marketing opportunity into a missed one. If you want to personalize too, expect more delays. The more you personalize a message, the more time consuming it is to prepare. So, how are some enterprise marketers managing to send relevant, highly personalized emails in real time?

The secret

You may have attributed a company’s email marketing success to a huge marketing budget or team. This only takes a company so far, though. Eliminating roadblocks to personalization and the inherent delays built into email marketing takes much more. The real secret often lies in how these companies manage and access their customer data.

Years of fragmented marketing have resulted in data silos. This makes real-time, personalized email marketing a pipe dream for many companies. The fragmentation is often a result of the heavy reliance on cloud software as a service (SaaS) to manage customer data. With every new cloud platform you use, you create a new database. Work multiplies because each updates independently and allows little flexibility in the way you can integrate data. This makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to personalize effectively. As an alternative, you can house data in a centralized database that cloud applications can access via hybrid cloud computing.

Despite the benefits of centralizing data, it is still far from the norm. A 2015 report by The Relevancy Group found only 37% of enterprise organizations share a centralized data repository. However, marketers who centralize their data gain a unified view of the customer journey. This paves the path for personalized, true real-time email marketing.

Below are three benefits of centralizing your data as it relates to real-time email marketing and micro-personalization.

1) Be ready for real-time marketing opportunities without having to predict the future

Unless you have a crystal ball, you may find it difficult to choose the right data to upload to your email service provider in preparation for the next, impromptu, real-time marketing opportunity. It’s nearly impossible to push all of your data to an email service provider. That’s because you have to factor in inventory or purchase information that requires constant synchronization. Even if you could upload all of your customer data to an email service provider, the data security concerns alone would stop most companies from pushing all of their data to the cloud. As a result, marketers often find themselves cherry-picking data to be uploaded to a SaaS provider for specific campaigns. That may work well for planned campaigns, but becomes tricky when trying to take advantage of unpredictable, real-time marketing opportunities.

The demands of real-time marketing mean data isn’t always uploaded to the email service provider when you might need it. By the time marketers are able to get data uploaded and synced in the cloud, it can be days or even weeks old. Not exactly what you would call real-time marketing. To avoid the delays caused by syncing and uploading large amounts of data, structure your database as a hybrid model. This allows your email service provider to tap directly into your centralized database without having to sync or store data in the cloud.

A hybrid model gives you full access to all of your data. This way, whenever a real-time marketing opportunity arises, you don’t spend time uploading data that might not be stored with your email service provider. With a hybrid email marketing model, you no longer have to predict the future and anticipate exactly what data you might need to be located in the cloud at any given time.

2) Segment based on data too sensitive to store in the cloud

Is there customer data you would like to use to send micro-personalized messages, yet is off limits because it is too sensitive, or perhaps against regulations, to store in the cloud with an email service provider? SaaS marketing tools that make personalization and data segmentation possible often elicit security concerns related to uploading and storing sensitive customer data in the cloud. Data security and personalization don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though.

You can create highly personalized messages based on sensitive customer data without uploading the sensitive data to the cloud. The dynamics of how you segment data change when the segmentation takes place behind your company’s secure firewall in a centralized database and an on-premises email solution. You would probably never dream of sending data with your customer’s credit scores, purchase history, or medical records to the cloud. That doesn’t mean, though, you can’t segment customers based on sensitive categories that already exist within your database. Then you send only the necessary information (sans the sensitive data) to your email service provider for processing and delivery.

3) Improve personalization and real-time marketing with a unified global customer view

We’ve all had it happen. We make a transaction with a company, then receive an email that makes it appear the transaction never took place. For instance, I recently received an email from an event venue asking me to renew seasons tickets that I renewed the week before—a real-time marketing fail. A key step toward real-time email marketing means transitioning from disconnected customer interactions to a unified view of customer engagement. But fragmented marketing means many companies have data stored in silos that prevent marketers from having a complete view of customers. The result is customers often receive messages that are irrelevant to their situation.

The adoption of multiple platforms that all require their own database limits how organizations can use their data. For businesses that want to successfully incorporate personalized, real-time marketing into their strategy, storing all facets of marketing data in a single database is a must. But customer data is not the only data marketers need to access. Marketers may also need access to data such as inventory levels that update in real-time, geolocation data, shipment tracking data, etc. In fact, your success in real-time marketing depends upon the accessibility of your entire data set, not just customer data.

So now you know. While a huge marketing budget or team doesn’t hurt, the secret to personalized real-time marketing lies in how you manage and access your customer data.

Dan Roy

Dan guides MessageGears’ product strategy. Having worked with many of the world’s largest online businesses, Dan understands the importance of data to digital marketers and the challenges they face with existing email marketing solutions. He’s passionate about finding solutions to those problems, and he’s willing to buck the system along the way.