Kylie Hyer

Email Marketing: How to utilize your consumer data without being creepy

August 11th, 2015

Have you ever been at a social event and a person, unknown to you, eagerly greets you by name? Recall the creepy feeling you got in that situation.

It leaves you thinking — who is this person and how do they know this personal information?

Thanks to the Internet, marketers have the ability to collect and use an absurd amount of personal consumer data. As marketers, we’ve used this data to guide consumers to ideal products and services without them even knowing. Well, let me revise that last statement — we used to do this without consumers knowing.


Avoid This: Personalization                                                                                             

As personalization has become a buzzword over the last few years, efforts to connect with consumers have gone haywire. Every day, I receive emails from companies who promote products similar to those I’ve pinned on Pinterest and address me by my name, or at least attempt to:

The Adverse Effects of Email Personalization


Honestly, when I receive emails that address me as “Dear Kylie” or “Hey Kylie,” I get the same icky feeling I would get if a stranger addressed me in that same familiar way. It’s just creepy.

Personalization should illustrate your dedication to a consumer’s interests, not how well you can stalk them.

To be clear, this is not to say that including a name or location will have a negative effect on your KPI. If you are confident your personalization data (name, location, etc.) is correct, then personalization — in making your site more relevant to a specific consumer — can be highly effective.

Accommodating the individual consumer can work in several ways, but we need to be cognizant of how far we are reaching to show our interest in pleasing potential consumers.


Embrace this: Segmentation

Hand-in-hand with personalization is segmentation. The meaning of the two overlap on several levels; however, for our purpose, let’s define segmentation as the division of a broad market into smaller subsets of similar consumers.

Take my favorite subject: horses. All domestic horses require nourishment. However, they do not require the same amount of nourishment.

Let’s say I’m trying to determine, on average, how much feed my large group of horses need. Since they live in a large field, I cannot feed them individually. Therefore, I’ve divided the herd into three groups to best meet the needs of everyone: large, average and miniature.

Segmentation of Horses - The Benefits of Segmenting Customers


Even though I am not addressing individual needs, now that my herd is divided, I can ensure that each group is more likely to be receiving the necessary amount of food.

In my testing experience, I’ve had a much higher success rate when segmenting consumers into broader groups rather than personalizing to the individual. Segmentation tests have allowed me and my team to gain insights that have ultimately effected which products are highlighted or even completely taken off the marketing strategy sequence.

While looking into segmenting, I strongly encourage you to take a seat and really figure out who your consumers are by asking:

  • What attributes are you looking for in your ideal customer?
  • What attributes can you assign to your most frequent customers?
  • What research is already out there on these types of customers?

For example, I was recently part of a MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent company) team running a test with a top-of-the-line headphone company looking to segment emails to their top identified consumer “types.” In this case, the same product was marketed to each group.

In our research of current data on these types of consumers, we found that specific design aspects, such as color, font and even layout appealed to each segment of consumers. In the end, each of the three segmented groups significantly outperformed the control in revenue per delivered with one of the treatments outperforming by more than 234%.

Placing consumers into “different pastures” allows you to efficiently address various consumer types, from our ideal to our most popular — without creeping them out.


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Photo credit to MCC Farms Photos

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Email Marketing: 5 tactics to personalize your email message for better results [From MarketingSherpa]

Email Messaging Online Course [From MarketingSherpa’s parent organization, MECLABS Institute]

Categories: Consumer Marketing Tags: , , , , ,

  1. August 11th, 2015 at 10:50 | #1

    This is a must-share blog post! I’ve found that it helps to send out surveys. As you said, not to make content overly-personal, but to segment customers/possible customers and to offer more of what they’re interested in. Thank you, Kylie!

  2. Kylie Hyer
    Kylie Davidson
    August 14th, 2015 at 08:23 | #2

    Thanks Melissa! Surveys are an excellent way to better personalize your consumer’s experiences as well as improve your site overall. I’ve seen many survey pop-ups that are very transparent when they say “Hey! Share your interests with us so we can make our site better for you.” Consumers appreciate “customer-speak” but like you said, there is segmenting for interest and there is being “overly-personal.” Have you been able to run any tests or gather learning from surveys on PagePath?

  3. Michael
    August 17th, 2015 at 10:26 | #3

    Aren’t you a tidbit sensitive about the ‘Hi Kylie’? Surely the degree of familiarity you put into your copy will depend on your market. I wouldn’t be fussed if a surf-shorts company greeted me with ‘Yo Mike, check out those swell shorts’, but I might be a bit miffed if Boehringer-Ingelheim addressed me this way.

    Horses for courses, no? (sorry for the pun)

  4. Kylie Hyer
    Kylie Davidson
    August 18th, 2015 at 08:51 | #4

    Hi Michael,
    That’s a good point to bring into the conversation. Certain markets and consumers may react strongly to, expect, or, as you state, “wouldn’t be fussed” if a company addressed them by name. This is especially so in marketing material one has subscribed to.
    When interviewing consumers (not in the marketing industry) about their reactions to some personalization efforts, I noticed a pattern of confusion. The questions I received included: “How do they even know my name?” “Where and how are they getting my personal information and interests data?” etc. I’d like to think that many consumers are aware of how cookies and general internet data works, but there seems to still be a gap in consumer knowledge related to how marketers do their jobs. Do you have similar findings? What techniques have you found successful to avoid prompting consumers to ask these questions?

    To neigh or not to neigh. That is equestrian. 🙂

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