Email Personalization

Interested in breaking through inbox clutter?

Put the person’s name in the subject line. That tactic will boost clicks even when the content is “not particularly informative,” according to research conducted by a team of academics, as summarized by the Chicago Booth Review. The research was conducted by Stanford University’s Navdeep S. Sahni and S. Christian Wheeler and Chicago Booth’s Pradeep K. Chintagunta.

That team tested emails from a major online test-preparation company, MercadoLibre, a Latin American online marketplace, and Stanford University. They split the emails between those personalized with the person’s name in the subject line and those that were not.

It’s not clear whether this personalization consisted of first names, last names, nicknames and suffixes. Here are the results:

  • Putting the name in increased the probability of the addressee opening the email by 20 percent, from about 9 percent to about 11 percent of emails, Chicago Booth Review reports.
  • In addition, this maneuver drove a 30% boost in sales leads valued at $100 apiece. And there was a 17% decrease in unsubscribes.
  • This practice also boosted engagement for MercadoLibre and Stanford.
  • One caveat: Discounts only worked when the email was personalized.
  • Another caveat: These findings are not necessarily supported by other research. For example, a InMoment study found that 75% of consumers find most forms of personalization at least somewhat creepy.
    – 22% will dump a brand after being creeped out.
    – Adobe reports that almost one-fifth of consumers are turned off by the creep factor, a pertinent finding in an age when people are afraid of phishing attacks and identity theft.
  • For 33%, annoyance builds when recommended items fail to match the person’s interests. And 17% are irritated when their name is misspelled.
  • When asked how they would change the emails they get from brands, 39% said they would make them less about promotion and more about providing me information. Moreover, 27% say they want content that’s better personalized to their interests.

These studies suggest that effective personalization starts with sending relevant offers based on past behaviors — and with being informative.

People want to feel important and valued. It’s frustrating to receive batch-and-blast emails that haven’t been personalized based on the recipient’s habits or interactions with you.

Our investigation of the mechanism shows that personalized content can be non-informative, but still be valuable in garnering a consumer’s interest and increasing the likelihood of her processing and responding to the rest of the advertising message, per Chicago Booth Review.

Are you personalizing your emails? To learn how, contact Lori at 877.447.0134, x111 or