You Are Doing Email Personalization Wrong. Here's Why

ByNupur Mittal


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Don't just personalize the email. Personalize the experience.

Gone are the days when all you knew about your audience was the first name or gender. Today, marketing analytics has empowered us to tap into what really matters – the user's behavioral data.

Behavioral data is dynamic. It means that you get it when the user is purchasing etc. And as a result, it changes. It essentially means that you can't get away with personalizing a single email.

Because of this, personalization is NOT a one-time activity. At least, not anymore. It used to be, but now, there is just too much at stake – customer expectations and $$$ that you can win or lose.

Table of contents

5 Tips to keep in mind for better personalization

When you are personlizing, these are the things that you need to know to understand how you can personalize for the win.

1. Your app and website are a goldmine of data

If I had asked you to send a personalized email a decade ago, you would have sent an email with my name in the subject line and a copy. This approach worked then because marketers had limited data.

But, marketing has changed A LOT since. You are literally in a sea full of data from your website, app, socials, and other channels. But you get lost every moment you stand by and add a first name column to the sheet.

Every shot not taken is a shot missed.

So every time you don’t use the data available, you miss out on potential sales. Let me explain.

Did they check out a product and not purchase it? Send them an email asking what went wrong.

Did they download your 2022 statistics report? Follow up with them for their feedback, and send them similar recommendations if they give you good feedback.

Use the data you have worked so hard to set up the collection because data not used = opportunity lost.

User data you have vs user data you use for email personalization

2. Provide a personalized full funnel experience

As marketers, we need to think beyond a single event and look at the holistic view of the customer’s journey to understand their true intent and interest. Each action they take – free trial signup, website browsing, email submissions - is dynamic, so it only makes sense that your emails with them should be cognizant of their latest activities on your site/app.

Don’t email them asking them to sign up when they have already done so. Instead, send them an email asking them to use a particular feature that might be relevant to them.

Here are a few examples of what I mean by personalizing the funnels:

Personalize user onboarding

Instead of triggering a series of onboarding emails to all the users (even though they are personalized with the first name), focus on a more personalized journey.

For instance, ask visitors about the use case for your software when they sign up. Use this data, combine it with their demographics and firmographics details and add them to a segment. Once you have the segment, focus on messaging where you talk about how they can use your app for that particular use case.

Personalize the case studies that you send them. Trigger emails or not trigger emails based on what activities they did last. Help them get value from your product or app by sending training or educational stuff for the next step in their journey.

Personalize browse and cart-abandonment

Don't give up on your users when they browse but don't buy. They might not be ready yet, just like I wasn't when I wanted to buy that Cashmere sweater from Zara.

But did Zara give up? — No! They sent me an email with the product image to nudge me to complete the purchase within an hour of the cart abandonment.

Did I buy the sweater? Yes, I did! But they didn't stop there. Once I made the purchase, they sent me a feedback email asking about my purchasing experience. I loved that!

There might be situations when users don't reach the stage of placing an order. They might be casually browsing with 10+ tabs opened in their browser (don't we all?)

But, as marketers, it's your solemn duty to target such visitors by tracking their browsing behavior. There might be a potential sale, and if you send personalized browse abandonment emails, you can win that sale.

Personalized product recommendations

Users’ on-site behavior lies at the epicenter of recommendations — which pages they click on, lead magnets they download, products they buy, or items they add to their wishlist.

All this data is your opportunity to send relevant recommendations. When you make a recommendation, also consider the timings and context of your recommendation.

For instance, a customer bought a pair of shoes and is interested in buying socks too. But, if you show a recommendation for another pair of shoes, you will come across as promotional instead of helpful.

Pushing a sale than zeroing in on what the customer is trying to achieve will cost you your brand loyalty and trust.

Besides, AI and Machine learning can be your ally in making better predictive recommendations. It will detect the patterns in visitor’s behavior, identify opportunities by learning all the user’s touchpoints and give you the best recommendations.

You can use tools like Toplyne for Product companies, Mutiny, Kickdynamics, etc.

3. Standout by tapping data unique to your brand

Your target audience's demographic data is available to many other brands (often your competitors). But, they don’t have access to their behavioral data, which can be your ticket to stand out.

So, you curate the data from your website/app, put it into context, and connect the dots; you will hear what your audience is trying to tell you via clicks, page views and other parameters. Use this voice to guide your personalization strategy and generate revenue for your business.

For instance, you decided to look at the live chat data of your user. That data is valuable because your customers are themselves raising a query, conversing with a human being, and sharing the information. You can use this information to send personalized follow-ups, educational material, or case studies to show that you are listening to them and you're willing to go the extra mile to offer them the best experience.

4. One size fits all is paleolithic. Move on.

Your audience is more complex than you think, and each individual has different tastes, expectations, needs, and pain points. Sending the same message to all your 1 million users reeks of not only laziness but also short-sightedness that will cost you $$$.

Your only bet is to master the segmentation by analyzing the data at your disposal and putting yourself in your audience’s shoes.

An insurance brand can use prospect data through quote submission forms. The user with a quote requirement within a certain range and those belonging to similar demographics can be part of one segment. This would be effective as pinpoint targeting becomes possible, so you send more relevant emails. So segment, personalize, and win.

5. Retain customers through upselling & cross-selling

Businesses thrive on repeated purchases, frequent orders, and increased customer lifetime value. To develop and nurture a relationship with your buyers, you must be there even after they’ve bought from you.

Flow chart covering customer's journey

Refill nudges

Refill nudges are perfect for re-initiate the conversation and driving sales for goods with lower consumption periods.

  • Your customer bought a pedigree pack for their dog 2 months back; send them a personalized email as a reminder to buy it again, as the exhaustion/consumption time for this item is 2.5 months. This will ensure that they don’t run out of it.

  • Customers made a bulk purchase of grocery items? Send a curation of all the items they purchased that they might need to buy again. To get the conversion? Share a special discount code for them to be repeat buyers.


I hate the feeling when I scroll through the site, moving from one page to another, hunting for the right pair of shoes, and when I finally get it, the ‘out of stock' text ruins everything.

Your customers hate it, too, and this can be a lost sale if you don’t help them out. One way is to send them a re-stock email as soon as the product and their preferred size are available. For example, H&M has this ‘notify me’ email icon next to each item size if it’s out of stock. I liked that because it’s a great way to show that you care about your visitors and aim to fulfill their wishes.

H\&M's product out of stock snapshot

Feature usage

Almost all softwares allows users to get limited features in a basic plan. But what if your customer wants to try out the advanced features? Like they’re on a basic plan but constantly going to the extensive analytics dashboard on a premium plan?

Well, you have the data. Use it to send a personalized email showing how your email analytics works, its benefits, and how they can avail by buying a paid plan, or are you giving them a discount or a 30-day limit to use features?

Subscription renewal

Subscription plan ending soon?

Nudge them towards the renewal by creating a personalized email. Along with the subscription renewal reminder email, give them a summary of what they achieved while they used the plan. And create FOMO - You can talk about all the new features you have in the pipeline to make users’ work even easier.

The idea behind all this is to convince them to renew their plan without being too salesy. If you show them that there is real value in renewal, they will convert even if you don’t sell hard.

Move towards a more conversational marketing

Once limited to best-of-breed companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon, personalization has entered the mainstream, and you’re leaving money on the table if you are a part of this.

A single email isn’t going to shift your growth trajectory - big brands know this, and you must understand this too. To build goodwill and a strong customer relationship, you need to think beyond the micro details and focus on creating an email experience by using your granular data and seeing your customers advocating for you.

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