Put The “Personal” Back In Personalization
Rebecca Nackson
Rebecca Nackson

Put The “Personal” Back In Personalization

Rebecca Nackson, Director of Growth Services

At some point in the not-too-distant past, “personalization” became a buzzword. It zipped right past “strategic opportunity to meaningfully engage your community” and straight to “thing marketers do because everyone else is doing it and, quite frankly, it makes me feel like a good marketer to check that box.”

Here’s the thing: Personalization is too important to add into your plan after the fact or check off once you’ve included a “[First Name]” conditional to your email.

First and foremost, personalizing your marketing messages is important because, well, it works. As one small example, personalized push content gets up to 4x more opens. Imagine what it could do for your emails, your ads, your web content, and more.

Secondly, and just as important, it’s what makes your emails unmistakably yours, and what makes your community feel like the message is unmistakably for them. The goal is to elicit the same emotional connection you might get if you met one of your customers face-to-face. In other words, getting a personalized message just feels nice.

The good news is, improvements in marketing technology make it easier than ever to personalize your marketing communications using the information you already have about your customers (or could start collecting, like, today). The tools are at your fingertips, you just need to know how to use them.

Below are some considerations we make on Prolific Growth projects to make the greatest impact through an effective and scalable personalization strategy:

Stand out in a crowded inbox

I don’t know about you, but with the rate email is coming these days, Inbox Zero is a fantasy. And forget about keeping up with push notifications. That’s why standing out is critical. One way to stand out is to be familiar and trustworthy — useful even — and personalization can help.

Don’t stop at using their name (and when you do use first names, make sure you have a no-name fall-back that works flawlessly). Instead, think about how you can use everything you know about the individual, like behavior, profile, and contextual data to deliver an eye-catching subject line or super relevant message. It can be tempting to focus on the email message itself, but most of your audience will never get past the opening line. Moreover, 69% of email recipients report emails as spam based solely on subject lines. (eek!)

Luckily, today’s industry has countless tools to choose from. Combining powerful data with the power of words, tools like Persado and Phrasee specialize in language generation for marketing copy so brands can target users with relevant content and customized experiences. That way, you can test subject line copy with different audiences (those who use your product/service a lot vs those who don’t), then A/B test alternatives to find the best-performing content for each user across their entire journey.

Make it about them (not you)

Sending a push notification is like speaking through a megaphone: It either ensures you have the information you need or annoys you until you turn them off.

Here’s an example of being helpful without being screamy: Airbnb took the “abandon cart” messaging a bit further than most companies by not only reminding me that I didn’t finish the booking, but also telling me that bookings in this city are typically planned months in advance. Sure, creating urgency is a great tactic on their end, but it’s also an important reminder that I need to act. If you’re using your megaphone correctly, your users may actually complain when you DON’T message them!AIRBNBIn-app messages and push notifications are an opportunity to connect with users in real-time, with a tone, timing, and cadence that is personal to them. Your audience isn’t uniform in how they behave and interact with your brand, so an omni-channel strategy that lets you adapt and contextualize your messaging for maximum relevance is critical. Knowing your users, and most importantly, what they care about helps you create these moments and experiences of delight.

Make them feel something

Now that you have the subject lines and messaging down, let’s take a look at the wider picture. For instance, many of us tend to respond more enthusiastically to messages about our children (furry and otherwise). A totally unscientific glance at my open history will probably show that I am exponentially more likely to respond to a push or subject line with my dog’s name in it. In fact, I have a smile on my face just thinking about her!What other emotions can you elicit? Nostalgia with a playlist that was popular when I graduated HS? Anticipation for a clothing order or film release? Curiosity about a new restaurant or product launch? Or perhaps a sense of calm that you’re keeping track of an order that’s being shipped, or know it’s been delayed but will keep me in the loop.

You can also make them feel validated in giving you personal (or even not-so-personal) information that is valuable to them. By using it to give them a better experience, you show you understand that you appreciate them.


Using someone’s first name might look personal, but speaking to their interests and behavior is personal. Most marketers think they’ve got a handle on marketing automation but actuality, today’s technology (and probably the technology they already have implemented) can do a lot more than just trigger an automated welcome email. Leveraging user data and implementing marketing tools can add value to your messaging campaigns and build lifetime value (LTV) with personalized engagement beyond the first name.

Digging Deeper into Personalization

Want to learn more about how you can use personalization to enhance your mobile retention and engagement strategies? Stay tuned for the next two articles in our ‘Personalization Series’: