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Andrea Serventi
8 May 2018
Reading time: 8 min

4 Steps To More Relevant Email Profiling

A complete guide to developing an organic profiling cycle: from the collection of different data clusters (personal data relating to interests and behaviors) to segmentation, up to personalization and automation.

In today’s world, simply reaching a recipient’s inbox is not enough. Relevance has become the main factor of a campaign’s success. In email marketing, relevance means delivering messages that meet the interestshabitsneeds, and characteristics of the individual user.

Its opposite can be summed up with a term: batch and blast, an email marketing approach that leads brands to communicate with uniqueindistinct messages that match each recipient’s profile.

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So quality against quantity. How? Through profiling, an activity that lets you convert information about the recipient into relevant and personalized emails.

Personalized emails have a conversion rate six times higher and a unique click rate 41% higher than non-personalized emails. (Source: MarketingLand)

Today we’d like to accompany you through the world of profiling, which we have broken down into four basic activities:

  1. Collecting information
  2. Segmentation
  3. Personalization
  4. Automation

1. Collecting information

Every discussion about profiling should begin with the techniques for obtaining and appropriating information on recipients that will be needed later for personalizing the emails.

There are two macro approaches to the collection:

  • Unique profiling
  • Progressive profiling

Unique profiling

This is both the most ambitious and the most difficult approach, because it requires the recipient to fill in forms, pages, and questionnaires that are quite extensive. Unique profiling makes it possible to gather a large amount of information in a single moment. For example, when registering with Ikea, users must answer several clusters of questions corresponding to thematic macro-areas.

ikea form profilazione

Even in the case of a market giant like Ikea, it is common for users to postpone the compilation to a later moment, which more often than not will never occur. This is why it is essential to combine unique profiling with another, more progressive approach.

Progressive profiling

In its many variations, progressive profiling is basically the practice of gathering information on potential customers over time and constructing – as a consequence of their greater openness to dialogue – profiles that are as complete and exhaustive as possible.

There are two different criteria for progressive profiling in email marketing:

Indirect progressive profiling

This involves the creation of a category for each link inserted in an email: each category of clicks corresponds to information linked to a specific expression of interest. There is no explicit question; the information is taken from the recipient’s actions with the email.

By consistently assigning a category of information to each link within the email campaign, a brand can quickly and easily infer categories of products, interests, preferences, and needs in line with each recipient.

Direct profiling

This is based on explicit questions addressed (within an email) to the recipient, from whom the answer is expected in one click. The value corresponding to the selected item is then automatically collected and the information is added to the subscriber’s profile.

The fundamental tools of this approach are obviously forms and surveys. Let’s see how to vary them with creativity and different occasions.

Surveys in the body of the email
The most classic application is to embed a survey within an email. For example, Epson used dynamic content to insert a survey relating to the product offering in the header:

epson form profilazione

This survey has the advantage of being particularly simple and agile: the recipient only has to click once within the email to reply.

Surveys hosted on landing pages
Most surveys, as can be imagined, are hosted within a landing page, because they are simpler and more immediate to create (all it takes is a drag & drop editor like BEE). The recipient accesses it by clicking on the call to action inserted in the email.

Surveys on landing pages must have a creative twist that can best encourage their compilation, otherwise only small amounts of data will be collected. One carefully designed survey email is that of Clear, complete with its CEO’s signature at the bottom.

clear form profilazione

One error to avoid: not sending recipients to the survey, but to a page that requires them to log in or enter their email address. We are sure that the number of compilations will wither.

Surveys that generate engagement
Engagement is always a good idea. It triggers an engagement mechanism that fully benefits openings and clicks. In the following example, the email offers a dynamic double choice (the survey is hidden by a contest):

form survey engagement

Playful surveys
This is called gamification: that marketing approach that engages a playful dynamic within the promotional and sales approaches. According to M2 Research, this approach can
lead to an increase in engagement from 100% to 150%.

Live polling is an increasingly popular form of gamification that allows marketers to engage customers in surveys. An excellent example is the campaign launched by Handy:

handy form profilazione

Seasonal profiling emails
Following and being in line with seasonal logic is always a good practice, as you take advantage of the change of season to update preferences and interests. Stitch Fix did it particularly well this year.

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Surveys that promise a reward
Marketing was born to experiment new possible relationship scenarios between brands and customers. The commercial aspect of these relationships is inseparably linked to the human aspect, in a broad sense.

Thus incentives and rewards are essential tools for a brand, which should also be applied to surveys and self-profiling forms. Tailor Brands has used this strategy excellently:

form tailorbrands 1

Surveys in welcome emails
Another touchpoint that brands can take advantage of for profiling is the welcome email, an instrument that can improve users’ first impression and lay the first brick to a lasting relationship. Let’s look at Zulily’s example, who has perfectly combined indirect and direct profiling:

form profilazione Zulily

Forms during the opt-out moment
It sounds contradictory, but the opt-out phase is also an opportunity for profiling. This is because not all unsubscribing users slam the door on their way out. An email like the one below is an act of courtesy and a precious opportunity for data collection.

form seeso

2. Filters, for channeling the right message to the right recipient

After learning about the techniques for collecting data and information, let’s take a look at the technologies offered by MailUp for profiling. Let’s start with filters, which let you automatically direct a message to a group of recipients selected on the basis of:

  • Personal data
  • Geolocation data
  • Behavioral data
  • Usage data

Those managing e-commerce sites can use filters to send automatic messages related to a customer’s purchase history: immediately after a purchase, between one and another, or weeks or months after the last purchase.

3. Personalize communication: dynamic fields, images, and content

You’ve collected the data and set your filters. Now let’s dive into the heart of profiling, taking a look at the tools available for bringing an advanced level of personalization to your communications.

The tools we will now look at operate on three distinct levels of emails:

Dynamic fields → Single word or string of text

There is a world of personalization that only a professional sending platform can provide marketers with: the dynamic field (also called dynamic tag), that function that allows you to create special “placeholder” codes (such as [name]) inserted in brackets, which the platform recognizes and replaces with the correct value for each individual contact in the database. Applicable to both email and SMS campaigns, dynamic fields let you personalize text messages based on:

  • Personal data
  • Professional data for B2B
  • Social media
  • CRM data
  • Data on interests and preferences

Dynamic content → Modular email structure

The result of expanded dynamic fields, dynamic content is a placeholder code that varies the modules of an email (product images and relative copy) depending on the recipient.

We have recently introduced an advanced personalization system to the MailUp platform: a fundamental feature for those who – like e-commerce – rely on dynamic content to send personalized emails based on a recipient’s personal details, preferences, and behavior.

With the new feature you can get an advanced preview of the email with the dynamic content inserted. This shows how the email will be displayed by:

  • A single recipient (by selecting his or her email address)
  • A category of recipients, by selecting an existing group or filter (e.g. to see how the email will appear differently for men and women)

Dynamic images → Visual, photos, or illustrations

Dynamic images are elements that can combine animation  and personalization. In short, dynamic images are animated based on the data of each recipient in a completely automatic way.


4. Automation: combining timeliness and relevance

To recap, we have looked at how to collect data, segment, and personalize each campaign for individual recipients. Now we’ll look at an aspect that involves the three previous activitiescoordinating and optimizing them to give them operational autonomy: Marketing Automation.

Let’s use the hypothetical example of a clothing brand.

form ecommerce abbigliamento

Depending on the box selected by the recipient, the latter will receive a follow-up email that promotes products matching their expressed preferences:

automation profilazione ecommerce

Automation is behind this combination of emails, as it uses the data of each recipient to trigger the sending of targeted and consistent follow-ups.

The application fields of the automation reflect all the touchpoints related to the user:

  • Welcome series for newsletters
  • Welcome message for e-commerce registration
  • Shopping cart recovery
  • First purchase feedback
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Re-engagement or winback
  • Happy Birthday
  • Geolocation

This is because automation lets you profile each individual identity in the database with demographic and behavioral data.

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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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