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Experian-Email-Subject-Line-Personalization-Open-Rates-Feb2014Research released last year by MailChimp and by MailerMailer supported the notion that personalized emails drive higher responses rates. A new study [download page] from Experian Marketing Services adds to the discussion: according to the study, which covers brands’ email activity in 2013, emails with personalized subject lines enjoyed 26% higher open rates than those without (19.4% vs. 15.4%).

Obviously that average is going to differ across industries and brands, as noted in the MailChimp study referenced above. According to Experian, travel brands experienced the biggest difference in unique open rates between emails with and without personalized subject lines, of 65% (28.5% vs. 17.3%). Multi-channel retailers (37%) and catalogers (36%) also saw a higher-than-average gap between personalized and non-personalized emails, while publishers (1%) saw the smallest difference.

The results don’t necessarily prove that personalization drives higher open rates (there may be other variables not controlled for), but the body of data certainly suggests that to be the case. Even so, 70% of brands aren’t personalizing their emails, per Experian’s study.

Further data from the study might cause those 70% to take a closer look at personalization. According to Experian:

  • Personalized promotional messages sport 29% higher unique open rates and 41% higher unique click rates than their non-personalized brethren;
  • Personalized, triggered mailings similarly see 25% higher unique open and 51% higher unique click rates;
  • Looking strictly at promotional messages, personalized emails see transaction rates and revenue per email more than 6 times higher than messages of the non-personalized variety; and
  • For trigger mailings, personalized emails generate more than double the transaction rates of non-personalized ones.

Of course, it helps to actually have the information on hand. In 2013, 78% of marketers collected their customers’ first names in addition to their email addresses, with that figure up from 75% the previous year. Some 74% collected their customers’ last names, relatively flat from 2012. There was a big increase in the proportion of marketers collecting date of birth (52%, from 34%) and zip code (73%, from 57%). Overall, just 16% of marketers said they only collect email addresses, down from 24% in 2012. So the lack of personalization doesn’t seem to owe to a lack of data – which the vast majority of marketers are asking their customers for.

Also of note: 60% of marketers aren’t giving recipients the option to select the types of emails they want to receive. The most common ways in which marketers do allow customers to choose their email preferences are based on email types (21%) and product category types (16%).

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