Open. Click. Buy. It may soon be that easy.

Email marketing, once a relatively simple way to communicate and sell products to customers, has matured dramatically. The number of vendors has grown, and the sectors within the email landscape have become increasingly complex. One of these sectors, personalization, is exactly why email still reigns supreme as the marketing ROI leader.

A new report: Email Personalization: A vendor landscape overview and selection guide, written by my colleague and VB Insight analyst Andrew Jones, covers the vendor landscape related to personalization. The report includes real-time vendors, marketing automation platforms, email service providers, and other adjacent technologies. It demystifies vendor complexity and reports on the success that marketers are able to achieve by using personalization.

The email conundrum

Despite industry commentary to the contrary, consumers are still downright obsessed with email. (How many times have you checked your email reading this article?) In fact, email is the preferred channel through which to receive information from brands.

And yet, even as the volume and velocity of email continue to rise, click rates are declining, as people have less time and patience. Marketing automation provider Silverpop has found that more than 50 percent of people unsubscribe from email lists because they find the content irrelevant, the emails too frequent, or both.

Why personalization works

Personalized emails counter this trend. Personalization allows marketers to send you, the customer, emails that contain specific products tailor-made for you to buy. All you have to do is click. This kind of purchase bait is just one example, of course. There are many other use cases for email personalization.

personalization click thru

Above: The Y axis represents the percentage of survey respondents. The X axis represents groups of survey respondents and their percentage gained on opens and clicks.

New research from Jones has found that over 90 percent of marketers see at least nominal, if not outright impressive, increases in open and click-through rates when employing some form of personalization. Only 9 percent of respondents saw no added impact when using personalization, and 4 percent and 5 percent of respondents saw a 70+ percent  increase on open rates and clicks rates, respectively.

Marketing practitioners looking to understand key challenges, strategies, tactics, best practices, and benchmarks for implementing email personalization will want to look at Email Personalization: A Practitioner’s Guide. That guide also contains a maturity framework for improving personalization efforts incrementally and strategically, rather than through one-off tactics. If you’re still trying to figure out whether you need email personalization, read the CMO Guide.

Not just for consumer marketing

I asked Jones if personalized consumer marketing was really only relevant for B2C companies selling products. He confirmed that it’s simply not the case:

Marketing automation platforms for B2B definitely play into personalization. B2B marketers may not always need to segment prospects or customers to the same degree as their B2C counterparts, but a more relevant message can make a tremendous difference in any business or industry,” said Jones. “The data is showing that all businesses will incorporate greater personalization strategies going forward.” The data to know customers is available like never before — it’s just a matter of using it. I expect MAPs [Marketing Automation Platforms] to grow in adoption, but I think many will adopt machine learning options to help automate additional degrees of segmentation.

Why personalization is disruptive

Since most traditional email service providers (ESP) charge on volume, it would make sense that they’d encourage customers to send as many emails as possible. Personalization directly challenges this business model.

“Part of personalization is knowing when not to email someone, and maybe, engage them in another channel. That doesn’t play well into the traditional ESP pricing model. But there are plenty of other ways to make the email you do send more relevant, and ESPs can certainly begin by focusing there — with better data management, segmentation capabilities, trigger-based campaigns, or dynamic content formatting,” said Jones.