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Email personalization dramatically increases open rates, click-through rates, and revenue, so making your email marketing more personal is a no-brainer. And yet, most marketers are not adopting personalization strategies. Why is that?

Part of the reason is that email personalization is, well, a personal decision. The type of personalization a company will pursue reflects industry, goals, company size, and data sources, among other criteria.

The right tools can unlock the promise of personalization, but with a complex vendor landscape, how do you choose? It boils down to identifying the right set of selection criteria.

Based on survey data from 276 marketers and 33 email vendors, VentureBeat analyst Andrew Jones distilled this selection process down to five key elements. Use them to pick your short list of vendors.

For a full analysis of which vendors have features within these criteria, get the VB Insight Email Personalization Vendor Landscape Overview and Selection Guide.

1. Existing customer base
While a vendor’s existing customers don’t have to mirror your own organization exactly, it is important to make sure the platform works for others like you. How big are the vendor’s existing customers: midsize or enterprise-level?  Do the vendor serve B2B or B2C clients? Have they been able to maintain relationships with existing customers over time?

2. Rules-based vs. automated (prescriptive vs. adaptive)
Does the vendor take an approach to personalization that is primarily rules-based, in which marketers can set conditions to trigger specific engagements, or does it take an automated, machine-learning approach? Or, can the vendor handle both approaches? If your company is large or sophisticated enough to require an adaptive machine-learning approach, you will need to look for a vendor who can deliver.

3. Data points used for personalization
What data can vendors employ in their personalization strategies, and does this match the data that your organization would like to use? The range of available data is wide. Location, transaction history, demographics, and historical email engagement are the most commonly used data, and supported by least 85 percent of vendors. However, if you’re looking to personalize via other data points — like social influence — only 24 percent of vendors surveyed will have you covered.

4. Predictive modeling or lead scoring
Does the vendor provide predictive capabilities, allowing you to better segment or target customers based on the likelihood of conversion or on the estimated value of conversion? Does the vendor let you score prospective customers based on defined actions that correlate to those possibilities?

5. Integrations
Lastly, look at what types of technology integrations are most important to each vendor’s existing customers and make sure they line up with your own needs. For the vendors surveyed, CRM, ecommerce, and marketing automation integrations were most important. Find out if vendors already have existing APIs to facilitate bi-directional data transfer with tools or platforms that you need. If they don’t, be aware that creating such tools could be quite resource-intensive.

Bottom Line: To evaluate a vendor, find out about their existing customers, their approach to personalization, the data sources they support, and the other platforms with which they can connect.

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