Six Must-Know Steps for Creating Dynamic Email Content

The definition of dynamic email is changing. One disappearing definition refers to email content that’s tailored to recipients based on pre-send rules and data points, says Matt Hayes, cofounder and CEO of Kickdynamic, a real-time, contextual email marketing platform. In other words, it’s a term for the aspects of a website, ad, or email body that change based on each customer’s interests or past behavior. However, the newly emerging definition of dynamic email content, Hayes says, refers to content that changes when a reader opens the email.  

“The world is going real time and email has to go real time, as well,” says Xavier Casanova, cofounder and CEO of real-time email marketing and video commerce solution provider Liveclicker.

Here are six steps that marketers can take as they develop their dynamic-email marketing strategies.

Get started—even without a huge amount of data: “The cool thing about dynamic email is that you can get started easily without much [data] at all,” says David Moore, product manager for email optimization company Monetate. In fact, most of the data marketers need to access to customize dynamic content can’t be obtained until the email is opened—such as device, location, time of day, and weather—Casanova says.

Consider the three buckets: Contextual information is a great place to start. But for marketers looking to achieve greater personalization, Ronnie Brant, director of product marketing for agile email marketing company Movable Ink, suggests that marketers combine three buckets of data: information that customers give marketers (name and ZIP Code); information that marketers learn about customers (behavioral data); and information that’s in the moment (device, location, product availability, and weather).

Identify the type of content that aligns with your goals: From updating available seats on an airplane to showing maps to the closest retail stores, there are a number of ways marketers can leverage dynamic email content, says Casanova. But not all content suits every campaign. Both Brant and Kickdynamic’s Hayes encourage marketers to first identify their dynamic email content goals, and then determine how these objectives align with their overall strategies. They say bells and whistles don’t necessarily translate to engagement and sales. “Putting a countdown timer is engaging,” Brant says, “but is it going to drive revenue?”

Make your updates clear: Moore encourages marketers to notify subscribers when their messages have been updated at the top of their emails—perhaps replacing the hero image or positioning updates above the header. “If you’re [a sports publisher] bringing scores into your email, make people know that the score was updated 30 seconds ago so that it’s really meaningful,” Moore says.

These humble brags, however, aren’t always necessary—or wise. Blatantly telling subscribers that their emails were personalized based on behavioral data, for instance, can be off-putting. Likewise, informing subscribers that their emails were customized based on third-party data—or even information that recipients didn’t know was collected—can rub them the wrong way, Moore says.

Integrate other channels: Marketers should leverage email to display campaign work in other channels, Brant says. For example, cropping a section of a company’s website, integrating it into the email, and then showing the site’s real-time updates is one way to do that.

Send dynamic content before and after a purchase: Dynamic emails are applicable to all customers—no matter which stage of the purchase cycle they’re in. Sony Electronics, for instance, sends both pre- and post-sale dynamic email content, says Afsaneh Sadri, the brand’s email marketing manager.

In one win-back campaign, Sony sent specific customers a series of emails, each containing a timer that counted down the time left to redeem an offer upon open.  Also, the company sends pre and post-sale emails with videos that are embedded in templates that update based on each recipient’s device. “Hopefully, they can stay engaged throughout the lifecycle and then eventually come back and repurchase,” Sadri says.

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