Shoppers May Shun Retailers with Poor Product Suggestions

Email personalization can be a turnoff when it's not relevant

Email marketing is one of the most evergreen retail tactics. It's also one of the most targeted forms of messaging since recipients opt-in and often provide solicited information or preferences. Despite these factors, personalization can still be hit or miss. 

An April 2018 Evergage and Researchscape International study found email content was by far the channel that more US marketers personalized, cited by 71% of respondents. Personalizing home pages (45%) and landing pages (37%) were a distant second and third.

When asked how email was personalized, 76% of respondents said they use a first name in the message or subject line. Just over half recommend products based on audience segment, while one-quarter suggest products on an individual basis.  

According to a May 2018 survey by Fresh Relevance and YouGov, 28% of US internet users would be more loyal to a brand if email messages were personalized. But they have high standards as to what counts as personalization. Fully 35% don't think marketers using their first names is important. 

What do consumers want in an email? The Fresh Relevance/YouGov study found one-quarter like product recommendations based on past purchases or items viewed online, while 26% want marketers to recognize when they buy an item for someone else to prevent unrelated recommendations. Generally, 41% would consider not patronizing a retailer that routinely emailed irrelevant information. 

Bazaarvoice found that attitudes around email marketing differed very little by type of retailer, according to a January 2018 survey. Roughly one-third of US digital shoppers across product categories said they would avoid shopping at retailers that recommended nonsensical items, which is in line with findings from Fresh Relevance/YouGov. For example, 32% might think twice if an apparel and accessories retailer recommended hats when they were interested in shoes. That percentage held true for auto parts retailers (32%) as well as health and beauty (31%), home improvement (31%) and sporting goods (30%) retailers.

The number of US digital shoppers who said it's somewhat or very important that retailers don't send too many emails was also consistent, ranging from a low of 88% for sporting goods and apparel and accessories to a high of 91% for auto parts.

Just 25% of digital shoppers in the Bazaarvoice survey said emails suggesting products based on past purchases are useful. This speaks to the difficulty in surfacing relevant recommendations. According to the Evergage/Researchscape study, only 12% of marketers said they were "very" or "extremely" satisfied with their level of personalization. And 77% said personalization should be a bigger priority within their company, up 5.5% from 2017.