You meet someone in a bar...

They ask all about you. They seem really interested. There’s banter back and forth – you have so much in common. So, you hand over your number...and on the first phone call they remember your name but nothing else that you’ve told them.They start talking to you about generic topics, even though you thought you’d got past this small-talk stage. They talk about themselves. A lot. You try to get a word in edgeways, but then realise this is a rehearsed speech, and you’re not the only person to get these lines wheeled out to you. You put the phone down and delete their number.

Or, you hit the unsubscribe link. Because what I’m actually talking about here is personalisation; and how so many brands that are getting it so right on their website are falling short when it comes to email. When these brands have the chance to talk to their customer one-to-one, when they have managed to gather loads of data about them and have the perfect chance to really communicate with them, they choose to send out a generic email  instead,  one that does not reflect the personalised journey on their website.

Guilty brands

Some of my favourite brands are the most guilty of this. The normally untouchable ASOS has fallen short as I’ve shifted to become a different audience type. I’m currently pregnant and have spent far too much time and money perusing ASOS’s maternity range. And whilst I have received some maternity-relevant emails, I have also received a good number of totally irrelevant emails in the last couple of months. Including my personal favourite: “Show it off! Denim + a crop top = the easiest spring style. Give it just the subtlest flash, or more if you dare,” - not this season, ASOS.

I’m a complete lover of; I buy the vast majority of my gifts from there and I used the site a lot when I was planning for my wedding. But, nearly a year on from the big day, I’m still receiving “planning for your wedding” emails. I know brides like to plan but…

Where brands go wrong

To be fair to, they do have a comprehensive email preferences section on their website, where you can filter the emails that you receive via category, occasion and frequency. But this does rely on the user updating these settings. Whereas, having collected my wedding date during an earlier data capture exercise (a competition to win vouchers to spend on your wedding details), I would assume that they have the data to know my wedding has gone and it’s time to start targeting me with different content.

Frequency is another issue where I have an issue with If I go back to my bar analogy, this is the equivalent of my potential date ringing me six times to tell me the exact same story. I would soon stop answering. In the run up to Mother’s Day, sent me TEN emails reminding me that it was Mother’s Day. Whilst this is a date not to forget,, ten emails is overkill. Especially as I’d already bought said Mother’s Day gift before I received the third email.

The two examples I have given here are actually great companies that, to some extent, lead the way in terms of digital engagement in e-commerce. However, it seems odd that email, which has such huge opportunities for personalised communication direct to an individual, is where they are falling down. And as these are two of the best, I could provide you with hundreds of examples that are far worse than this.

Start listening!

So if you are finally given that elusive email address – don’t blow it by thinking that they’ll be happy with a blanket email, an email that ignores what they have told you as part of their customer journey or even an email that attempts at segmentation but then ends up missing the mark. Back to the dating analogy, we’ve all seen the current TV advert for a dating agency where the guy is matched to a camel as they are the same age and both like walks on the beach. Generic segmentation can lead to the same problems. Just because I am a female, sadly this year does not mean I will be wearing crop tops!

Listen to what your customers tell you and use this valuable data to have a personalised conversation that reflects the personalised experience you work so hard to give them on your website.