​3 Mistakes With Dynamic Content In Email Marketing

Dynamic content is a positive thing, but companies need to use it properly


The recent hysteria about online privacy has caused many brands to shy away from content personalization. They apparently fear that customers will be wary of them if they embed their personal information and emails and other content. This is a serious misconception, because customers actually prefer working with brands that personalize the content they deliver. Nearly three quarters of marketers have found that personalization boosts customer engagement.

However, improperly structuring your dynamic content is worse than using purely static content. It is important to monitor your dynamic content for the following mistakes because they will have a negative impact on the user experience.

Blank customer name fields

Last week, I received an email that began like this:

“Hello ,

Do you feel that you are getting the respect that you deserve? Many people feel underappreciated at their current job...”

You will notice that there is an awkward blank space at the beginning of the email. I had to laugh at the irony. The marketer was trying to reach people that felt underappreciated and unrecognized, but didn’t even make sure their name was properly displayed with the dynamic content in their email.

There are a couple of potential causes for this issue. The problem is usually caused when you forget to add the name token to your email template. This is easy to detect if you proofread your email templates carefully, but too many people overlook it anyways. This wasn’t the first time that I had received an email with a blank space where my name was supposed to go. It is apparently a common mistake, because Janet Choi had to write a guide on addressing it.

The problem can also arise if the customer does not have a name in the field. This won’t usually be a problem if you require customers to provide a first name. However, if you do not require this when they join your subscriber list, then you need to avoid using the dynamic name token in places where it will not make sense. It is best to avoid using it in places where punctuation is necessary, such as the introductory hook of your email.

Being overly aggressive with geo-tagged content

Email automation platforms are offering more sophisticated content personalization features like transactional history and geo-location. Geo-location tagging customers is particularly effective at personalizing content to individuals. Geo-tagging works by either identifying a person's IP address that corresponds with a general location or using a cellphone’s GPS or cell tower triangulation to discover a person’s approximate location.

While using someone’s location to send highly personalized content can be a wonderful experience for the recipient, it can also feel invasive when not done properly. A good example of using geo-location to personalize content come from Yelp. As Yelp transitioned from a desktop site to a mobile app, they have been on the leading edge of geo-location marketing. They use cellphone GPS to show special sales and offers to users from business near them as they move about. They have even developed an augmented reality application for the iPhone, called Monocle, that allows users to look through the camera of the phone to see an overlay of local business information wherever they point.

The convenience of geo-location marketing can also turn a bit creepy and downright annoying though. While Yelp gives users the ability to search for offers from businesses around them, Walgreens may have taken their geo-tagging a bit too far when their customers started receiving notifications on their phone telling them to head over to another section of the store to check out a product or offer.

“I don’t know if you’ve experienced what that’s like when you go into a store but it’s a little creepy, and it is kind of annoying to the consumer,” says Michael Jones, North American general manager of retail merchandising network Anatwine. “There’s a delicate balance.”

Improper Capitalization

By default, most email personalization tokens use the name the customer provided when they joined the email list. This means that any odd capitalization mistakes they made will follow through the life of your campaign. You will need to use standardization to make sure their name is properly displayed – with their first name capitalized.

This could lead to some issues in certain cases, such as emailing customers with the last name “McDonald.” However, using a standardized format to make sure the customer’s name is always shown with the first letter of the name capitalized will be much easier.


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