Batch to the Future: 5 Tips to Personalize Batch Emails

By Matthew Limeri

DMN once asked, “Are the days of batch and blast emails behind us?” They concluded that while batch and blast may always be with us, it was “officially disgraced” among serious direct marketers.

Seven years later, and DMN’s predictions have more or less come true: Email personalization has become the norm, and batch campaigns are ever present in retail email marketing strategies. Despite this, many email marketing teams maintain a critical view of batch and blast campaigns, even if they actively employ them.

Moving away from batch sends might seem like the next progression for email marketing, but that conclusion may be wrong. Here’s why.

What are Batch and Blast Emails?

Batch and blast emails are sent to a large group of customers, traditionally employing little to no personalization. For example, if a fashion retailer wanted to show their new spring collection to all subscribers, they’d turn to batch and blast emails. These emails allow you to have an ongoing conversation with customers even if their behavior hasn’t triggered a personalized email send yet.

In the era of email personalization, batch sends have a bad reputation. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages of using batch sends — and with advances in retail email marketing technology, it’s possible to maximize the benefits of batch sends while overcoming common challenges. 

The Pros and Cons of Batch Emails

Anyone who’s spent even a few months as an email marketer knows batch and blast emails come with a negative stigma. In the age of personalization, static emails that go to everyone (or nearly everyone) in your email list get labeled as subpar — and for good reason. It’s difficult to create batch campaigns that are relevant and engaging to subscribers, resulting in lower open rates, poor click through rates and less revenue per send.

However, this isn’t an inherent fault in the concept of batch sends. Rather, it illustrates that they may play a different role in customer lifecycle marketing efforts than personalized trigger emails.

Batch emails are a great way for retailers to communicate with their customer base between purchases. They’re a great tool for marketers to react to time-sensitive conditions, such as an upcoming holiday, sale or local store opening. Batch and blast emails also offer an opportunity to connect with and educate customers before and beyond the sale. For instance, you might use batch emails to share company news, educate customers on your brand mission, announce a new product line or even thank customers for their business. 

One of the most memorable, thoughtful and effective batch emails I ever received from a retailer was shortly after Hurricane Sandy. The message read: “We know you’re in the New York region and we hope you’re safe.” It didn’t push any products; it was simply a thoughtful message.

The lesson in all this? People sign up for your emails because they want to hear from your brand. It’s up to you to ensure that the messages you send between purchases are thoughtful so that those people continue wanting to receive them.

5 Tips to Update Batch and Blast Campaigns in the Era of Personalization

Batch emails might not be the most exciting or innovative element of your digital marketing strategy, but nevertheless, they play a vital role. So, what can you do to make the most of your batch emails? 

Introducing elements of personalization and segmentation is one way to create a strong foundation for a better batch send strategy. Start with these five tips.

1) Implement Segmentation and Personalization in Batch Emails 

Segmentation and personalization might go against the core idea of batch emails, but the truth is, most retailers today at least segment their batch sends. Typically, this segmentation comes in the form of email engagement, membership program status and demographics like gender.

But what if you could take this a step further by crafting personalized batch emails? For instance, instead of just segmenting your audience based on previous email engagement, try filtering people with a high likelihood to unsubscribe from emails. You might also segment based on discount affinity, so that your full price buyers and discount buyers get different offers based on whether or not an individual has made a purchase.

The bottom line: Going forward, there should be no such thing as a non-targeted batch email.

2) Target Subscribers Based on Customer, Behavior, and Product Data

As you begin employing segmented and personalized batch sends, it’s important not to rely too heavily on data about past purchases. While purchase data can prove valuable when segmenting past purchasers, data reveals that more than half of email subscribers are non buyers — and among those who have made a purchase, the overwhelming majority of them have likely made only one purchase. This setup limits the value of segmenting based on purchase history.

Instead of purchase history, try segmenting based on customer, behavior, and product data by tracking onsite activity. Site activity can go a long way toward informing you what non buyers (and first-time buyers for whom purchase data is minimal) are interested in. Beyond helping you create more personalized communications for non buyers, these insights will help you determine which customers are most likely to buy based on how their identity and behavior compares to that of past purchasers. And once you have that insight, you can up your game when it comes to batch emails and beyond.

3) Determine Who Should — and Shouldn’t — Receive Batch Emails

In some cases, customers might fit all the right segments for an upcoming batch email, but you should still exclude them because they’ve recently received other emails from your brand that are more valuable.

One of the most important steps you can take to improve your batch emails is to consider what else customers are getting from your brand. For example, have they just made a purchase? Or did they just qualify for a browse abandonment campaign? Shoppers who fall into those buckets are very different from shoppers who have not visited your site in a while. As a result, it pays to suppress customers that qualify for triggered emails from upcoming batch campaigns.

In general, you shouldn’t send a batch email to customers simply because you have an email going out. The question of “should this person get an email message today?” is equally as important as the question of “what should that message be?”

4) Keep Data Fresh and Easily Accessible

One of the prime use cases for batch emails is responding to real world market conditions, but doing so requires easy access to up-to-date customer, product and behavior data. If you decide to send an email featuring suede products because you need to boost suede sales for the holidays, then you need to have easy access to data about who was onsite recently and was interested in suede. Or if a celebrity wears your products and you want to capitalize on that fame, you need quick access to data about which customers have an affinity for that product.

At the end of the day, the retailers who have the strongest batch emails are those who use AI to enable data access and batch personalization, rather than retailers who try to manually keep information on customer behaviors and preferences fresh. By using AI to facilitate data access and hygiene, retail marketers make it easy for their marketing team to build just the right audience for any batch email in a short amount of time. That way, they can craft relevant messaging in terms of both audience and timing.

5) Focus on Timeliness

While pulling together the right audience quickly is critical for batch emails, it’s not the only thing that has to happen quickly. Because batch emails often cover communications for scenarios that pop up unexpectedly, it’s important to have a process that allows you to pull together an entire email — from the audience to the content to the design to the approvals — as quickly as possible.

There’s nothing worse than having an idea of how you can use email to react to something that just happened in the world only to end up sending that email three days later because the email build got bottlenecked. To have a truly strong batch email program, you need to have tools that support quick, agile workflows in addition to clear processes that allow you to piece together new emails within hours rather than days.

Improve Your Batch Emails Alongside Your Entire Email Marketing Program

As you make these types of improvements to your batch emails, questions about top line revenue will inevitably surface, because if you send batch emails to smaller audiences, your top line revenue will go down. To be clear, these recommendations aren’t about doing more segmentation to send fewer emails, they’re about sending smarter emails while protecting your top line revenue.

The best way to give your email marketing team the flexibility to experiment with improvements to batch emails is to have as much revenue as possible tied to your automated marketing emails. When that’s the case, you have a safe revenue stream that’s always on and that insulates you from having to worry about dips in batch email performance.

Once you get your triggered emails in order and those automated campaigns produce consistent email revenue, you won’t have to rely on ad hoc batch emails to correct declining email metrics. Instead, you can experiment with opportunities to improve your batch send and treat the additional revenue they produce as the icing on the cake.

Conclusion: Batch Emails are Fundamental to the Customer Lifecycle

Batch and blast campaigns are often lambasted due to a lack of relevance when compared to emails that employ 1:1 personalization, but this assessment ignores key opportunities. Batch campaigns still play a vital role in nurturing customers and spreading awareness, but they must evolve to suit evolving customer expectations. 

Keep in mind you don’t need to choose personalized trigger emails or batch sends. Rather, both should work in conjunction as specialized tools in your email marketing program. After adopting this new perspective on batch sends, your email campaigns will drive greater engagement and better revenue.

Matthew Limeri

Matt is a technology consultant with over ten years of experience in MarTech and AdTech across several Technical/Implementation and Account Management roles.