march email

There’s a lot of debate about whether personalizing email subject lines helps or hurts results. I decided to do a test with the monthly special email of Spaah, my day spa client. This test was for the end-of-February email that offered discounts during March on “green” services like the Green Clay Body Masque.

The subscriber base for Spaah’s monthly specials contains two groups that have very different email response patterns. I call the first group “No Name” since they lack a first name on file. This means that they subscribed years ago, before Spaah even asked for their first names in the online sign-up form. It also means that, after switching email providers, they have not responded to ongoing appeals for them to update their information with their first name. As a group, their open and click rates are much lower than those of the second group, “Name.” Characterized by having first names on file, they are either much more engaged, having responded to the first name request, or are much more recent – and thus more enthusiastic – subscribers.

Using Mailchimp’s A/B Split Campaign feature, I did an A/B subject line test for each of these groups, while the content of the emails themselves was exactly the same in all four versions, for consistency in comparing metrics. (Even in the art of marketing, it’s important to be scientific by eliminating variables.) In each of the A/B tests, I chose to test half of each group for definitive results. The winning subject line was sent to the rest of each group 24 hours later.

Although I couldn’t test first name personalization for the “No Name” group, I used the 2nd person in one of them for a personal feel. The other subject line was catchier and more topical.

  1. Your Exclusive March Deal from Spaah!
  2. At Spaah, It’s Easy Being Green this March!

For the “Name” group, I used one of the same subject lines as the “No Name” group for consistency. The other subject line included first name personalization.

  1. Your Exclusive March Deal from Spaah!
  2. [First Name], Here’s Your Exclusive March Deal from Spaah!

What were the results? “Your Exclusive March Deal from Spaah!” won handily in both tests.

no name


What does this tell us? Well, it’s only one test, but it might show that personalizing subject lines with first names might not be as effective as a more moderate amount of personalization, like using “you” or “your.” In Spaah’s case, this test helped me decide to stop pushing the “No Name” group for their first emails. I also found an effective subject line style that I plan to reuse – that is, until more testing finds an even better one.

What have your results been with first name personalization in subject lines? Comment below!

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The Right Amount of Personalization in Email Subject Lines
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