Maybe it’s an unfair comparison to pitch basic personalisation against something that’s more like coding but there is a point to be made.
The big thing about using a template language is that it’s really no more complicated than personalitation through merge tags, but it can do everything personalisation can do (in a better way) and much more. A whole lot more!
The days of blasting identical content in every single campaign are long gone.
When you consider that features like a template language are now so readily available and easy to use it means creating targeted email marketing campaigns are far more achievable than ever before.
Basic merge tags
Personalisation is great when you want to push some info you know about a user into an email template using merge tags. The output of that could be something like this…
Hey Adrian, here's some important news for you!
What merge tags aren’t good at is being able to handle logic and the best you can hope for is some kind of fallback to handle when the value of the field you’re merging is blank e.g. [[FIRST-NAME | fallback=”there”]]
When the merge field value isn’t blank you get this…
Hey Adrian, here's some important news for you!
If the merge field value is blank then you get this…
Hey there, here's some important news for you!
Using conditional content
Having the ability to place content based on whether the value in one or more fields matches a logical condition is really powerful.
A nice and simple example we like to use is shown below. The condition checks the value of a field then outputs a piece of text based on the automated decision that gets made.
[[if CUSTOM-FIELD-1 == "sunny"]] wear shades [[elseif CUSTOM-FIELD-1 == "raining"]] take an umbrella [[else]] wear a jacket [[/if]]
Using one condition that leads to 3 possible outcomes is neat but still pretty basic in terms of what is possible.
The potential with a template language is almost limitless and by using multiple conditions, a range of logical operators and all of the other clever functions & modifiers that come as standard means you really can go to town on creating beautifully formatted targeted emails.
Template language is really flexible and you can use it on subject lines, reply address, images, links, web metrics – in fact, you can use it anywhere in the entire content.
To read more more about all of the features available as part of our template language click here.
Testing content variations
Testing conditional content can be a real challenge and the place to start is to ensure that all of the ‘if’ statements you’ve used can handle all possible outcomes.
The last thing you want is for a section of your email campaign to appear blank when a user record contains a value in a field that you didn’t expect.
A good method for testing is to randomly select users from your list(s) and preview how the email campaign will look for them.
I’m not sure if that’s possible in all solutions but it certainly is using Instiller. Using a live preview means you can very quickly test out your template language coding to see if it handles the variations you expect.
Litmus is great for seeing what emails look like in all of the most popular email clients and mobile devices but what you’re going to need to do is ensure you’re sending the correct data with it to be able to test conditional content.
When you send a Litmus test using Instiller you get to choose data from your list(s). This means you can test all of your variations using Litmus which saves you lots of time by avoiding the need to create separate static versions of your email template.
Basically, you can shortcut conditional content testing with Litmus using Instiller.
Call me old fashioned, but I still like to see a test in my inbox. I know Litmus produces the same results but there’s something really satisfying about seeing the test email mixed in with all of my other emails.
It’s also a good method for sending yourself lots of variations through the use of email account sub-addressing. (if your mail server / provider supports that).
More complex solutions
For things like basket abandonment, hotel bookings, flight itineraries and those kind of things you’re going to be dealing with more complex data structures than single values.
Storing structured data gives you instant access to complete records of information and using the template language you can reference any part of those records.
Structured data provides you with the added ability to loop through arrays contained within the records, merge assets and the like.
Auto-responders created through our API in combination with the template language and structured data provides Premier Inn with a scalable and flexible solution for generating dynamic content emails and managing the bookings of more than 600 of their hotels within the UK.
Where to start
It may be that using a template language is overkill for your email marketing campaigns and you could be better off sticking with basic personalisation.
If you feel it’s right for you then the level you take it to all depends on what you’re looking to achieve.
In either case, it’s good to know that if and when you do have the need it’s something that’s readily available and fairly easy to implement.
This little insight into what is possible will have hopefully triggered some thoughts of what you can do in your email marketing campaigns.
We’re more than happy to talk things through if you want a chat and there’s no better place to start than doing a quick search on Google to see what other email marketers have done .