The only way to send thousands of personalized emails is to automate the personalization process, but some marketers fear algorithms will create off-brand messages. Here’s how to leverage templates and content modules to keep your brand in the driver’s seat of email personalization.

James Glover, co-founder and CEO, Coherent Path

James Glover, co-founder and CEO, Coherent Path

Even as personalization algorithms get progressively smarter, some marketers still resist the transition to automated email campaigns. Why? They fear they’ll create clunky, unappealing, off-brand messages that even the smartest algorithms generate by accident from time to time.

But as frightening as off-brand can be, the opposite approach—manually personalizing every single email—is equally off-putting, especially as your subscriber count climbs into the thousands. How can a company with an ever-growing customer base upgrade to a customer-centric email strategy while keeping their brand voice on-point?

The only way to send thousands of personalized emails is to start automating the personalization process to some degree. At the same time, though, you want to make sure you’re comfortable with your level of control over the software’s behavior. That’s exactly the challenge that automated email templates are designed to solve—with the help of a robust library of pre-approved content.

With guardrail rules, design tasks that once took weeks can now be automated in mere seconds.

Here’s how to leverage templates and content modules to keep your brand in the driver’s seat of email personalization.


Instead of designing every email, build a library of reusable creative assets.

As you take the first steps toward integrating automation and dynamic content into your company’s email program, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If your brand has been around for a while, you’re already working with an extensive library of images—and you’re probably creating brand-new ones on a regular basis, too.

Those creative assets can serve as the building blocks for a wide range of content modules. Once you’ve zeroed in on an approved creative, your machine-learning system can generate a wealth of variations that plug into content modules throughout each email template.  That means your one-time design investment gets translated into an endless supply of fresh, personalized content for every subscriber on your list.

What’s more, recycling creatives in this way can dramatically increase your open and click rates. Most subscribers don’t click on your content the first time you present it to them—but by testing many different variations of each creative, your personalization solution stands a far better chance of showing each subscriber the right pieces of content at the right moments—boosting the ROI you derive from each asset.

Create “guardrail” rules for the machine to follow—so you’re free to focus on strategy.

A well-designed machine-learning solution doesn’t just generate content at random—it colors inside the lines, following business rules you’ve set in advance. For example, you might tell the machine that Fendi blouses should never be shown with Prada shoes. Voilà! Those items will never appear together in the same email.

On the other hand, you might want to specify that every email featuring shorts should also feature sandals. Just set that rule in your software’s control panel, and every email showcasing pairs of shorts will also contain one of your creatives about sandals. With guardrail rules, design tasks that once took weeks can now be automated in mere seconds.


What’s more, guardrail rules greatly reduce the likelihood that the machine will generate email variations you won’t approve. At the same time, rule-setting enables you to take a strategic step back from manually designing every single email—which means you can devote more energy to keeping your campaign aligned with your brand’s voice.

Use automated email templates to personalize within your brand’s look and feel.

The degree of control you hand over to your personalization software is entirely up to you. For example, you might design a template that consists of a single content block—and let the software decide which of your pre-approved creatives to slot into that block for each customer. Even this limited degree of personalization has been shown to deliver a consistent lift in open rates.

As you gain confidence in your new personalization approach, you’ll grow more comfortable letting your machine-learning solution populate more and more sections of each template with uniquely personalized content. Once you dial in your own ideal balance between handmade content and intelligent personalization, you’ll begin to zero in on that optimally engaging email for every subscriber, with every send.

This is exactly where automated email templates deliver their value. When you set your guardrail rules, you can allow the machine to dynamically personalize content within specific zones of each email, while specifying that the content in other zones of the email should remain unchanged. You’re always in control—plus you’re free to tweak these settings as more data comes in.

By starting with a library of pre-vetted content and setting clear business rules, you’ll equip your machine-learning solution to generate a limitless supply of personalized emails that reflect your brand’s voice with crystal clarity. Instead of wasting time on the repetitive “grunt work” of manual personalization, you’ll be free to focus on your high-level strategy, while your software delivers highly tailored email content that speaks directly to each customer, building lasting love for your brand.


Coherent Path provides predictive analytics software designed to surface products and categories that meet consumers’ evolving needs over time.