All About Email Merge Tags

Published: 02-Mar-2022
Last Updated: 11-Jan-2022
All About Email Merge Tags

In a perfect world, every email you sent would be a one-on-one communication. Unfortunately, this is not feasible for most businesses.

Most businesses need to send scalable email campaigns. The need to scale either means sacrificing elements of email personalization or hiring more staff to write customized emails. For a lot of small businesses with a few staff members or for founders who are an army of one, there's only one option, work with the team you have. Some businesses end up sending the same email templates to their mailing list.

That doesn't mean it's impossible to scale email personalization. You do not have to send mass emails with little to no personalization to your mailing list. For small teams, we recommend leaning on technology to scale. Email marketing software allows you to create personalization at scale with automation and merge tags.

What is a Merge Tag?

Merge tags (aka substitution strings, personalization tags, data tags, and dynamic tags) are pieces of code that marketers can use to merge data into mass emails. A merge tag is a piece of ESP-specific code that's tied to a specific data field like a name, company, etc. These data fields are also called merge fields. 

Merge tag names and how to enter them, differ by email tool, so familiarize yourself with the differences when switching between tools. There aren't many real shortcuts in email marketing but merge tags are an exception to the rule. 

Power of Email Merge Tags

Stack of names

Using email merge tags and personalization, in general, is dependent on collecting information from your customers. A thoughtfully designed signup process (particularly signup forms) will go a long way when creating personalized campaigns.

For example, if you want to send a special birthday offer to customers on their birthday, you need to know their birthday. So this will need to be designed into your signup process. The average person is used to entering their name, email, etc. when signing up, but they might not be thrilled about giving you this piece of information.
It should be optional for the customer to provide this additional information. Setting expectations helps convince people to enter their data. Explaining to the customer that you will use this information to send them a birthday surprise will make them much more comfortable parting with this information. 

Creative Ways to Use Email Merge Tags

The most common use of merge tags is adding a customer's first name to the beginning of an email using some variation of a [FirstName] tag. This is an easy way to provide a bit of personalization to a bulk email message. But let's discuss some other ways to personalize your emails with merge tags. 

Email Subject Line

Personalization isn't limited to the body of emails! According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, emails with personalized subject lines had 7% more open rates than those with non-personalized subject lines. You can either personalize the subject line by including their name or using one of the following techniques.

More than a Name 

Man in suit wearing a name tag

Personalize your email with information related to the service you provide. Funeral homes, technology repair stores, car dealerships, etc., can all personalize their emails by including personalization instead of a generic email.
Funeral homes can include the name of the deceased in their email.

Hi Debra,

We are very sorry for your loss. We know losing a [deceased_relationship] is devastating. We are here to help you with funeral arrangements for [deceased_name].

Thanks,
Shelby Funeral Home

The [deceased_relationship] merge field would include brother, sister, wife, husband, etc.
 
Technology repair stores can include the product brought in for repair. 

Hi Clayton, 

We are contacting you about Case #123456789. We wanted to let you know that your [productname+version] is ready for pickup. We were able to resolve [product issue].

You can pick up your [productname] anytime between 9-5 this week.

Thanks,
Tech Squad LLC. 

The [productname+version] merge field would include names and versions like iPhone 12+, MacBook Air 2021, etc. The [product issue] would pull in the initial reason for bringing the device into the store. 

One of the most powerful examples of this is when a veterinary practice includes the pet's name in client email communications. 

Hi Becky,

It's been 6 months since [pet name]s last [vaccination_due]. As you know, it's important to keep up with pet vaccinations. Staying up to date with vaccinations keeps our furry friends healthy and our furless friends safe if there is an accident.

To book an appointment, click here.

Have a great day! 
Island Animal Care

Product-Related Merge Field

Customer uses their credit card to online shop.

Purchase history can be a powerful part of a personalized email campaign. This information is especially relevant when asking for a product review or attempting to upsell.

Here are a few example messages:

Email Subject: 3 Books for Epic Tomatoes Fans
Email Body:

Hi Cam,

We saw that you ordered Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier. We noticed that other fans of books by Craig LeHoullier also love Tomatoland, Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales, and Carrots Love Tomatoes. Take 15% off your purchase of all 3 books with the coupon code CraigTomato.

We hope this helps you with your garden journey!

Sarah Brooks, Plant Books

Email Subject: Did you Like Epic Tomatoes?
Email Body:

Hi Cam,

What did you think of Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier? Was it a garden book to be referenced forever?
Let us know by leaving us a review here.

Thanks for your time,

Sarah Brooks, Plant Books

Time-Related Merge Field

Calendar with a specific date circled.

Do you offer a service that needs to be performed every so often? Ex. beauty services, automotive service, lawn maintenance, etc. Do you sell a product that needs to be routinely replenished/replaced? Ex. toiletries, produce, batteries, etc. If any of these examples sound like your business then you might want to use merge tags related to a customer's interaction with your business. 

Here are a few example messages:

Your last haircut was 6 weeks ago. Book an appointment to keep your hair looking sharp!
It's been 3 months since our last visit to clean out your garden beds, on 5/1/2021. We are offering 10% of bed cleaning for customers who book this week.
It’s been 3 months since your last razor order, on 8/18/2021. Would you like to order a fresh set of razors?

Adding time-related personalization is a great way to catch a customer's attention. You can work a time-related merge tag into the subject line for bonus points. 

Special Day Merge Field

A gift for a customer's special day.

Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc., are another great way to stick out in the inbox and build a bond with a customer. Especially if your business is related to a specific special day or holiday.

For example, a jeweler could send an email like this to a husband whose anniversary is approaching.
It could look like this!

Email Subject: 1 Month Until Your 5th Anniversary
Email Body:

Hi John,

Congrats in advance on your 5th anniversary! We would like to offer you 20% of on a 5th-anniversary gift for the lucky lady!

Congrats again,

Rings & Things Team

Another example, a Christmas tree farm could send an email reminding a family to visit again to buy a tree.
Email Subject: 12 Years of Christmas
Email Body:

Hi Stephanie,

We love a Christmas tradition! Did you know that this is your 12th year buying your Christmas tree from us? We would like to offer you 25% of your tree this year! We look forward to seeing you!

Thank you for making one of our trees the centerpiece of your family's Christmas morning!

Debbi & Craig of Christmas Time Trees

Wrap Up

Dive into your email address collection strategy! Brainstorm useful data fields to collect for your marketing efforts. Once you come up with a list of data fields, narrow it down to those that will be most useful, then come up with a plan for collecting this information. 

Marketers must be careful when adding fields to a signup form. Adding too many fields or a field that visitors are not comfortable with can affect sign-ups. Don't worry your team can quickly adapt this form to perform at the same level.

Once this is done, a new world of possibilities is opened up for your email marketing team. Educate them and unleash their creative brains!

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