As digital marketers, we all know personalization is the name of the game. It leads to higher engagement and conversion rates, which is why email continues to be one of the top revenue drivers for ecommerce companies. So let’s take a closer look at one of the best-performing personalized email marketing campaigns: the birthday email. In my experience, engagement and conversion rates for automated birthday campaigns rival those of the tried-and-true welcome series and cart abandonment programs. Here are my recommendations for setting up a stellar birthday campaign to make your subscribers feel special and encourage them to treat themselves for their big day.

Step 1: Collect the Data

In order to run an automated birthday campaign, you must have a way to collect and store your subscriber’s birthday info. If you’ve already included this at all of your data collection touchpoints, such as your manage preferences webform, point of sale, online shopping cart or iPad terminal, then you are one step ahead. Proceed to Step 2. If you aren’t yet collecting this information, your first step is to figure out how you want to store subscriber birthdays in your account. You will obviously want to be able to export it to your email service provider (ESP) so you can trigger the birthday message at the right time. You might use date-based calendars to collect this info, or you can simply use a text, drop-down or radio button field to collect it. Some businesses like to exercise caution and are hesitant to ask for a full date of birth. If you are one of these marketers, you might just ask for the birth month. Figure out what works best for you, and get started!

Step 2: Send an Invitation to Your Customers

If you simply add this new field to your manage preferences form, you will begin to see subscribers add that information as they edit their preferences, but this is a rather slow method for building up your subscribers’ profiles. Instead, you could ask your customers to sign up for your Birthday Club. When you do this, it’s best to offer customers an incentive. If you are comfortable explicitly telling them what they will receive as a member of the Birthday Club, then by all means let the cat out of the bag! If you want to keep it under wraps, it’s perfectly acceptable to let them know they’ll receive a surprise gift on their birthday. Nearly everyone likes surprises, and if you can nail the call to action, this type of message should perform very well for you. Here are a few key touchpoints where you can invite customers to join your Birthday Club:
  1. Your manage preferences form that probably sits in the footer of your email campaigns.
  2. Point of sale (registers, iPad terminal, checkout for your online store).
  3. An automated email campaign.

Step 3: Supercharge Your Birthday Club List Growth

Enrolling customers in your Birthday Club via a manage preferences form or at point of sale involves a one-to-one interaction, but with the power of email marketing, you can actively reach out all at once to subscribers who haven’t provided their birthday. To take this approach, create a segment for that group and send them an email explaining how your Birthday Club works with an invitation to sign up. Your first email should result in rapid growth in your Birthday Club list. To fully take advantage of this campaign, send a remail to anyone who didn’t open the first message and then set it to run periodically to catch those subscribers who didn’t join your list this time around. Once a year is reasonable, but you can also schedule it for a more frequent cadence.

Step 4: Let’s Get this Birthday Email Party Started!

Congratulations! You are now ready to launch your birthday campaign. This is where the magic of personalization + email automation really shines. Create a segment of people who have given you their birthday or birth month. With that information, you can set up your automated triggers. There are a few different approaches to how to trigger these emails. Here’s a quick overview of how I’ve seen clients target their subscribers:
  1. Two weeks before their birthday.
  2. One week before their birthday.
  3. On their birthday.
  4. On the first of the month (if you only collect birth month).
You can also incorporate a remail to remind customers who didn’t open to take advantage of the birthday offer. Most marketers typically send this reminder 5-7 days after the subscriber’s birthday. If you only collect the birth month, consider sending it on the last day of the month. Use playful language in the remail if it fits your branding guidelines, such as “Make sure you get what you really wanted for their birthday.” Be sure to set this automated campaign to run indefinitely so subscribers receive the promotion every year. Just put a reminder on your calendar to review your birthday email at least once a year in case you need to freshen it up or change your offer. By automating your birthday collection and promo emails, you can quickly develop a great automated campaign that not only performs very strongly in terms of opens, engagement and conversion, but also serves as a great customer service touchpoint that creates goodwill with your customers. That’s the power of personalized, automated marketing!