There has been a great deal of recent chatter about Contextual Marketing, but why does context really matter when it comes to email marketing? Traditionally, marketers segment according to past activity -- key customer attributes such as purchase behavior, home address, or demographics. Contextual Marketing helps to complete that picture by taking into account when, where, and how the recipient is actually opening the email. Understanding both past activity and current context makes for a very actionable consumer profile.

There’s a good reason why this kind of contextual marketing isn’t being widely deployed - it’s been notoriously difficult to integrate data from every system and ensure that the campaign combines historical information with personalized, real-time information. But what if you could pull dynamic web content into an email? What if you could personalize the images of every campaign for individual subscribers or showcase offers based on real-time weather or location?

The great news is that many marketers today are easily creating contextually aware emails. Here are just a few techniques they’re using:

Create a unique mobile experience

In the third quarter of 2014, nearly 66% of emails were opened on smartphones or tablets. By targeting content to the actual device being used to open an email, marketers can display a unique mobile call-to-action or even swap out the entire message to be more mobile-friendly.

Best Western International wanted to increase downloads of its mobile app in order to drive more revenue and increase subscriber engagement. By deploying device targeting and deep linking in welcome and reservation emails, app downloads grew by 143%.

BestWesternEmail

Target content based on your recipient’s location or even local weather at open

Given the rise in mobile opens, many recipients may be on the go when they open an email. Showcasing the closest store locations to an individual when they open a message can drive in-store sales. Combining that with weather-specific inventory or messaging can further enhance your recipient’s experience.

For example, financial services company Excentus personalized emails for each recipient’s location, showing members nearby stores in their area where they could earn rewards. The results? Click-through rates grew by 24% and high value traffic to the website grew by 21%. FuelRewardsNetwork

Ensure that openers don’t see expired content

Don’t waste email opens with content that is out of date. With the ability to change a message at the moment of open, marketers can swap out expired offers or out-of-stock inventory to other relevant content.

TeeOff.com integrates tee time data to show subscribers available tee times nearby, or at their preferred location in the upcoming days. The email updated with available inventory in real time from over 500,000 available times so it was always relevant, keeping golfers just one click away from booking their next round.

tee-off

Automatically optimize content using real-time analytics

Live content enables marketers to easily optimize email creative at the moment of open and automatically select a winner during the course of a campaign. You send only one version of your campaign to the entire audience, and each of your creative variations is served at random. A winning creative is automatically selected during the course of the campaign based on a factor of statistical confidence, and you can be sure that the campaign captures the highest engagement possible.

Context is the next frontier for digital marketing, and email marketers need to build contextually aware experiences for their recipients today. Check out our eBook, Email Personalization 2.0, for additional ideas on how to start personalizing email campaigns with real-time data.

For more information on how to easily craft context-aware experiences in the inbox, watch "Driving Personalization With Context-Aware Marketing," a recent webinar hosted by Bronto and Movable Ink.