Arlen Robinson [00:01]
Welcome to the E -commerce Marketing Podcast, everyone. My name is Arlen and I am your host. And today we’ve got a very special guest, Jess Cervellon who is a fractional CMO for various ecommerce brands. She became one of the go-to experts in creator brand strategy and end-to-end customer experience. Welcome to the podcast, Jess.

Jess [00:27]
Thank you so much for having me on. I’m really excited to nerd out about this subject.

Arlen Robinson [00:31]
Awesome, awesome. Yes, and I’m super excited to talk to you. It’s definitely a hot topic. We’re going to be talking about personalized email marketing, all the ins and outs of how you personalize email marketing campaigns, why you should do it, and just lessons learned. And I know you’ve learned a lot of lessons in the battlefield, so to speak, working with all of these different e -commerce brands. And so I know you have a pretty exciting job because you’re able to deal with different brands.

and see what’s working for certain industries, certain niches, and what’s not working. And so I know that really makes you that expert. And so I’m really excited to dive deep into that. But before we do get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and how you did get into what you’re doing today.

Jess [01:06]

Jess [01:17]
Yeah, so I think like the TLDR version is I actually went to art school and I think that’s really relevant because I am a very creative thinker when it comes to business and strategies and like thinking outside the box. For many years after art school, I was like in a lot of various like customer service, customer success, customer experience roles across B2B like SaaS companies as well as various industries and that.

But in most recently, in the last couple of years, I had an opportunity to work at Feastables, it’s a Mr. Beast snack company. And if anybody doesn’t know who Mr. Beast is, he’s the world’s biggest YouTube influencer star. And a lot of the things that I’ve learned in e -comm marketing in particular, come from my time spent at Feastables. And I’ve now carried that on into these other brands that I’m helping.

and I’m doing a lot of fractional CMO or CXO work depending on what the brand needs across health, wellness, and apparel.

Arlen Robinson [02:25]
Okay, awesome, awesome. Good stuff, good stuff. Thank you for sharing that. Appreciate that. And I think where I wanna kind of dive in is with what you’re currently doing now with the various e -commerce brands that you’re working with, what have you seen that works across the board as far as effective strategies for personalizing email content and that has directly impacted the engagement of the various brands that you’ve been working with?

Jess [02:55]
Yeah, I think first and foremost, like for me, at the heart of it all, I’m a customer experience gal, right? Like it’s all about customer centricity. So, and how I apply that into email marketing or SMS marketing, just marketing strategies as a whole is really understanding at what point of the customer’s journey I’m in, that I’m actually talking to them. And I think that’s like a very tactical, effective strategy that anybody can like utilize, right?

And so, you know, what I’ve seen by like, by personalizing the experience on like where they are in their journey, we’ve seen an increase in customer engagement because what you’re doing is you’re, you’re leveraging, you’re leveraging where they are in their journey, but you’re also able to like give them dynamic content that actually tailors to their overall experience. That’s, and it’s all based off of like what their preferences and behavior are in that portion. Um, I think, you know,

That’s like one piece of it. Like the first pillar, I think the other side of it too, is when we talk about personalization, it’s, you know, how are you going to jump out of somebody’s inbox? How are they going to actually open that email? Right? So it’s implementing personalized subject lines, recommendations that are based on maybe their past purchases or recommendations on like where they are again in that journey. That’s going to capture their attention and drive higher open rates. And then lastly, I love testing.

testing, A -B testing, don’t get stagnant. Test everywhere you can. Try to implement A -B testing in anywhere that you can because what that’s going to do is fine tune your approach and help you to deliver content that actually resonates with your audience.

Arlen Robinson [04:45]
Gotcha. Gotcha. Those are some great strategies and a couple of things I want to kind of hone in is what you last said about testing. Let’s say I’m an e -commerce brand and I am, you know, maybe let’s say in the startup phase or, you know, maybe a year or so into the business. I don’t have a large customer base. My email list is very small and I’m trying to do some things that are going to resonate with my audience and my prospects. Does.

I’ve heard two different things about testing, A -B testing. Does it make sense to do A -B testing if you’re dealing with a small volume of subscribers? Let’s say you’re dealing with maybe, let’s just say a couple thousand subscribers in your list. Does it still make sense?

Jess [05:27]
Yeah, I think it does still make sense because I think you can do A B testing even on like a smaller scale of just testing even subject lines, right? Like subject lines is something really simple. So like, let’s say you’re selling a T shirt, right? And you’re like, I don’t know, maybe you’re a T shirt line, right? And it’s like the newest design, right? I think there’s different ways that you can like hype that up, right? It’s like, Oh, X brand.

or I wouldn’t say X brand, like maybe it’s like, Jess, guess what? We just dropped like the newest design in your favorite t -shirt. And then like the other test to that would be maybe not even putting Jess in the subject line, right? Maybe it’s just saying open now for 10 % off the newest design. What, like, I don’t know. I know those are like two different scenarios, but my point is though, it’s like they’re varying different subject lines that are.

going to speak to the behavior of your customer. So it’s like you’re talking about personalizing one, whereas like the other one, you’re driving an incentive to open that email, right? And then that’ll help you decide whether or not, you know, is it the personalization that they care about most or is it the discount that they care about most, right? And I think that’s like so simple. It’s so easy to do. And I mean, like, sorry, I told you, you’re going to get me nerdy and out about this, but like…

Arlen Robinson [06:41]
Yeah, yeah.

Arlen Robinson [06:48]
You see what I’m saying?

Jess [06:49]
If you’re even struggling to come up with different subject lines, pop it into chat CPT, like, and then like ask chat CPT to give you five different ones and try two out of the five, you know?

Arlen Robinson [07:01]
Yeah, that’s good to hear because it just really comes to, there’s no subscriber base size that’s too small to do tests because even if it’s small, you’re still dealing with a subset of your ideal customer. Typically, you’re dealing with people that, depending of course how you got them, but most likely if they’ve opted in from…

you know, anything on your website, maybe from your social media campaigns. Obviously they had some type of interest in your brand. And so they, you know, they kind of check the box as that kind of ideal customer. They have released some type of interest. So it makes sense that testing even on a small scale, you know, will work and it’s worthwhile and worth doing. Now, as far as.

Jess [07:44]

Arlen Robinson [07:54]
data is concerned and making these personalization decisions based on what you’ve learned from customers. You know, there’s always a fine line these days when we’re talking about getting customers data and making, you know, personalized campaigns based on this. How do you do that without actually infringing on, you know, privacy concerns? Because it’s definitely a touchy subject these days.

Jess [08:20]
I mean, it’s definitely a touchy subject. And I think what’s really important is that your customer’s privacy should be paramount to any of your strategies that you’re implementing. Right. And it’s like you have to be able to respect that. I think what I have found at like feastables, as feastables specifically, specifically because, you know, you’re dealing with such a high volume of customer that also interacts with like the influencer side too. Right. So it’s like, and not only that, you’re also dealing with.

like, truthfully, you’re dealing with children, you’re dealing with kids, right? And it’s like that that’s even a higher level of privacy that you have to understand. And then, you know, even if your brand is not necessarily just selling to children, right? It’s like, I’m trying to just emphasize like the importance of like, why you have to respect your customers privacy. So the same things that I like to do is like, you know, we definitely like to survey, we have

Jess [09:20]
Geez, sorry, I’ll start over. Phone rang. So, you know, working, whether it’s like feastables, whether it’s fat milk or taste salued, like the other brands that I’m like working with, right? I think it’s really important to respect privacy and maybe even if we’re not dealing with children all the time, right? I think that the big, my approach to this is anonymizing a lot of things, aggregating data that I can create.

Arlen Robinson [09:21]
it. No problem.

Jess [09:50]
a generalized customer segment is important. So it’s like, you’re not diving super deep into like the demographics. Like you don’t like there, there’s just a lot of different laws, right? So it’s like, you don’t want to find out, like you don’t want to like accidentally survey a child and like ask for, you know, their email address, right? Or, or there is some demographics, right? So it’s like, you have to be very generalized in like the information that you’re, you’re acquiring. And then, and then how do I like,

myself from those things, right, is I’m constantly analyzing segments. I’m constantly analyzing my segments to like really get down to like the nitty gritty is like, is something like fake data is something like to something that really resonate in this segment. And then that helps me to continue crafting personalized emails without compromising individual privacy as much as you can. Like you’re only as good as the amount of the data that you’re getting, right? But like I think that by anonymizing it,

and aggregating and constantly like kind of going through like these the sweeping right and cleaning up things that’s gonna help you protect yourself and then continue down the path of being able to craft personalization I think also it just like all depends on like how many resources you have and like what you can do but I also think implementing a robust data encryption ensuring compliance with data protection regulations is like really important.

I mean, this subject, like I know I’m nerding out about it, but like you have to be so careful. So you constantly have to be like looking through things, sweeping through things, keeping yourself abreast to like what the regulations are on like coming out on the market. Like they change every single day, but you like, no matter if you’re a tiny brand, a big brand, you should be holding yourself to the highest standards when it comes to privacy.

Arlen Robinson [11:43]
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I’m glad you mentioned that, especially about if you have a brand and you have products that, you know, can be marketed to children, it’s touchy there. You have to be very careful. I hadn’t really thought about that, but you’re totally right. As far as like what you’re, what you’re capturing, their email address is, and you know, phone numbers, text messaging, all of that. It’s, you got to be very careful. And so, yeah.

Jess [12:08]
Yeah, yeah. And I think you can still have fun. Like I definitely think you can still have fun, but I think that’s my last point of it though, is that you need to, you need to stay abreast to like, what is the regulations on the market? So like for instance, right? I know we’re talking a lot about email, but even SMS, SMS has the most stringent compliance, right? Like not even just like data privacy. It also has compliance and like when you’re sending things, right?

Arlen Robinson [12:30]
Yeah, it does.

Jess [12:37]
And I’ve actually seen this like a brand that I was doing consulting for. They, it was, it was really interesting. Like, you know, I came on and they were like, Oh, can you like come and look at our SMS marketing? And they sent, um, and a text message and it was like after 8pm, right? It was like after 8pm. And, um, I forget, I forget like the specifics of like the compliance, right? But like after, I believe it’s either after eight or nine.

there’s quiet hours in SMS compliance, right? So then they were like, well, why didn’t this send? And I’m like, well, your phone number, even though you live in California and you’re like on the West Coast, your phone number is actually an East Coast number. So that’s why you’re not getting it, right? So to get exact, I know we’re like going a little deeper than just privacy, but this is my exact point though, right? Ensuring you’re constantly.

Arlen Robinson [13:07]

Arlen Robinson [13:17]

Arlen Robinson [13:21]

Arlen Robinson [13:28]
Mm -hmm.

Jess [13:30]
up to speed on what compliance looks like in whatever channel you’re in, and whether that’s data protection, whether that’s these SMS compliance, right? Making sure you have the right language on your website or on your pop -ups is so important. And it’s an integral part of email and SMS marketing.

Arlen Robinson [13:52]
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, I’m a little bit familiar with SMS as well. And we kind of look on our end here at OSI affiliate software, we kind of looked into doing some things and then we saw all of the regulations. I was like, whoa, yeah, there’s a lot of things you have to be compliant with as far as doing that. Like you said, the time of sending, you know, you have those quiet hours and then you’ve got to be sure people are able to easily opt out. So yeah, you got to be, you got to be careful.

Now, going back to email and personalization, when a brand gets these things going, let’s say they’ve got a fairly effective personalization campaign going. And how do you measure, like what are some key metrics that you use to measure the success? Of course, there’s a conversion rate, you know, click through rates and conversions and things like that. But are there any other metrics that you typically use to say, okay,

This was a good campaign. We need to keep doing it or we need to double down on it. What have you seen?

Jess [14:55]
Yeah. Yeah. So definitely CTR, click through rates and conversion rates. Like, I mean, listen, I care about those things, right? But I also really care about like what my open rates are. I also look at like my spam complaint levels too, right? Um, like I, and you know, for better or worse, I’m a design junkie. Like I love a good design email and sometimes like text -based emails are the only ones that get through, but like, like understanding my spam compliance rates.

is going to help me walk that fine line between should I do this text or should I do this a design email? You know what I mean, like overall, right? So those are the things that I care about from a very, I can measure that, I can get a metric based off of that. But then the other side of it too is I really wanna measure engagement levels, right? I really wanna measure engagement levels. And you would actually be really surprised the amount of people, once you start personalizing your emails,

Arlen Robinson [15:40]

Jess [15:54]
the amount of people that actually respond back to them. Or, you know, if I’m like, maybe I’m not just always sending like a upsell email or like a campaign email about like a new drop. Maybe I’m actually sending an email about like, Hey, how are you? Or, and I know it’s like, I’m simplifying it, but like a simple email of like actually trying to talk to my audience. So I actually want to know like, how many people are responding to that? How many people are, how many people are,

you know, actually engaging in it. And I don’t think there’s like a way that you can put a specific metric on that. But I think that it’s very interesting to look at. And I know, again, we’re talking about email, but also that applies to SMS as well. I also think that it’s not just about, it’s not just about like the amount of money that you’re getting. I think it’s also like plays a part into customer retention and loyalty building.

Arlen Robinson [16:50]
Yeah, yeah, for sure. And I like what you said about, you know, those campaigns that you’re not pushing information, you’re not trying to sell, but you’re, you know, you’re just trying to see how somebody is, you know, or you’re just, and I’ve been on these lists where I’ve gotten these campaigns emailed to me and.

Jess [17:07]
Mm -hmm.

Arlen Robinson [17:13]
as a brand, you do have to be conscious of what’s going on in the world because yeah, you know, you know, a lot of times if let’s say there’s like a major event or a disaster going on, yeah, you know, you do have to be thoughtful as a brand and not just always try to push your products at certain times where, you know, we know like right now, you know, supposedly there’s maybe a recession, there may not be recession, but the bottom line is there’s a lot of people struggling. Inflation is super high.

Jess [17:31]

Arlen Robinson [17:41]
And there’s a lot of people just trying to make ends meet. And so I think even in times like this, you do have to be, you know, kind of cognizant of that and be respectful of what it is that you’re pushing is, you know, given the climate, financial climate that people are in, unfortunately, and I’ve had this conversation before, fortunately, some of the big, big, big brands, it almost, you know, and I’ve seen this in emails where, you know, where they’re, I’ve gotten these emails where,

Jess [17:42]

Arlen Robinson [18:11]
saying, you know, they’re raising their costs and there’s like, there’s no justification, they’re raising their fees and some of the major brands do this. And, you know, I understand, you know, as a business, you’ve got to make profits, you got to, you know, especially if you’re a public company, I know, of course, these companies have pressure from their board and all of their investors, they got to meet certain goals. And I get that. But I think at the end of the day, you still have to be respectful of.

Jess [18:15]
Mm -hmm.

Mm -hmm.

Jess [18:30]

Arlen Robinson [18:39]
of the financial climate. And there’s certain ways, I think, to do it, especially if you’re talking about increase in fees and things like that and announcing that via email. So.

Jess [18:44]

Jess [18:49]
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like it can go like super, we could go super deep in it because I think that it, I think you’re absolutely right. Like at the end of the day, like we live in a consumerism world, you know what I mean? And so whether there’s inflation or not, like people are still going to buy things, right? But they’re going to be more methodical and thoughtful about like the things that they’re buying. So, you know, I don’t go out and like spend like just to go get like a t -shirt.

Arlen Robinson [19:10]

Jess [19:15]
just because I want a t -shirt anymore. Do I actually need, I keep using apparel as my example. Maybe let’s back over there. Let’s not back over there. Let’s say I wanna go buy protein powder, for instance, right? That’s kind of a luxury. To be honest with you, protein powders for workouts is kind of a luxury. And I’m thinking of brands like Ghost, and the reason I say that is because I actually have this in front of me right now. But, right?

Arlen Robinson [19:27]
Mm -hmm.

Jess [19:42]
I’m thinking through, okay, what is the reason why I specifically want to buy that product? What is the reason I specifically want to buy that product? I have multiple different choices in front of me, but why do I want to spend the extra money to buy Ghost as a product rather than buying the cheap knockoff? Then I think that’s like… This is why…

Arlen Robinson [19:59]
Yeah. Yep.

Jess [20:07]
engagement is also so important to not only just like send emails that are always like slaying in the stuff. It’s also about educating your customer too. So I purchased Ghost because I’m so educated by that product that I’m going to be more inclined to go and purchase Ghost protein powder than I would be the cheaper version, right? Because I’m more bought into the story of Ghost, of the products that they produce. So like that’s, so my point is, is that like it’s about loyalty building.

but it’s also about educating your customer to make the right choice for your brand. That’s my point.

Arlen Robinson [20:42]
Yeah, exactly. I get that. Now, as a fractional CMO, you’ve of course dealt with a lot of different brands, a of companies, and I’m sure you’ve kind of seen it all. What works, what doesn’t work. Can you discuss some of the challenges that you’ve seen when you’ve been trying to implement personalized email marketing and what are some things that you’ve done to overcome these challenges?

Jess [20:56]
Mm -hmm.

Jess [21:03]
Yeah, I think the biggest one is that every brand is different. Everybody is different, right? Especially in like the fractional space, like I’m dealing with like health, wellness, I’m dealing with CPG, apparel, like each of those audiences are completely different. So I think that what’s really important is spending the time to get to know your customer’s personas and don’t always assume that it’s the same.

So that’s like one, that’s like one challenge for sure. It’s like, okay, and it’s very cut dry, right? Like understand the audience, understand their needs and wants. But then I think second thing though, and this is actually something that we kind of already talked about, but I think it’s very relevant in this conversation, but like at feastables, for instance, like doing personal campaigns and knowing that this audience is children, like is a lot of children and you have data privacy things.

is like, is, I wouldn’t say an issue, but like you have to like skatify in line, right? So, and again, I know this goes back to like the question that we’ve already asked before, but I cannot emphasize it enough. Like when you’re talking about personalizing email marketing, it’s understanding your persona to a T and it’s constantly doing sweeps of data and like redefining your segmentation, like constantly redefining your segmentation, constantly understanding like,

what those audiences are that you’re actually talking to so that like it actually hits. Cause you can get to a point too, where you, you over personalize even. And so like, so I think it’s even establishing, you know, a balance of like segmenting your customers more effectively by like understanding who they are, where they are in that journey. And if you’re even segmenting to the right audience, because you could be dealing with children.

Arlen Robinson [22:56]
Yeah, yeah, I got it. Yeah, that’s interesting. Oh, I’ve never thought of it that way as far as a mistake that you could make as far as over personalizing. You don’t really think that, okay, you can, an email campaign can be too personalized, but yeah, it makes sense. I mean, I think if something is over personalized, it can have almost the same effect of an email not being personalized at all. Cause I think in that case it would come off as almost being too.

too kind of fake. You know, if you’re pulling in too much information about the customer, it’s just like, all right, you know, it could seem like you’re going a little bit overboard with it. So yeah, I get it.

Jess [23:25]

Jess [23:30]

Yeah, it’s a fine line. It’s like, I want to know you. I want to call you by your first name. I want to know your journey, right? But like, it’s really like a psychology that you have to get into.

Arlen Robinson [23:46]
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Now with the brands that you’ve been working with, and you’re of course in the space, what are some of the emerging trends that you foresee in personalization? As we all know, technology is advancing at a pace like no other. And so what are some things that you’ve seen and what are some things that you’re doing to prepare for these types of changes?

Jess [24:07]

Jess [24:16]
Yeah, I think the biggest thing that we’re seeing, and this is like a trend that’s been happening since like last year, right, is a lot of AI. It’s a lot of like the hyper personalization using AI, right? Like there’s so many tools out there to help with analytics and reporting and all these things, and your segmenting and even in your copywriting. So I think it’s like to prepare like on just on the AI piece, it’s understanding AI and understand in like…

Getting to a fine balance of it too because it’s like you don’t want to over AI yourself and like dehumanize your experience, right? So I think that I mean that’s one big call out and then I think the other thing that we’re seeing so much more of is interactive content And what I mean by that is I’m seeing it’s not just like oh I put a gif in this or oh I made this like this really dope like image like it’s actually in like

using tools like Spellbound to make your, what Spellbound does is it’s this tool that helps kind of like bring your emails to life and it gives you the ability of like in an email itself, like let’s say if you want to survey a customer, right? You can like have them take the survey directly in the email without them actually leaving that channel. And I think that that’s really interesting. And I think we’re going to see more and more of like the trend of keeping a person in a specific channel.

rather than clicking a button and then going somewhere else. And personally, I would like to see more doubling down on that because I come again from the customer experience space. I care about the user’s experience and I want to make that experience as frictionless as possible. Because think about it, if I click out of an email to go to a website, the chances of losing you are so much more likely.

Arlen Robinson [25:44]
Mm -hmm.

Arlen Robinson [26:06]
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Jess [26:09]
And then lastly, I think there’s just like more of an increased emphasis on user generated content, UGC. I think that social proof is so important for like you selling your brand, personalizing your brand, is like showing real people actually utilizing it.

Arlen Robinson [26:24]
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, I see it also on my end with these advancements in email and email technology with allowing people to do so much more in email without having to go to their site. You know, these days, there’s so much that you can embed into it from being able to click to purchase, to do certain things, survey people within emails, all of that. Yeah. And it all comes down to making an ideal customer experience. And

Jess [26:45]
Mm hmm. Yeah.

Arlen Robinson [26:52]
frictionless experience. And so yeah, it’s the we’re just going to start seeing a lot more of that. Well, just as we get ready to wrap things up, I wanted to see if you could share your top three pieces of advice, effectively engage with your audience. People can effectively engage with our audience using personalized emails.

Jess [27:11]
Yeah, one first pillar, understand your audience. One, like 100 % like understand their preferences, their behaviors, their needs, where are they in the journey? Two, you can start small, you can test, you can make iterations of things. Like you don’t always have to be like, this is the end all be all like A, B test things, right? Like figure out what works with your audience, analyze that performance and then make business decisions based off of that. Like it’s okay.

Just start small, test, and iterate. And then third, just kind of like the theme of it all, prioritize data privacy and consent straight up because that’s what’s gonna help you have like very clean lists and not get you into any trouble.

Arlen Robinson [27:51]
Mm hmm. Yeah.

Arlen Robinson [27:58]
Awesome, awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Those are some awesome tips. And I think it’s definitely gonna go a long way for our listeners and our viewers. We definitely appreciate having you on. And lastly, before we do let you go, I always like to close things out so our audience can get to know you a little bit better. If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact about yourself that you think we’d be interested to know.

Jess [28:18]
My fun facts are I ride motorcycles and I have about a 95 % of my body is tattooed. Which are not any, yeah, which is like nothing to do with email marketing, but I think it’s an interesting thing to share.

Arlen Robinson [28:28]
Okay, wow, 95%.

Arlen Robinson [28:38]
Gotcha. Those are some great fun facts. Definitely ride motorcycles and 95 % of your body is tattooed. Okay. That’s good stuff. I think that’s going on one of the top lists of my all time fun facts. So thank you for sharing that. I appreciate that. Just lastly, before we let you go, if you don’t mind sharing the best way for our audience to get ahold of you, if they want to pick your brain anymore about personalized email marketing.

Jess [28:40]

Jess [29:06]
Yeah, definitely. You can reach out to me. I’m really active these days on LinkedIn. So just JessServion. And we’ll put it in the show notes, how to spell my last name. I treat LinkedIn like it’s my Twitter space now. And also you can reach my website at JessServion .com.

Arlen Robinson [29:25]
Okay, awesome. Well, we’ll definitely have that link in the show notes as well as your social handles. So it’s been awesome talking to you, Jess. We really appreciate having you on the e -commerce marketing podcast. Thank you.

Jess [29:37]
Thank you so much.

Podcast Guest Info

Jess Cervellon
Fractional CMO for eCommerce Brands