In collaboration with three companies selling a diverse set of products, we conduct randomized field experiments in which experimentally tailored email messages are sent to millions of individuals. We find consistently that personalizing the emails, while adding no informative content about the product or the company, benefits the advertisers. In our main experiment, we find that adding the name of the message recipient to the email’s subject-line increases the probability of the recipient opening it by 20%, which translates to an increase in sales leads by 31% and a reduction in the number of individuals unsubscribing from the email campaign by 17%. We present similar experiments conducted with other companies, which show that the effects we document extend from objectives ranging from acquiring new customers to retaining customers who have purchased from the company in the past. The effects also extend to other content of similar nature. Our investigation of several possible mechanisms suggests that such content increases the attention consumers pay to the other content in the rest of the advertising message.
Our paper quantifies the benefits from personalization, and contributes to understanding the role of advertising content. It contributes to the psychology-based research in marketing by establishing the robustness of lab findings in field settings. It has clear implications for the firms that are designing their advertising campaigns.
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