Putting your contacts in the picture with personalised images

Posted on May 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm Written by

Personalised_images-200x200squarePersonalising your email marketing content is something that’s often talked about as a means to connect more effectively with your database. A generic message can become a much more personal communication once relevant information is added to your text content and/or subject line.

The most common instance of personalisation is still the very polite ‘Hi Jane’ or ‘Hi John’ kind of text content and not least because our contact’s first name is often the only piece of data that we have about them other than their email address – or because our data is patchy and we don’t want any faux pas with blank spaces.

Maybe it’s time to put a little more effort into our personalisation, and think pictures as well as pleasantries?

Using personalised images in an email campaign is something I’ve dabbled with a little bit,  but it’s been more in the realms of setting a campaign to pull in regional data & imagery, and I’ve not been able to merge the two.

I received a tweet the other day from @NiftyImages1


Intrigued, I took a look at their website using the url they provided www.NiftyImages.com/?name=Annette. As well as the personalised ‘welcome’ images, I read that with their currently free to use service you can:

“…deliver a dynamic, custom image to each subscriber or landing page visitor.”

Ok, this now has my full attention!

So I gave it a try and here’s a taster review of what the system currently consists of and a couple of ideas on how you could use NiftyImages to add some adventure to your NewZapp email marketing.

Visit www.niftyimages.com

  1. Sign up for an account – Submit your email address and create a password. I signed up for a free 30 day trial, after which there are options to sign up to a pricing plan that suits your needs, I can’t see any obligation to buy a plan.
  1. Welcome screen – Add your full name and details of your ESP (NewZapp for example) from the drop-down so that the system can help out with your particular way of adding personalised tags
  1. Settings / My Settings – Make this your next stop, as here you can set the Time Zone you are working in for accurate impression stats, and as importantly, set your ESP. At the moment I can’t find a way to show UK style date format which would be a nice tie-in once I’d selected my time zone (I know it’s not rocket science to read dates in US format, but it’s been noted that I am often easily confused!)
  1. Nifty Images button – Here’s where you create your images and where you return to re-use, and edit images as well as being able to look up impression stats. Click the “Create New NiftyImage” button and then choose between three different types of image that you can create:

Personalized NiftyImage

Countdown NiftyImage

A/B Test NiftyImage

Let’s go with the first option which will give us an image personalised with someone’s first name.


Step 1 – Select an image

Here you can either upload an image of your own, or there’s an excellent library of images already installed and free to use, which are ideal for trying out different ideas.

Your final image is going to be a combination of two things merged together:

Your original image + a text overlay

Select your image

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Select your image from the free library or upload one of your own:

Type and style your text effects

These two things merge to make a unique image, that is made and displays each time an email is opened.

Tip: I did find that some of the free pics are a little hefty in pixel size for email so if you open one and see that the screen has a horizontal scroll bar, probably best to pick another.


Step 2 – Add your text

Once selected you can start to enter the text and/or tag which you plan to use as an overlay and see how it looks. I especially love this bit as the tools available allow you to:

  • Pick a font from the dropdown of free fonts available.
  • Upload your own (.ttf) font, ideal for branded work.
  • Align, bolden, italicise and underline your text (like any other standard editor) along with picking a text colour from a dropper or by entering a hex value.
  • Do Advanced “stuff” like applying an angle, altering opacity, and applying horizontal and vertical skew to your text

*bites bottom lip with excitement*

Type and style your text effects

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Add and style text with various options:

Type and style your text effects

On a more practical level, in the free text field there’s a Place holder tag for your personalisation tag {txt} which you cannot delete (you will match it up with the tag of your choice on the next step) and there’s also a Default Value setting.  This enables you to enter the generic term you’d like the image to use in place of your personalisation tag if you have incomplete data for any of your contacts.

The Preview button give you the chance to try a variety of typical (or random super hero!) pieces of data to see how the finished result should appear.

Once you click Save, and give your image a file name, the next screen now gives you the HTML string that you’re going to need to add to your email campaign.

Tip: There are loads of quirky styles to pick from, and for once no need to worry about web friendly ones, as your font is going to be converted to an image. Many Email Marketers, I fear, they may run riot with this novelty!


Step 3 – Generate the HTML string that will source your new image

We can now see that with this example I need the HTML:
<img src=”https://img1.niftyimages.com/mw/9nd/04r?txt=[firstname]” />

 This code will call the image that I chose into my email campaign, add an overlay of the NewZapp personalisation tag [firstname] on top, then merge the two together as one flat image.


Tip: If you included a phrase as well as the personalisation tag when you were setting up the font, this doesn’t appear to get carried over, so if you wanted to add more text you will need to pop it into the string.

Image Creation

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Once you save your image the screen generates your HTML:

Type and style your text effects

e.g.  <img src=”https://img1.niftyimages.com/mw/9nd/04r?txt=We have an idea for you [firstname]” />

But with this particular image there’s not really any space for more text if I want text at this size, so we’ll stick with just [firstname] personalisation in my HTML string.


Step 4 – Use the HTML string to add your image to an email campaign

We’re now ready to head over to your ESP (I’m using NewZapp of course!) to put this image into a campaign.

  • Copy the part of the string mentioned above that sits inside the quote marks, so it’s ready to paste later. Eg. https://img1.niftyimages.com/mw/9nd/04r?txt=[firstname]
  • Create a campaign and in the place where you want your NiftyImage to sit, insert any image.
  • As I’m using NewZapp’s Drag and Drop editor, the dimensions of my image are not quoted in the HTML code, but depending on the ESP/editor you are using you may need to either use a dummy image of exactly the same size of your NiftyImage, or update the HTML code to reflect the pixel dimensions.
Selecting the HTML

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Selecting the HTML from your email’s source code:

Selecting the HTML from your email's source code

  • Right click on the image and choose the Source option, a pop-up will open to show you the HTML source code.
  • Now replace the part of the code that is referring to your dummy image with the code inside the quote marks from your NiftyImages HTML string.
    e.g. in my example I’m replacing:
    https://system5.newzapp.co.uk/servershare/17067/nz-images/Logo_100px.jpg with
Select an image

click to enlarge

My view in NewZapp after the image HTML has been added:

My view in NewZapp after the image HTML has been added

  • Click OK, and you’ll see the image you originally insert replaced with your NiftyImage. Rock and roll!


Step 5 – As if I need to mention…

Just like measuring twice to cut once, one of the golden rules of email marketing is to testing thoroughly.  Send your first test to yourself to check that the image is loading as you expected, and that it’s pulling in your own personal data as it should.

 Testing tip: If you didn’t try some different lengths of data at Step 3 with the Preview option, then it’d be a good idea at this point to try changing the data associated with your own email address to something quite long-winded if you have a short name, to see if a long name like Stephanie-Jane-Louise or Marmaduke will ruin the effect.

Maybe send a test email to colleagues as well, as its good practice to ask for some proof reading backup – not just for the thrill of hearing cries of “how did you do that?!” but to check the text content of the whole email.While waiting for feedback on your test send, and as with all personalisation, check if you have any gaps in your data, and if so will your image and message make sense? Remedies for gaps would be to either add a Default Value in your text settings (see Step 2 above) or alternatively filter out these subscribers into a separate group and send them a different campaign that will work for them.

Missing data

Tired of Tips yet? Just one more!  If you edit/update an image in your account which is already set in a live campaign, e.g an email that you have sent to your contacts, I found that caching wasn’t an issue (in Outlook at least) and my changes became live in the email that was already in my inbox. So I’d suggest that you don’t edit an image that’s already been used and always make a new copy instead… unless of course you can cunningly use it to your advantage in a countdown style (see below).


Other features

Countdown NiftyImage

Specify a couple different images that will be displayed to the recipient depending on the number of days until (or after) some target date. For example once the system knows your target date you can have an image that will display how many days of your countdown are remaining, another to display if the target date is tomorrow, one for the target day itself, and one to show if the target date has passed.I haven’t tried a countdown test but you may need to be careful of the date style as mentioned previously, as UK ESPs will use UK date format dd/mm/yyyy rather than the NiftyImages default of mm/dd/yyyy.

Countdown image
 A/B Test NiftyImage

Find out which images produce the most positive results. Upload a selection of images (two minimum), set the link destination, and select how the winning image will be determined. For example you might want the winner to be after ‘X’ number of clicks and the first image to achieve that number of clicks is the winner!

I’d suggest making life easier (and your results more accurate) by not including your own or any other internal email address so as not to confuse the issue of anyone clicking to check the link works and confusing your results


In summary

There are probably other similar applications available but this was the first that I’d seen, and I have to say (as you can probably tell!) I really enjoyed trying it out, as I love the chance it gives me to take control of visual content in a way that digital print has been able to for years.  As I’ve been collating the blog I’ve noticed updates to the interface, so if you have feedback I’d recommend sending it the codes busying working on the system.

As with all personalisation techniques, my words of caution would be:

      • Have fun but keep yourself in check so that your reputation doesn’t suffer as a result of your own enthusiasm (when I say enthusiasm, I’m talking corny and cringe worthy copy writing and/or brand breaking clip art!)
      • If you have a designer who can work with you on this, all the better
      • As with any email campaign – test, test and test again before you hit the launch button!



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