Social media is great for building brand awareness and connecting with your audience. But sales and return on investment (ROI) aren't social's strong suit.

If you want the biggest bang for your buck, email marketing remains the way to go. Email has a median ROI of 122 percent, according to a 2016 eMarketer survey. That is four times higher than the average return on the four other marketing outlets (social media, direct mail, paid search and online display).

While a 122 percent return sounds solid, what if you could raise that ROI to 300 percent?

That's what happens when you utilize personalization, found 2016 Monetate data. Plus, once in place, the research shows profitability continues to increase.

Personalized emails improve ROI because the emails stand out in readers' inbox — and frankly, people like the content more. 60 percent of those in North America said they would respond favorably to an email with content personalized to their interests.

Data backs this up, too. After implementing personalization, marketers had their emails opened 15 to 20 percent more and saw click-through rates (CTR) increase 5 to 10 percent, according to 2015 VentureBeat research.

Read on to learn more about the power of email personalization and how your business can take hold of the trend.

What personalized emails actually entail

Adding your reader's first name to an email is a good place to start, but there is so much more you can do. Personalized emails should also be…

  • Sent at the right time. If you want your email to result in purchases, send it shortly after 5 p.m. That's when nearly half of people are most inclined to buy, found 2017 Dynamic Yield research.
  • Triggered by user behavior. Abandoned purchase? Haven't visited your site in several days? Emails sent that react to specific actions like these perform exceptionally well. In fact, emails like this have a 152 percent higher CTR compared to traditional emails, according to 2015 Epsilon data.
  • Filled with targeted products. If your website or store has hundreds or thousands of SKUs, there's just no way shoppers can see it all. So, show them what they're missing, and deliver a curated shopping guide. 25 percent of people want retailers to make it easier for them to discover new products, reported 2017 Dynamic Yield research.
  • Signed by a real human. Try sending out a few messages from a real person at your business. Have them write it just like it's going to a friend, which means keeping it conversational and making it feel real. Then, include a signature and a headshot. While easy to do, this likely will only boost open rates and CTR a bit, according to Hubspot tests.

An automated way to personalize emails is no small feat. It can mean investing quite a bit of cash. Plus, then you have to maintain that system and develop relevant content that mirrors each buyer's journey.

But in the long run, this investment will pay off. Make the marketing channel that already delivers the most sales work even harder for your business.