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Segmentation 101: Back to the Basics

When it comes to my email, I expect more from a brand I shop with regularly. And with my inbox flooded with messages, I’ve become even stricter about what emails I’ll read and which senders get to stay. Don’t blast me with generic messages promoting products I don’t really care about. Take the time to get to know me, and tailor my messages with helpful tidbits and relevant recommendations.

Consumers aren’t going to waste their time with brands who don’t seem to get them. They’ve started keeping an eye out for those emails that come at just the right time with just the right message and respectfully unsubscribing from the rest. To secure a spot on their “good” list, segmentation is key. Collect reliable data from consumers that you can actually use, and then make the most of it.

Here are a few of the questions I’ve received on the topic and my advice for how to develop a strong segmentation strategy:

Where do I begin?

Use the information you already have. Think contact data: demographic and geographic fields, created date, status and any custom fields you’ve created, such as source of sign-up. And be sure to include any details you’ve gathered about a customer’s browse history, open and click behavior and order data. All of this information can help you generate targeted messaging to your customers that is relevant to their interests and preferences.

How do I collect the information I need to segment my list?

Step 1: Consider using a pop-up to collect critical information, such as name and email address. Step 2: Send subscribers an email as part of your welcome series in an effort to get them to provide more information via your preference center. You might also consider sending a similar campaign to your existing contacts. You could send a dedicated email and/or create a dynamic banner on your bulk emails targeting those folks with an empty data field. Just be sure to collect the proper permissions when requesting an opt-in or additional information.

How much information do I need to collect?

Only ask for what you’re going to use.  If you’re planning to send automated birthday campaigns, then include a birthdate field. If engagement or email fatigue is an issue, consider creating email frequency fields on an opt-down form to allow your subscribers to choose what they’d like to receive. Start with your top marketing priorities, and go from there.

What do I do if I have limited time for creating multiple segments?

Keep it simple, and start with one segment per month. You can make this part of your testing plan. Or you might consider shifting those responsibilities to someone else. For example, our Managed Services department can assist you with everything from segment and workflow creation to strategic planning, template and message development, copywriting and much more.

How can I incorporate segments into a bulk email campaign?

Use product data, such as SKU, name, category or description. CVS did a great job of including offers based on my recent purchase of stomach pain relievers.

You might also use geographical or IP data to send targeted material based on locale or closest store. See the dynamic content block from Ulta containing my local store information in this message. It was actually a great reminder for me to update my address with them since I’d moved.

Ulta example

What types of automated lifecycle campaigns can I send using segments?

Use browse history to set up a browse recovery campaign that hits them at the top of the buying cycle. Remember, these folks must have opted in to receive these emails. Use last purchase or order date to set up a lapsed purchase campaign and bring in extra revenue. Create a re-engagement campaign based on last open date to try and reconnect with less active subscribers. Customize your post-purchase series based on number of purchases made. For example, you’d want to offer a different experience for first-time buyers than you offer to return customers.

Which segment is a no-brainer?

A top spender or VIP segment is a great place to start. Determine what threshold you’ll use to identify this segment. High AOV, total spend, number of orders? Once you’ve created the segment, offer your top spenders early access to a promotion at a higher discount. Here are a couple of great examples from Aerosoles and Sephora.

VIP OffersRefer-a-friend campaigns also tend to be successful with this segment. They are your best customers and brand ambassadors, so the likelihood that they’ll help you acquire new contacts by offering reviews and testimonials or even just sharing their experience by word of mouth is much greater than with the average customer. Reward them for doing so to encourage their loyalty and help keep them coming back. Consider cross-marketing through your social channels, too. You can create lookalike audiences in Facebook for retargeting purposes.

With so many strategies to choose from, you can easily shape a plan that will work for your brand. Just focus on your customers, and you can’t go wrong. They’ll appreciate your personal touches and feel more valued as a customer, which should keep them opening your emails instead of tossing them in the trash.

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