If you want to take your email marketing to the next level, you should implement segmentation if you're not already doing so. Like any tactic designed to increase success, segmentation requires additional budget and staffing resources. Yet if you take a closer look at your list management, it begs to ask: am I getting the most bang for the buck from segmentation?
Email segmentation basics
Let's take the example of a sporting goods retailer. He normally sends a general catalog newsletter to his email list promoting his store and products. However, a special on tennis equipment will be most cost-effective if he sends it to subscribers interested in tennis.
How does he determine which subscribers are interested in tennis and which are interested in, say, basketball? He can look at previous opens, which "hot spots" were clicked on — both in emails and on the website. He can look at past purchases. An even easier way to capture this information is to ask up front. After a person subscribes to his email list, he can request additional information (optional, even) via an email preference center. Questions he might want to include (in addition to email frequency) are:
- What sports are you interested in? Click all that apply. (then have a list with a check box next to each sport, including "other" with a text box to enter details)
- What's your gender?
- What's your birthday?
- Are you a coach?
- Do you prefer to shop online, in-store or enjoy both?
Slice and dice your data
Segmentation is just that — dividing your entire email list into various segments based on the profile information, behavior or characteristics of your subscribers.
People can be in several segments at once (like tennis and basketball). Information on the recipients can also be combined, allowing you to send even more targeted communication. If the email offer was for tennis clothes, you might also want to segment the offer by gender so the men won’t end up with an offer for discounted tennis skirts.
Definitely go dynamic
What's the best way to produce different, more targeted versions of an email? If the versions are going to be totally different, you're adding production work for each extra segment you target. Another option is to develop a dynamic email, which is more efficient because you change only certain parts of the email. This allows you to use one template and show different offers via dynamic content blocks.
The three Kiehl's emails below demonstrate the targeting power of dynamic content. The emails were segmented according to product type, based on customer preferences: skin care, anti-aging, and men's. The subject lines changed accordingly:
- 20% Off Skin Care
- 20% Off Powerful Anti-Aging
- 20% Off Men's Essentials
Note that in the men's version, the gender of the staffers changed as well:
Segmentation isn't perfect — That's why you need to test
There is an art to smart email segmentation, but still, segmentation itself doesn't always produce the expected results from the get-go. If you send more targeted messages, you could miss sales opportunities with a too narrow focus. You might be quick to conclude that your data (e.g. preferences) are lacking in quality. Before you commit to an entirely different email stream for each segment, first test if it is worth the extra effort.
Don't give up on segmentation so easily. It might just be that your communication to a specific segment didn’t work. Test new creative and messaging to the same segment. Or perhaps your segmentation was flawed. Try dividing the list in a different way and resending the email at a later date.