Updated: Feb 19, 2022
Consider Dolly Parton among the rarest celebrities: She appeals to both sides of the political spectrum. According to market research company YouGov, 65% of U.S. men and 75% of U.S. women have a positive opinion of her. There’s little else American consumers agree on like this nowadays — except perhaps email. Research shows nine out of 10 U.S. consumers used email service in 2019.
This means any brand can theoretically use email marketing to reach a majority of the U.S. population. But just as the spray-and-pray tactic is now outdated in digital marketing, so is sending the same message to your entire subscriber list in email marketing. Think about it: What do you do with the generic brand messages in your inbox? Delete.
A better strategy for 2020 and beyond? Email segmentation. Research shows this email marketing tactic — which divvies up subscribers based on commonalities to ensure the messages they receive are as relevant as possible — increases open rates by nearly 40%. Email segmentation is also shown to reduce unsubscribe rates by nearly 30%, generating greater revenue and sales leads by 24%.
Whether your brand is B2B or B2C, check out these six email segmentation strategies to help connect with your unique subscriber base:
Demographics and Interests
An easy place to start with email segmentation is demographics. When your customers sign up for emails, you can ask them to share additional information about themselves using a quiz after the checkout process or by sending them a survey with the welcome email. This information could be details such as age, gender, or job title. You can then use this information to segment your email recipients and send more relevant messages to each audience.
However, asking for too much information can backfire and scare those customers off before they receive a single email. Instead, request only a handful of the most pertinent details. If you’re a B2B brand, for example, job title and industry would be most useful for marketing communications. Alternatively, if you’re a DTC clothing brand, gender or age would be handy. You can supplement this information later on with surveys that dive deeper into customer preferences, such as how often they want to receive emails and what kind of content they prefer.
Another solid tactic is to provide an email subscription center where customers can opt into the messages they want to receive. This is an opportunity for brands to showcase their newsletter offerings — and it gives consumers more autonomy over what comes into their inboxes.
Where your customers are located is another way to slice up your email lists and deliver more targeted messages. That can be as simple as scheduling delivery times based on time zones or as nuanced as offering promotions for the specific location where a recipient shops or notifications about a limited-time pop-up in their area. Based on this segmentation, you could also personalise an email campaign by referencing the country or the city of their residence, translating or localising the email, and using their currency. This tactic can prove valuable for seasonal campaigns too as there are holiday differences among states or countries.
With this information, you can also go beyond the brand-customer relationship and connect with email subscribers via a universal topic, such as the weather in a particular area or an upcoming event.
You can use insights into how subscribers currently interact with your emails to cater future messages. The best way to do this is by viewing your open and click-through rates and then segmenting your audience into active and inactive subscribers. Then, you can strategize the best way to win over the latter with a targeted reengagement campaign — or simply cut your losses and focus on the recipients who are reading your messages and finding more customers like them.
If you’re a brand that sells big-ticket items with long sales cycles — say, mattresses — you can use intel into active and inactive subscribers to determine who is in-market and who is not. After all, a customer who just bought a mattress is unlikely to buy another one soon. Instead of peppering that customer with messages for irrelevant offers, pump the brakes for a bit while focusing on shoppers with more of a genuine need for your products.
On a similar note, brands with products or services bought on a regular cadence can conduct email segmentation via purchase frequency. The most obvious example is renewal reminders and/or discount offers to encourage new orders. But even big-ticket brands, such as a furniture company, can use data about previous purchases to target email subscribers with offers for related products.
You can also use purchase frequency as a barometer of customer enthusiasm — if a customer buys your products often, you can target that recipient with messages specifically for loyal shoppers to cement that relationship even further.
Customer spend is another way to harness email marketing segmentation. Sometimes, this can provide even more insight into consumer demographics. For example, an email recipient who consistently makes high-value purchases should receive different emails than a recipient who regularly waits for sales promotions. By tapping into insights like this, you can send the most appropriate products or offers to each audience, which will only enhance their shopping experience.
You can also segment your email list based on subscribers who have purchased from you and those who have not. It’s a great opportunity to cater your brand messaging to two very different audiences. While you can encourage the former to peruse related products or reorder a product that has likely run out, your focus with the latter audience should be more on establishing trust and building a relationship.
Customer Journey Phase
Email segmentation can also be achieved based on where a customer is in the buyer journey. A prospective customer who has only recently checked out your website and signed up for emails should be approached in a more general, welcoming manner.
However, a longtime email recipient may have opened previous messages or clicked on certain products — indicating they may once again be in the consideration phase. This will give you clear signals about what they’re interested in and how you should personalise your messaging to each audience.
In addition, one telltale sign a customer is nearing the end of the funnel is if they put a product in their cart. Even if they don’t finalise the purchase then and there, you can follow up with those specific email recipients about their abandoned carts to encourage conversions.
Segmenting to Convert
While data-driven marketing can get pretty complicated, the good news about email marketing segmentation is you don’t necessarily need expensive in-house experts or add-on software to pull it off. Instead, all you need is to build your email list and have a good understanding of who your email subscribers are and what they want. A little creativity doesn’t hurt either.
It’s a privilege when consumers invite you into their inboxes but remember: They can easily unsubscribe or mark your brand as spam at any time. If, however, you show consumers you’re worthy of the honour with personalised content that speaks to their genuine needs, you, too, can increase open rates, revenue, and sales leads with email segmentation.