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Using List Segmentation to Increase Engagement

KIM STIGLITZ - FEB 29, 2016

You’ve probably heard that the days of email blasts and spray and pray methods no longer work for an audience who wants and expects more from the companies they do business with.

In place of the mass emails of days gone by, subscribers want highly relevant messages that fit their unique interests and pain points. This sentiment was echoed in a Janrain study, which showed that 74% of online customers are frustrated when they receive content that has nothing to do with their interests.

The good news is that personalization in email marketing is proven to increase click-throughs. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

In this post, we’ll discuss how you can properly segment your email lists to send highly relevant, personalized email marketing messages that can increase engagement from your subscribers.

Types of segments & how to use them

There are many different segments you can create to provide more relevant, personalized information to your email subscribers, and each can accomplish different goals.

Why does it matter? We know that beyond relevancy, list segmentation is important from a revenue perspective. Data from the DMA indicates that segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all email revenue. On top of this, our research found that marketers who used segmented campaigns noted as much as a 760% increase in revenue–and more than 76% of marketers say basic segmentation is part of their email marketing strategy.

Here are a few email list segments you could create to increase click-throughs in your email campaigns.

1. Geographic Location: If you want to send localized messages to your subscribers, create segments that group your subscribers by various geographic locations. We used a segment based on location with dynamic content to increase our click-throughs 13% in a recent campaign.

Uses: Geographic segments help promote store-specific information for physical retail locations, target specific markets, and can exclude out-of-towners from messages that wouldn’t be relevant for them.

2. Demographics: If you are marketing to men and women within various age groups, you can use segments to group subscribers into more manageable categories. You could create a male segment, a female segment, and even segments by age range, like ages 18-21.

Uses: If you’re marketing a lot of different products, these segments will help you target the customers that are most likely to be interested in specific products and services.

3. Market: Market segments can separate your subscribers by market/industry to categorize by their business type.

Uses: You wouldn’t want to send the same email to everyone. Market segments help you tailor messages for industry-specific content.

4. Past email activity: You can also segment subscribers based on their past open or click behavior within your email campaigns.

Uses: Studying open and click-through behavior in various segments will help you pinpoint which links/content are most interesting to your subscribers for more relevant campaigns.

5. Workflow activity: Using workflow activity segments, you can communicate with subscribers based on where they’re at in a workflow (which can be triggered by date, date subscribed, email opens, etc.)

Uses: If you’re interested in engaging your most active email subscribers or customers who are at a specific stage in the marketing funnel, this segment can help you pinpoint customers who fit those criteria.

6. Buyer Persona: You can create a custom segment that helps you define which buyer persona your email subscriber fits into so you can speak directly to their unique motivators and pain points.

Uses: If one of your personas is a female marketer age 25-30, you could use this custom segment to create email campaigns that pique her interest by solving her work-related marketing problems.

These are just a few of the many different segments you can create to separate your subscribers into more manageable categories, but hopefully, these ideas will help you picture what segments might be relevant for your email marketing objectives.

Next, let’s look at how to begin the segmentation process with data collection.

Collecting the right data from subscribers

The segmentation process begins at the opt-in when a subscriber enters his/her information into your opt-in form. This step is important, because if you’re not capturing the right field data to segment on, you could missing a huge opportunity. This is where you begin to learn about your customers–from here, you’ll be able to target the right groups, and then personalize your emails and ultimately increase ROI.

There are two main ways you can approach segmentation:

1. Allow subscribers to self-segment by using separate sign up lists.
2. Sort existing subscribers on the back-end using the subscriber data they’ve provided at sign up. 

When we interviewed Dan Oshinsky, Director of Newsletters at BuzzFeed, we learned that they segment via method #1: By creating various separate lists with unique, page-based opt-ins for different interests (like Cats, Food, Books, etc.) Oshinsky said, “We try to let people self-segment up front based on the content they’re interested in.”

So, if a user visits their ‘Cats’ page, he or she will be presented with a sign up form  for the ‘Cats’ specific newsletter.

By allowing users to initially self-segment through these different categorical opt-ins, BuzzFeed then further segments by promoting sub-categorical lists on specific site pages (like Animals>This Week in Cats.) The users are self-selecting what information they want delivered as they work their way down these segmentation funnels.

If you’re using method #2, in order to properly sort existing subscribers on the back-end, you’ll need to collect a variety of information during the initial opt-in. Without this information, you’ll have no data to pull from to set up different segments.

Your email sign up form could include fields to segment on such as:

• Name
• Address
• Zip code
• Age
• Job/Industry
• Interests

The data fields on your email sign up form will depend on what your goals are for your different segments, but be sure to make it required to complete all form fields so you can gather the proper information.

Here’s a sign up form from TopShop that’s optimized for segmentation:

Wrap up

Harnessing the power of list segmentation means sending more relevant, effective email campaigns that speak to subscribers with the information they care about most.

Try out segmentation with your subscribers and see what results it produces for your organization. Take a minute to set up or optimize your segments and your audience should respond with increased engagement.

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