This is a guest post from James Kelly at Selesti.
According to recent research, the biggest challenges facing email marketers are limited internal resources and limited budget. That means that, short of unlocking more money, anyone running an email marketing campaign needs to make their emails work even harder. This might seem like a tall order, but there’s one solution that offers the potential of big rewards for a small investment: segmentation and personalization.
The difference made by personalizing emails is dramatic; in fact, it’s possible to increase your transaction rates by 6x by sending personalized emails. But simply addressing your customer by name isn’t enough: If you want to get the most from your email marketing, you need to take personalization to the next level, and that means you need to start taking segmentation seriously.
What is segmentation?
Segmentation is the practice of dividing your list of contacts into portions based on unifying factors. For instance, you might identify all of the women in your list, or all of your subscribers under the age of 25, or all of your contacts who live in France. Each of them is a segment.
Contacts can be in more than one segment (a woman living in France), and it’s okay to have customers that don’t fit into any of your segments (a 34-year-old man living in Denver). The purpose of segmenting your list is not to permanently carve up your list. Segmentation helps you identify the people who are likely to engage with the message you intend to send, and gives you the opportunity to craft that message just for them.
For instance, you may decide to send an email announcing your latest dairy-free ice cream, and segment your list so that only your vegan contacts receive the email. Your next email is an invite to the product launch, and you segment your list further to only target vegans living in the local area. Some of the contacts who received the first email won’t receive the second, and that’s okay: Segments serve the message you want to send.
What kind of segments can you create?
The only limits to your segmentation efforts are your imagination and the data you have about your customers. There are many ways you can segment your audience, and a good starting point is to start segmenting by:
- Location – if your customers are international, ensure that your emails arrive at the correct local time
- Age – create emails that play well for each generation
- Interests – don’t send emails about shoes to someone who wants to hear about hats
But don’t stop there. Take a look at the emails you send to your customers and think of ways you could break them down and send even more tailored messages. For instance, you could segment your audience by:
- Engagement history – send messages based on which emails they open and which links they click
- Buying behaviour – one email for regular customers who’ve lapsed, another for irregular customers who begin devouring your product line*
- Location (again) – send emails about local events, or tailor your references, jokes, and even slang to local audiences
- Email client – different clients support different types of design and content
- Automation is a fantastic tool to implement for messages like these.
How do you build segments?
How you segment your audience depends on the information you have for your audience, and there are a number of ways in which you can collect this information.
Gather information at signup.
Your customers are already providing their email address when they sign up to receive your emails, so why not ask them for more information?
The benefit of gathering this data at the start of your relationship is that you can start segmenting straight away, sending out quality, personalized emails that capture every new customer’s attention and boost engagement.
The downside to gathering information at signup is that you’re adding more obstacles and are therefore raising the chances that the customer will decide not to sign up, after all. And internet users are more nervous than ever about sharing their information: 31% of them have created another email account just for signing up to email lists. If they’re giving you a “dummy” email account, what are the odds they’ll give you dummy information?
There’s no one solution to this conundrum. If you want to gather information when users sign up, your best bet is to build a strategy that works on as little information as possible, and then move onto the next step.
Ongoing data collection
Once you’re in regular contact with a customer, you’ve got further opportunities to ask them questions, send them surveys, or even encourage them to update a user profile of sorts. Whether you pick one approach or use a combination of them all, this will give you an evolving set of data to use for your segmentations.
The downside of this approach is that you’re not guaranteed to get this data. Some of your customers will jump at the chance to tell you more about themselves, especially if they think that sharing will lead to personalized offers. But some of your customers will ignore these requests for information, and others will grow tired of questions and unsubscribe.
If you’re worried about the latter group, you can always create a segment of customers who don’t engage with emails asking them for further information, and ensure they receive certain emails less frequently.
Do you already have the data?
It’s possible that you already have information about your customers. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will be filled with it, from location data to engagement rates. Most email service providers will offer tools that’ll help you integrate your CRM with your ESP, allowing you to segment your customers based on this treasure trove of information.
For instance, if your CRM is integrated with your sales platform, you might know how much a customer is spending and what products they’re buying. This means you could send a thank you email when someone has spent more than $200, or ensure they receive an email about a product category they seem interested in.
How do you personalize emails for different segments?
So you’ve gathered your data and you’ve started to create your segments. But the segmentation is just the tool that allows you to achieve greater personalization. What does that personalization look like?
The truth is, personalization will look different for each audience. Ultimately, you know them best, and you’re in the best position to think about how messages could be tailored for them. But the following ideas are a great jumping-off point.
Time of day
If you have customers in different countries, segmenting by location means you can ensure that your email hits inboxes at a time when it stands the best chances of being opened (some email services can do this for you automatically). Even if your customers are all in the same time zone, you could create segments based on high-engagement times.
Of course, you could (and should) send emails in a customer’s native language, but we’re speaking more in terms of tone of voice, style, and even slang. An 18-year-old wants to be spoken to in a very different way from a 73-year-old, for example. Language differs over location too, and even over circumstance.
Much like language, you can vary your design depending on who you’re emailing. Perhaps you’ve noted better engagement with plain text emails amongst a particular demographic, while another engages far better with HTML emails.
Source: Really Good Emails
You can use interest data to send the right content to the right person. So, if you’re promoting your new line of clothes for summer, someone who has expressed an interest in shoes might not want to hear about hats, but they might be all over a message about sandals.
There’s no point in putting all the effort into tailoring your email to a particular segment if they all take your customer to the same, generic landing page. All that work you put into personalizing your message will be wasted, and you’re increasing your chances of losing the sale (and, potentially, the customer).
Instead, ensure that any landing page linked to by your personalized email is designed to continue this particular customer journey to keep them engaged and boost your chances of conversion.
So, for instance, you might be looking to promote your new range of clothes for summer. Let’s say a customer segments himself by expressing an interest in shoes. You’ll probably send him an email that highlights the hottest shoes for summer, but if that email links to your homepage rather than a specific landing page, this could be poor user experience.
It might take that customer some time to navigate through your website to find men’s shoes. Instead, build a landing page that’s all about men’s summer shoes, and there’s one less opportunity for your customer and others like him to lose interest, get distracted, or think twice before buying something.
Wrap up: why segmentation and personalization are necessary
Resource and budget are always going to be limited, forcing marketers to spend every penny wisely. Segmentation and personalization may sound like a lot of work compared to sending a single, generic email to an entire list of contacts.
But the truth is, retaining your existing customers costs much less than acquiring new ones, and this work is a small investment that could increase engagement and boost conversions, too.
Start looking at the messages you’re sending, and start looking for creative ways to make those messages feel like you wrote them for each individual customer. Because segmenting your audience and personalizing your messages is the most cost-effective and efficient method of getting more from your email marketing.
James Kelly is an experienced copywriter with a strong background in content production and strategy. He currently works for Selesti, an award-winning digital marketing and web design agency, crafting persuasive, engaging content for a wide range of clients that establishes their authority, boosts their organic SEO, and increases conversions.