Keys to Creating More Relevant Emails with 4 Simple Segmentation Tactics

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

The Democratic and Republican National Conventions recently came to a close. Imagine if instead of having the Democrats attend the DNC and the Republicans attend the RNC they instead randomly assigned people to attend one or the other. Of course some people would find the convention relevant to them, but others would not. This wouldn’t make much sense, right? Well, this is exactly what you do when you send batch-and-blast emails to your subscribers.

Email marketers and politicians both know the value of sending people messages most relevant to them. Relevant emails generate higher open rates, higher click rates and, most importantly, higher conversions.

Although it all sounds great and you want to do it, what if you simply don’t have all the traditional RFM data at your fingertips? What if your company is smaller in size and/or your resources are limited? The good news is there are still ways to begin to create more relevant emails and increase revenue without a complex email marketing infrastructure. Your subscribers are handing over valuable information explicity (through a sign-up form, preference center) and implicity (through behavior within an email). For more ways to explore how to continue to grow that data bank, check out “Segmentation: What they tell you explicitly – Preferences 101

Let’s look at some ways you can use simple segmentation data without being overwhelmed.

Segment by State/Region

Of course, if you have a brick and mortar store geographic location makes sense. But what if you don’t? Segmenting by state can still be very powerful. Look at the products you sell. Are sales based on the four seasons (shoes, clothing, sports equipment, etc.) or outdoor activities?  If so, create segments based on regions of the country and market products most likely to be of value to the person in that region at that time of year. Sending a batch-and-blast email with cold weather apparel in December may make sense…unless your subscriber lives in Miami.

You can also create a unique welcome message based on the season/location of the subscriber. Wouldn’t it be great for someone in Buffalo to get a welcome email in December highlighting a sweatshirt or an offer for a pair of swim trunks for someone who lives in San Diego?

Here’s an example of a recent email I received that was specific to my state, North Carolina, promoting our recent tax-free weekend. It is an email that would not make sense to send batch-and-blast, but they successfully used the data provided at signup to send a targeted message. Although the email itself could have been more tailored, it is a great example of using simple segmentation information to send me relevant content. And yes, I did go and get a pair of jeans (picture not included).

Kohls State Segmented Email

Segment by Gender

People often overlook gender when creating segments to market to although it has only three variables; male, female, unknown. I recently signed up for a clothing company’s emails and selected the male gender, yet the emails I received in the welcome series all spoke to me if I were a woman. It was a complete turnoff. It did not make me want to click on any of their welcome series emails. Subsequent promotional emails, such as the “6 things I need to see” included 5 women-specific products. What a waste of an opportunity!

If you sell gender specific products, why not include gender specific product recommendations in the email? Using even simple dynamic content for male/female can go a long way to making your emails more relevant.

Segment by Open and/or Click Rates

We already assume you don’t have the typical RFM data at your fingertips. No last purchase date, no product order history, no lifetime value, and no AOV info. Who are your best customers? Well, this is a bit trickier. Frankly, you just don’t know. And although I highly recommend capturing this information it doesn’t mean you can’t play the laws of averages.

In the same manner you want to treat your best customers differently, why not treat your most engaged differently? The next time you send a promotional email, how about creating a segment of those who consistently have high open and/or click rates? So when everyone else gets 10% off, go ahead and give this group 15% off as a way of saying “thanks.” Be sure to track your conversion rates of those versus the less engaged customers.

Click Based Segmentation

Finally, click based segmenting is one way to use customer actions to determine what they may be interested in. For instance, if you have a Kids section on your navigation bar in your email, go ahead and create a segment of those who clicked on that link. They went ahead and told you, for one reason or another, they are interested in kid products. You can build this segment over a variety of emails to better qualify them, or you can send a dedicated message to those people before the sale is about to end with a kid product highlighted. Of course, you can automate this message send in the Bronto app quite easily.

To begin building segments via this method I would use the navigation bar and top-level categories, such as Mens, Womens, or Sport, to start. Once you become more sophisticated you can begin to drill down a bit further. This won’t always be a perfect science but it can be a great start and doesn’t require a lot of outside resources.

If you are not collecting segmentation data at signup or in your manage preference page, you should do so immediately.  Here are some great tips to run a manage or update preference campaign. Remember to only ask for the information you will use to market better! Knowing my gender, state, shoe size or sport I play is more important than knowing my street address or how I found out about your website.

Go ahead, think presidential, and let your constituents know you’re listening! If your message is relevant and they like what you have to say they will vote for you with their wallets. Have you used any simple segmentation strategies with limited resources and how have they worked?

Greg Zakowicz
Marketing Strategist at Bronto

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