Why segmenting your email marketing list matters

Why segmenting your email marketing list matters

You know, of course, that all those addresses on your email contact list belong to real people – but how much do you actually know about them?

Marketing solutions providers are increasingly offering tools to help you understand more about the people who read your promotional messages and market to them based on that information. HP, for example, recently announced the release of its Digital Marketing Hub. The Big Data application processes large volumes of information and provides an analysis of each customer in your email database, allowing you to craft a marketing experience personally targeted to your customers.

If analytics and personalization are new to your email strategy, you might consider segmenting your email list as a starting point.

How to start collecting data
You'll need some level of analytics to do it, but the basics of segmenting your contact list are simple: A marketer separates email recipients into groups based on certain criteria and sends each group different emails specifically targeted to them based on this shared data. The end goal of such a strategy is to maximize consumer engagement with emailed content, so that they will be more likely to follow up on promotions.

Fortunately, much of the information necessary to segment a list in this way is more readily available than you may think.

For example, ClickZ recently pointed out that data can be obtained even from contacts who do most of their shopping in physical stores. You can provide email addresses to a data on-boarding firm, who can then match them with cookies generated by in-store purchases made on loyalty cards. The information you receive will reveal the kinds of items your contacts recently bought.

The news source also pointed out that social media sites can be leveraged to gather information about your email subscribers. You probably already shorten the links you post to Facebook and Twitter with a Demand Side Platform (DMP) that redirects the viewer to the original site. In doing this, the DMP also creates a cookie for every user who clicks on your link.

How to segment your list
Once you've learned more about the people reading your emails, you can segment your list based on fundamental criteria. The data may be simple, but utilizing it can prove highly effective.

Business 2 Community laid out the basic criteria that can be used for segmenting. Gender, age and income are some of the simplest factors, but there are more complex data points. For example, you may want to segment based on employment status. A contact might be a student, self-employed, retired or a homemaker, and people who fall into these categories may be interested in very different products.

The news source also recommended that business to consumer (B2C) marketers segment their lists based on homeowner status – whether the contact is a homeowner, renter or living with relatives – and family criteria like marital status and number of children. For business to business (B2B) lists, marketers should consider taking their contacts' revenue and number of employees into account.

Beware over-segmentation
Take care that you don't become too zealous in your efforts, as some companies have testified that too much segmentation can actually lead to less optimal marketing practices.

CMO recently reported that fashion retail firm Ozsale moved away from sending identical emails to every customer and acquired analytics to fuel a more targeted approach – and as segmentation criteria became more specific, the company sent fewer emails. As a result, sales dropped.

"We've since stepped back from that a little bit and are now offering personalized, relevant content but to a very, very broad customer segment," noted Ozsale executive Carl Jackson, according to the source.

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