Overcoming the Hurdles of List Segmentation

by Victor Green
3 mins read

One of the best ways to you can target the right audience with your emails is to segment your lists. Segmenting your lists is the process of dividing your email subscribers into groups based on differing characteristics. By doing this, you can send them the emails that will most appropriately fit them and you’ll see more interest. You email reputation will improve and because the emails are tailored to specific groups, readers will find more interest in them and always open them. There are many challenges with segmentation, but once you overcome them, your open and click rates will go way up.A recent report found that of the marketers who segmented their lists, 40% had higher open rates, almost 30% had lower unsubscribe rates and almost 25% had better deliverability and greater revenue.

Choosing how to segment

The biggest challenge to list segmentation is defining the characteristics that you’ll want to use to split up the list. If you are just beginning this process, you don’t have the data to back up your choices. Eventually, you’ll want to base your decisions on what the analytics actually show you about your click and open rates and who is opening what and when. But for now, without any of that data, you’ll start with some beginner segments.There are a few ways you can go with this, but one of the most basic ways to split your group is to choose between active vs. inactive subscribers. Basically, you are splitting the group into those who open and click and those who do not. Ryan Tuttle, VP of Strategic Services for BrightWave Marketing said in an article for Marketing Sherpa, “If a user hasn’t clicked on an email or opened it in several months, even if they haven’t unsubscribed from the list, they are emotionally unsubscribed and they need to be treated differently.” A second way to do it is to separate those who’ve purchased from those who have not (also called converters vs. non-converters).

Getting the data

Your second obstacle when it comes to segmenting your lists is actually getting the data you need to do it. There are a number of ways to overcome this challenge, but it will take some time. Sending test emails is one of the best ways to get some sample data. Decide what part of the email you’ll want to test, be it the subject line, the message, time of day sent, personalization, etc., and then send your emails and collect your data.

New subscribers

When you get a new subscriber, you obviously have limited data from them, so where do you put them on the list? The easiest way to segment these subscribers is to ask them about their expectations right when they subscribe. Ask them to declare their preferences towards topics, products, interests and even how often they’d like to receive your emails. From there you can discover how to segment them and meet the expectations they’ve set out from the get-go.

Move forward

As time goes on and the data comes in, your next largest challenge is to not let it drown you. You’ll have to decide how to further segment your list. Marketing Sherpa found that segmenting by subscriber behaviour was more effective than segmenting by sales cycle or than personalized emails. Again, you’ll have to decide how to further segment based on customer behaviour and this can include looking at:

  • Purchase date
  • Purchase frequency
  • Purchase volume
  • Topics of interest, as determined by their click activity
  • Where they click from (computer vs. mobile)

You can even take this further as you gain more data and include:

  • Geography
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Organization type
  • Industry
  • Job
  • Education level
  • Shopping cart abandonment

Can we get this figured out?

Even the luxury brands don’t have it all figured out. A recent article in Forbes explained that “Achieving customer segmentation will always be a challenge but there remains a lot of room for luxury brands to differentiate in their emails and create more personalised campaigns. Simply sending generic content and treating all customers as one does not build a relationship with customers.”

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