Advanced behavioral targeting: 10 ways to segment your audience—with directions on how to market to each one

Profile photo of author Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
16min read
Customer data ownership
October 17, 2023
green tile article header card with the title behavioral targeting: 10 ways to segemnt your audience-with directions on how to market to each one

Behavioral targeting activates customer data into highly personalized experiences that are more relevant—and therefore more likely to earn attention.

As Devin Bhatia, principal customer success manager at Klaviyo, points out, behavioral targeting gives you a vehicle for “listening to your audience, understanding their preferences, and reaching out to them with relevant content they’re actually interested in.”

In the 3-step process of how behavioral targeting works, audience segmentation is the bridge that connects the insights you learn from mining your behavioral data to the content you share with your subscribers, customers, and potential customers.

Behavioral targeting is about listening to your audience, understanding their preferences, and reaching out to them with relevant content they’re actually interested in.
Devin Bhatia
Principal customer success manager, Klaviyo

Segmentation is the fastest way to group your contacts into ultra-precise target audiences based on user behavior. The most granular segmentation—and “true 1:1 marketing,” says Jon Palmer, lead product marketing manager at Klaviyo—involves marketing automation, in which a customer takes an action and a marketing message is triggered by that action.

With the right marketing automation provider, your segments update in real time—so you can target messages based on whatever customer behavioral patterns you’ve determined are important to your brand.

Here, we break down 10 ultra-specific segmentation-based marketing ideas, based on real-life Klaviyo use cases and several of the most reliable channels for ethical zero- and first-party data collection.

Read on for inspiration on how to more appropriately segment your subscriber lists—and also fine-tune the messaging and content you’re sharing through your owned marketing channels.

Segment example 1: Website visitors who are already subscribed to your email list

You never want to show an email sign-up form to someone who’s landed on your ecommerce site by clicking through an email—they’re already on your email marketing list, so the pop-up is redundant, and it won’t accomplish anything beyond disrupting the subscriber’s user experience on your website.

The ability to target on-site forms based on the segment someone’s in is big. And it’s not common outside of Klaviyo.
Jon Palmer
Lead product marketing manager, Klaviyo

In Klaviyo, you can create a targeted SMS sign-up form that displays only when the person visiting your website is a known email subscriber. You can also try an email pop-up form that invites them to join your loyalty program, if they aren’t already signed up.

“The ability to target on-site forms based on the segment someone’s in is big,” Palmer says. “And it’s not common outside of Klaviyo.”

Image shows an SMS sign-up form personalized to an email subscriber’s first and last name, encouraging them to take 10% off by entering their phone number and opting in to SMS marketing.

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to target email subscribers with pop-up forms in Klaviyo.

Segment example 2: Website visitors who arrive from a specific acquisition source

Sign-up forms are a great way to encourage your site visitors to subscribe to your email and SMS content. But different sign-up forms will appeal to different people based on where they are in the customer journey.

Let’s say you’re partnering with an influencer on a top-of-funnel digital marketing campaign, and you’ve built out a special landing page at a vanity URL where the influencer is sending their audience. “You can launch a specific pop-up for that page only,” Palmer suggests.

Bonus: In Klaviyo, you can also launch a unique welcome series depending on where a new subscriber signs up for your list. In the above example, “you might have a welcome series that includes a 20-second video of the influencer endorsing your company,” Palmer says.

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to target forms to specific URLs in Klaviyo.

Segment example 3: Email subscribers who clicked an email in the last 72 hours but have not placed an order

These subscribers are clearly engaged with your brand—they might just need a little extra encouragement to cross over into customer territory.

This is an ideal time to experiment with a move Bhatia calls the “espresso shot”: Re-send the same email to the subscribers who clicked, but didn’t buy.

Wait—the exact same email? Yes, Bhatia explains: “You can update the subject line, but you don’t have to. The only reason you’d have to change any of the content is if it was advertising a limited-time deal that’s no longer applicable.”

Otherwise, “it’s the exact same content,” Bhatia says. And across industry verticals, the results are “unbelievable,” he adds: 40%+ open rates, up to 10% click rates, and 30-50% the revenue of a standard email campaign.

The espresso shot represents the Klaviyo philosophy in a nutshell—we want to send fewer emails, and we want to send better emails, and we want to send to people who are engaged with our brand.
Devin Bhatia
Principal customer success manager, Klaviyo

Why does such a simple approach work so well as an additional revenue capture tool? Bhatia believes it represents “the Klaviyo philosophy in a nutshell—we want to send fewer emails, and we want to send better emails, and we want to send to people who are engaged with our brand.”

“There’s a segment of users who click an email, but then life happens—whatever it is. And sometimes they just need that reminder,” Bhatia explains. “So when they get the email again, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember clicking and going to the website—I didn’t make that order, but now I’m ready to do that.’”

Your turn: Visit Klaviyo Community to learn more about how to set up an espresso shot of your own.

Segment example 4: Email subscribers who add a product to their cart, but do not click on the cart or proceed to check-out

One behavioral marketing automation “that’s not always done and is incredibly powerful,” says Lucina Kress Rowe, principal customer success manager at Klaviyo, is an add-to-cart abandonment flow.

Don’t confuse this with the more common browse abandonment flow or abandoned cart flow, Kress Rowe cautions: “They’re all different, and they all hit people at a slightly different point in their decision-making journey.”

Here’s how the abandonment flows differ from each other:

  • Browse abandonment: triggered when someone views a product page, but does not add a product to their cart
  • Add-to-cart abandonment: triggered when someone adds a product to their cart, but does not proceed to check-out
  • Abandoned cart: triggered when someone adds a product to their cart and proceeds to check-out, but does not complete their purchase

“This is the beauty of the customer journey touchpoints,” Kress Rowe points out. “Everybody’s busy. Everybody’s jumping between modes of transportation, they’re going to work, they’re going to run errands, they’re picking up their kids from school—they’re distracted, whatever it is. We are living in the age of distraction. People are going to forget what path they were on.”

“It’s nice from time to time, especially when you don’t have heavy brand recognition, to be able to give someone a friendly reminder,” she adds. “Days later, if someone needs the product but can’t remember which one they liked, they want the email. It’s really powerful and it’s really important.”

This is the beauty of the customer journey touchpoints. We are living in the age of distraction. People are going to forget what path they were on. It’s nice from time to time to be able to give someone a friendly reminder.
Lucina Kress Rowe
Principal customer success manager, Klaviyo

And in Kress Rowe’s experience, every time she suggests a Klaviyo user implements add-to-cart abandonment, “it’s only a net gain.”

“People assume, ‘OK, I’ve got my browse abandonment and I’ve got my abandoned cart—if I do add-to-cart abandonment, it’s just going to pull revenue from the other two,’” Kress Rowe says. “But it doesn’t. It silos those people who have taken that specific action and then stopped cold. We set up the flow filters so they’re mutually exclusive, so there’s no overlap.”

Image shows an abandonment flow example beginning with 3 data points in the back end of Klaviyo: added to cart, no purchase yet, and loyalty club member. The profile then receives an email urging them to “Take another look,” with a CTA to “Check out now.”

Your turn: Visit Klaviyo Community to learn more about the custom metrics involved in setting up an add-to-cart abandonment flow, and visit our help center to troubleshoot added-to-cart tracking.

Segment example 5: Customers who have only purchased during BFCM for the last 3 years

These people “really like their deals,” Bhatia says, “but they haven’t purchased at all otherwise. So this is a special audience that’s probably only going to purchase once a year.”

Unlike many competing platforms which delete user data after 90-180 days, Klaviyo doesn’t archive historical customer data.

Unlike many competing platforms which delete user data after 90-180 days, Klaviyo doesn’t archive historical customer data—which makes it possible to build a segment of customers who shop with you consistently, but only over the holidays.

Bhatia suggests sending this segment an email right before BFCM that acknowledges how much they appreciate a deal—and highlights your biggest upcoming promotions for the holiday.

8 BFCM email tips from Western outfitter Tecovas’s superstar marketing team
Here’s what Megan Edwards, email marketing manager at Tecovas, recommends doing behind the scenes to set yourself up for a record-setting BFCM.

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to create a holiday shoppers segment in Klaviyo.

Segment example 6: Customers who have purchased a specific product in the last year

Launching a new version of a popular product? “Create a segment of individuals who purchased that specific product, and let them know a v2 is now available,” Bhatia suggests.

“You probably want everyone to know about your new product,” Kress Rowe acknowledges. But the idea here, she says, is that based on what customers have bought in the past or even just viewed or added to cart, “you want some people to know about it even more than others.”

You probably want everyone to know about your new product. But the idea here is that you want some people to know about it even more than others.
Lucina Kress Rowe
Principal customer success manager, Klaviyo

Similarly, you might reach out to customers who purchased a specific product with another product that goes particularly well with the first one. Try sending a cross-sell or up-sell email with personalized product recommendations catered to the customer’s most recent purchase behavior.

“Let’s say they bought pants—offer them a shirt or complementary product. But get really granular and specific,” Palmer advises. “It’s not just ‘Hey, just you placed an order—come back and purchase again.’ It’s, ‘OK, people who bought that exact product you bought and gave it a 5-star review also love this.’”

Image shows an order confirmation email with relevant product recommendations based on the customer’s most recent purchase.

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to use product recommendations in your marketing.

Segment example 7: Customers who have purchased a specific product in the last year and also left a review, either positive or negative

Maybe your customers have been raving about your hero product, and you’re releasing it in a new color this month. Palmer recommends creating a segment of customers who not only bought this exact SKU in any color, but also gave it a 4- or 5-star review.

“Then, when you make your new product announcement email, you’re going to have a different variation of the campaign for that segment that says something like, ‘The product you love in a new color,’” he explains.

Image shows a product announcement email based on a positive customer review. The headline says, “New in stock: That bag you loved?” After a product shot of the someone in a plaid winter coat holding a black leather bag, the email continues, “It’s back! And there’s a new color with your name on it.” The CTA button at the bottom of the email is burnt orange and reads, “Shop now.”

Similarly, maybe your recent ecommerce reviews reveal some constructive criticism about one of your products, and you’ve now addressed those concerns in a new and improved version of it.

Take the same approach, but this time, segment based on anyone who left a 3-star review or lower. In your customized product announcement, promise, “We heard you.”

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to understand Klaviyo Reviews data so you can use it in your segmentation.

Segment example 8: SMS subscribers who have purchased twice in the last 6 months and have spent at least 3x your AOV

This is how Bhatia defines VIPs. “That should be around 1-2% of your list,” he points out. “If everyone’s a VIP, then no one’s a VIP.”

VIP segmentation is particularly effective in the SMS channel, because sharing a phone number is a lot more intimate than sharing an email address.

“These are really special people,” Bhatia adds. “Try giving them special opportunities, whether it’s a teaser for a new product that’s coming out or early access to this product you know is going to sell out.”

This should be around 1-2% of your list. If everyone’s a VIP, then no one’s a VIP.
Devin Bhatia
Principal customer success manager, Klaviyo

When Ohio-based apparel brand HOMAGE, for example, wanted to promote their new 80s- and 90s-style NFL Starter jackets, they released a hype video encouraging customers who wanted to be first in line for the new jackets to opt in to SMS.

Then, they used SMS to offer exclusive updates and drive excitement among their loyal fanbase, offering first dibs on jackets to those who texted “STARTER”.

It was the brand’s very first SMS campaign—and it drummed up 100 orders in the first hour alone. According to Nathan Okuley, VP of brand marketing, the buying process was so easy, customer service calls actually declined—despite the massive volume of traffic during the product drop.

Klaviyo unlocked for us the modern way to shop. There was a feeling and a rush for customers to have access to something and in such a simple way.
Nathan Okuley
VP of brand marketing, HOMAGE

Ultimately, 86.9% of SMS customers clicked the in-message link, and 9% of fans placed an order. Even more impressive: The campaign delivered $167 in revenue per recipient.

“Klaviyo unlocked for us the modern way to shop,” Okuley says. “There was a feeling and a rush for customers to have access to something and in such a simple way.”

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to create an SMS VIP segment in Klaviyo.

Segment example 9: Customers with high CLTV who aren’t subscribed to any of your owned marketing lists

Let’s say you have a segment of customers who are not subscribed to email or SMS, but are placing orders regularly and have an above-average CLTV. “They’re good customers—you just can’t reach them on those owned channels,” Palmer explains.

Palmer recommends a layered behavioral targeting approach that uses first-party data to attempt to reach those customers on multiple channels outside of email and SMS, from social media to direct mail.

It’s prioritizing based on channel cost, as well as based on the customer’s behavior in terms of purchase history, and their lack of behavior in terms of not engaging with email or SMS or even social.
Jon Palmer
Lead product marketing manager, Klaviyo

First, push that segment of email addresses to Facebook or Google Ads, and keep an eye on your conversion rates. “That’s a more expensive channel than email and SMS, but it’s not as expensive as direct mail,” Palmer explains.

When you do this in Klaviyo, you can either find people who are similar to the email addresses, also known as a lookalike audience, or you can retarget to the exact email addresses in the segment you pushed out (as long as the email addresses match across platforms).

Next, create a new segment of the profiles that didn’t convert on Facebook or Google, and send a piece of direct mail marketing to the addresses you have on file from the last time they placed an order.

Image shows two sides of a direct mail marketing piece. The front features a product shot of someone in a plaid winter coat holding a black leather bag, with white text overlaid that reads, “Something just for you.” On the flip side, on the left, over another close-up of the same bag, the postcard reads, “15% off your entire purchase” with a discount code. On the right is the recipient’s address.

“It’s prioritizing based on channel cost, as well as based on the customer’s behavior in terms of purchase history, and their lack of behavior in terms of not engaging with email or SMS or even social,” Palmer explains.

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to get started with Facebook Advertising in Klaviyo.

Segment example 10: Lapsed customers with high CLTV who are also at a high risk of churn

No matter how sophisticated your marketing is, even your best customers might leave you in the end. But what if you could reach out at the exact moment someone is likely to drop off?

“You can’t go in and look at millions of profiles manually and pick out the people who are at risk,” Palmer points out. “You need something to help you scale that digestion of the data and the subsequent personalization.”

You can’t go in and look at millions of profiles manually and pick out the people who are at risk. You need something to help you scale that digestion of the data and the subsequent personalization.
Jon Palmer
Lead product marketing manager, Klaviyo

Klaviyo’s suite of AI-powered predictive analytics includes predicted CLTV, predicted next order date, predicted demographics, predicted spending potential, and predicted churn risk. And Palmer notes that “you don’t need a whole data science team to do it.”

In Klaviyo, predictive analytics are “marketer-enabled,” Palmer explains. “You can use them in segmentation and automation as a dropdown option, just like you would any other information that lives on the profile.”

In Klaviyo, you don’t need a whole data science team to do it.
Jon Palmer
Lead product marketing manager, Klaviyo

With the churn risk property, for example, you might trigger a flow when a lapsed but high-CLTV customer is above a 60% risk of churn “and give them a larger discount,” Palmer suggests. “You wouldn’t normally give this discount other than Black Friday, but it’s June and you don’t want to lose this person, so you’re going to give them your kitchen sink offer.”

Your turn: Visit our help center to learn how to segment based on predictive analytics in Klaviyo.

Want to go beyond behavioral targeting examples? We cover everything you need to know about building and executing a smart, ethical, and effective behavioral targeting marketing strategy in this series. Check out:

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Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
Lead editor
Jax Connelly (they/she), lead editor at Klaviyo, started their career doing SEO at a small digital ad agency and spent most of their twenties managing a financial magazine for a trade association based in Washington, DC. Most recently, she studied and taught writing at Columbia College Chicago during the peak years of the pandemic. Outside of their day job, Jax is an award-winning creative writer who has received honors including 4 Notables in the Best American Essays series, contest awards from publications like Nowhere Magazine and Prairie Schooner, and a residency from the Ragdale Foundation. Jax lives in Chicago a block away from Lake Michigan with her elderly Jack Russell Terrier, Cloo.