11 email segmentation tips to increase email engagement rates right now
When you first begin to develop a list of subscribers, you may not need to segment. Small email lists are easy to maintain. However, when your email subscriber list starts to grow, a one size fits all email strategy will not work.
It is hard to appeal to a wide audience. The larger the audience you have, the more difficult this becomes. You can keep sending emails—but at some point, you lose the ability to engage your users.
You are communicating with early adopters of your brand, and those who are passionate about your mission. These folks were onboard before you appealed to a wider audience.
But as your list grows, niches within your list begin to develop, and parts of your audience find different elements of your brand more interesting than others.
When this happens, it’s time to break out those niches into email segments, launch an email segmentation strategy, and improve your engagement rates.
What are email segments?
Email segments are a group of email subscribers defined by a set of conditions, like location or how recently they’ve clicked on an email. By segmenting your emails in your marketing platform, you can create personalized content that’s more likely to resonate with your entire audience.
For some brands, email segmentation strategies can increase overall revenue from email marketing. One such brand is Nuun, using email segmentation they grew revenue up to 820%. On the lower end, jewelry brand Catbird saw a 60% increase in revenue from email marketing when they segment their email lists.
Email segmentation is a process that helps create more revenue as it helps brands personalize the user experience. Using email marketing platforms you can personalize your brand’s ecommerce experience for different sets of customers and gather Customer-First Data™, that helps determine behavioral trends. And you get a revenue boost, too.
So, are you ready to dream up a segmentation strategy that engages your subscribers? Here are 11 of the most popular ways brands segment their email lists to personalize experiences, sell more products, and earn more loyalty:
Collect product preferences for more relevant messages
Allow your audience to choose the email marketing campaign that’s right for them
Make send frequency a customer preference
Use geographical data to tailor your message to different regions
Consider your subscribers’ past purchases—or lack thereof
Segment by preferred channel of customer communications
Personalize email list segmentation with demographic information
Let website activity guide your segmentation strategy
Leverage email (and SMS) engagement
Monitor purchase quantity and value to send more relevant emails
Take customer satisfaction seriously—very seriously
Do you have several product categories? Consider letting your subscribers choose to receive emails based on the categories that are of the most interest to them.
For example, if you sell both bicycles and scooters, many of your subscribers might only be interested in one of those products—not both. This means that your emails about, say, your new scooter launch isn’t really relevant to the entire audience. They might not open it, click it—or engage with it at all.
When these customers ignore emails about scooters, your marketing automation platform’s predictive analytics tools will track that they aren’t very engaged—even if they really like your bicycle products. In reality, you just sent those customers the wrong content—and gave them a poor brand experience, too.
Instead, let’s look at how a real brand uses product preferences to segment their email lists.
Nuun, a wellness brand, noticed that a certain group of athletes typically only buy their endurance products. So, the team at Nunn began sending that group of customers strictly endurance-related content. As a result, the company saw that website traffic from emails increased 950% and revenue generated from email marketing went up 820% year over year.
“We are sending out content newsletters to some of our segments that are leading to site visits and purchases, showing us how powerful creating relevant content has been for our brand,” says Brien Kennedy, director of ecommerce at Nuun.
Almost all brands send multiple types of email marketing campaigns. Some examples include:
- Newsletters that share your content, and sometimes the thoughts of the founder
- New product launch emails that go out subscribers––both those who have made a purchase before, and those who haven’t
- Sales emails that try to encourage the purchase of popular items, or older merchandise that you need to get off the shelf
Depending on a subscriber’s customer journey with your business, not all these emails may be ideal to send to them.
For instance, folks who sign up for your newsletter might not be the best audience to promote sales. Instead, you want to focus on educating those customers about who you are, and share new content to help build a solid relationship with them.
This is exactly what Ilia Beauty does. Below, you can see examples of their newsletter email, their new product email, and their promotional email.
As subscribers browse your on-site content and your products, they begin to learn more about your brand. And once they get closer to purchase, that’s the right time to hit them with a new product launch email.
No matter how you approach email segmentation for your audience, be sure to include an email preferences page in every email so that subscribers can easily join or remove themselves from specific email lists. This won’t interfere with your email segmentation strategy––it will just give customers the power to opt-out when the material is no longer relevant to them.
Be a good steward of email and text message hygiene. Your customers are likely getting bombarded with messages, so be sure to prompt subscribers to choose their preferred email or text message frequency when they first sign up.
You can prompt your customers in several ways. Create a pop-up form that will appear when they first sign up for your newsletter. Or, have the pop-up form appear during the check-out process so that you can ask how often they want product delivery updates. You can even ask in an email how often they want to receive communications from your brand.
Not enough brands offer these options, instead assuming that they know their customers’ preferences better than the customers themselves.
But here’s the secret: Customers can always update their frequency settings, and you should make it easy for them to change their email preferences by including a link at the bottom of your emails.
Farm Rio, a women’s clothing and lifestyle brand, sets a great example:
If you have a global audience, demographic segmentation of your campaigns by time and location can increase click-throughs and help you acquire new customers.
Taking into account the time of year can impact your sales, too. A campaign announcing a seasonal sale should be sent when your subscribers can take advantage of it. For example, you wouldn’t market your new line of winter gear to your Australian audience during the months of November through January, as it’s summer on their side of the globe.
Regional consideration for segmentation isn’t just about the weather. Think about it: A newsletter about fashion trends in the UK would likely differ from trends in the US.
If you have brick-and-mortar stores, creating segments based on location can be useful when you want to notify subscribers about local events and promotions.
You can even do this with virtual events. Credo Beauty uses the email below to create segments based on a customer’s attendance preferences. Then, it sends customers more relevant virtual or IRL event information.
Location-based segments can help you communicate about things like regional shipping restrictions. For instance, maybe you can only offer free shipping to customers in certain regions. If that’s the case, limit your communications to customers in those areas.
Segment your email list by common subscriber traits related to purchase frequency and other purchasing behaviors.
For a segment made up of subscribers who have never made a purchase, include personalized email content that builds trust through social proof like user-generated content (UGC) and customer reviews.
An email marketing campaign for Parade, an underwear brand, features a five-star customer review in prominent, bold letters. This entices their non-purchasing subscribers to click on the email to learn more about their products.
For subscribers who have only purchased once before, include content that encourages them to buy again. Consider what those subscribers had previously purchased, and adjust the content of your campaign accordingly.
For example, did they only purchase items during a sale, or exclusively buy from a certain collection? Or, does that customer only shop on Cyber Weekend?
On the flip side, maintain loyalty with repeat customers by nurturing those subscribers.
Keep highly-engaged segments of your audience interested for the long haul with specialty sales, free shipping offers, and early access to new products.
Subscribers who haven’t purchased in months or more may need a reminder about your brand. This is an ideal time to send a winback email. These kinds of reminders are especially effective when they coincide with a brand update or a new product launch.
SMS marketing is on the rise—85% of Americans say a brand has texted them recently. But, not everyone prefers text messages over email, or vice versa. So, be sure to ask first before texting.
Collect this preferential information on your site’s signup form and use it to tailor your communications.
For example, skincare brand Supergoop sends out its campaigns via email and SMS, based on which channel is more appropriate for the user.
With a slight adjustment to the presentation of the content, Supergoop communicates their message about a new product launch in a style that suits individual subscribers.
Do you sell items for women and men? Then you may notice that some subscribers frequently purchase gendered versions of your products—like women’s sweaters. If that’s the case, consider segmenting your male and female subscribers.
Keep in mind that gender-based segmentation may not apply to your product. Or, customers may be interested in your products, even if it’s not traditionally marketed to their gender. A popular UK razor brand, Wilkinson Sword, leaves it up to the customer to decide what gender segment is most relevant to them: The brand asks people when they subscribe to select if they want to hear about razors for men, women—or both.
Wilkinson Sword’s signup form conversions remained strong when they added this question to their signup form. Even better—their segmented welcome series has a 39% conversion rate.
Don’t worry: Subscribers can update their gender preference at any time—including not having a gender preference at all—on the brand’s email preferences page.
If you use a tool like Klaviyo for web tracking, then you can segment based on several factors. These include if a subscriber has been active or inactive, if they’ve browsed certain pages, or stayed on certain pages for a certain amount of time.
Abandoned cart emails are great examples of this. For example, if someone adds something to their cart but they don’t check out—you can set up automated emails that trigger based on that action. That email will try to win them back.
Activewear brand Outdoor Voices does this well:
A browse abandonment series is a lot like an abandoned cart series, but instead of triggering when someone adds something to their cart, it triggers when someone browses a specific product, but doesn’t purchase.
For example, Charlotte Stone Shoes sends a browse abandonment message to site visitors who perused items, but didn’t place them in their online shopping cart. This adds dynamic content blocks in the customers’ personalized email to remind them of exactly what they viewed.
Creating segments based on how frequently your subscribers open emails helps you prioritize who gets what message.
Highly engaged audiences are more likely to want regular communication, while less engaged audiences likely need a very high value message, like a sale, to inspire action.
Here are three common engagement-based email segments:
- 30-day engaged: Subscribers who have opened OR clicked on an email at least once in the last 30 days
- 60-day engaged: Subscribers who have opened OR clicked on an email at least once in the last 60 days
- Unengaged: Subscribers who have not opened OR clicked on an email ever
For example, Poo-Pourri reaches out to unengaged or inactive subscribers in their signature humorous style, as a last ditch effort to bring them back into the fold.
With an updated email list, the brand can keep their list healthy and target subscribers who actually want to hear from them.
Identify your VIP customers and reward them for their loyalty. You can do this by segmenting based on how often they purchase, their past purchases, and how much they’ve spent. How can you reward VIPs? Here are a few ideas:
- Early access to new products
- Early access to sales
- Deeper discounts on sales
- Exclusive product drops just for them
Sustainable clothing brand MATE the Label sends their loyal customers a nurture email that hits two birds with one stone: It teases a new product launch and offers early shopping access to repeat customers who join their SMS list.
This type of segment isn’t just for VIP customers. You can also target subscribers who have never bought from you and offer them incentives to make their first purchase.
Here are some ways you that can create segments based on past purchases and historical metrics:
- VIP customers: customers who have spent over a certain amount of money over all time
- Frequent customers: customers who have purchased a certain amount of times in the past number of months
- Big spenders: customers who have an average order value (AOV) of a certain amount
- Never bought: subscribers who haven’t yet made a purchase
By creating segments for both positive and negative customer reviews, you can show your customers that you care about their experience.
For customers who left your business a positive review (four or five stars), they already have a good impression and they may even tell a friend about your brand. Now, you can target them with positive messages—and even a referral code that they can share with their friends.
Here is an example of such an email in a segment sent by California-based alcohol brand, Haus.
People who left a negative review (three stars or fewer) are more likely to respond to more somber or apologetic messaging. Attempt to improve the customer’s experience by offering a coupon, or a number to contact customer support.
Don’t forget to reach out to these customers. Their feedback is incredibly valuable, and you can use it to improve your product and overall brand experience. This way, you should have fewer negative reviews over time.
An email segmentation strategy can get you more sales, more loyalty—and a healthier business, too
Narrowing the audience for your automated emails and one-off campaigns can be a bit scary. What if you exclude someone who would’ve made a purchase?
That’s understandable. But the more you experiment with segmentation in your marketing platform, the more you’ll find that creating targeted content for a specific audience typically increases your email engagement and revenue.
What would you do with a 60% or 820% increase in revenue driven from email marketing? Or, what if your segmented email campaigns converted 39% of subscribers?
For Catbird, Nuun, and Wilkinson Sword, email segmentation strategies have bolstered their brand, both from a brand experience point of view and when it comes to the bottom line.
It’s time to dive in, see how your audience is evolving, and creating personalized email and SMS marketing segmentation to build better relationships—and grow your sales.
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