I receive hundreds of marketing emails each day, and I immediately notice how much, or little, segmentation is in a company’s email strategy. Consumers increasingly expect more relevant emails from retailers, but too few actually take the time to segment their emails — even just a little.

From my experience, the reasons for the lack of segmentation usually center on time and resources — too few people handling email and not enough time to execute the strategy. With only two people in the email department, it isn’t realistic to consistently send seven varieties of messages each time.

But that doesn’t mean a company can’t segment their emails. They just need to start in a manageable way and grow from there.

You have to start somewhere

Companies need to understand the obstacles that prevent them from achieving a consistent segmenting strategy. Is it the lack of time needed to segment, lack of data, or the marketing tool’s ability to segment? Maybe it’s not knowing where to start.

Should someone start with segmenting lifecycle messages or promotional messages? While there are a lot of ways to segment lifecycle messages, I find most companies struggle most with segmenting the day-to-day promotional messages.

But they don’t have to. Here are three simple segments any retailer, regardless of the resources available, can use to begin their email segmentation strategy.

Isolate your recent purchasers

Create a segment of those who recently purchased from you, say within the last five days, and withhold them from promotional sends. This can be a great first step in creating a better customer experience.

Rather than asking someone who just purchased from you (especially if it is their first purchase) to immediately buy more, you provide them a few days break from the promotional email onslaught. This gives them time to be excited about their purchase while not treating them like you do the person who has never purchased from you.

Pro tip: To keep these people engaged, and potentially purchase again, create dedicated post-purchase messaging for your recent purchasers. These messages can improve the overall customer and brand experience and generate significant revenue.

Isolate your non-openers and non-purchasers.

Create a segment of contacts who have both not opened an email in a given time (e.g. six months) and have also never purchased, as this behavior indicates a lack of interest in your brand or products. Begin to withhold this segment from some promotional sends.

This can be a permanent suppression until you have a non-opener re-engagement campaign automated, or simply a reduction in cadence (two emails per week instead of five). Doing so can provide a variety of benefits, including:

  • Better reporting: When you send emails to non-openers your email open rates are being artificially dragged down and you’re not getting a true measure of how they perform. This is especially important if you are doing subject line testing. While one subject line may look to be outperforming another, having a large number of non-openers in one group may make it appear as if one is performing worse than it is.
  • Deliverability: Sending to consistent non-openers can have a negative impact when it comes to inbox deliverability. ISPs like Gmail look at these engagement rates as a factor in determining whether your email makes it to the inbox or spam folder. Be smart about who you’re sending emails to.
  • Acquisition source: Try to identify a common theme in acquisition source for these contacts. Did the majority come in from a sweepstakes or from a social promotion? Being able to identify an acquisition source that has a higher-than-average nonresponse rate can help you prepare a targeted strategy for this set of subscribers moving forward.

Pro tip: Create a never-purchased series for new email subscribers who haven’t made their first purchase. For example, you could automate a series of messages around the four-week mark for new subscribers if they have not made a purchase reinforcing your competitive differentiators, and maybe even offer a steeper discount to entice the first purchase.

Find your customers

Create a segment of your customers. This could be all of your customers, only repeat purchasers, those who have spent over a certain dollar amount, or some other criteria that makes sense for your organization.

You may want to include some factor of recency to this segment. For instance, if a contact has purchased five times from you but has not purchased in the past two years, should they be included? In most cases, probably not. But again, this would be company specific.

When sending emails to these contacts make them feel appreciated. Here are a couple of ways:

  • Thank them: Create a small banner at the top of each email recognizing them as a customer and thanking them. This could easily be appended at the top of each email using dynamic content or easily inserted into a duplicate message.
  • Offer exclusivity: If you have an upcoming sale, consider giving this segment early access and let them know they are receiving this early access. This can make them feel appreciated and also provides a sense of urgency to make a purchase. You can also run specific sales just for your past customers, such as a flash sale. Again, let them know the sale is just for them.

Pro tip: Consider touting these email-only offers as part of your enticement for joining, or staying a part of, your email program. This can give subscribers a reason to not only remain subscribed but also continue opening your emails — which we know can help inbox placement.

With each of these examples, the segments are not only easy to create but the strategy is also easy to execute consistently, even for those with fewer resources. Even if the segmentation strategy consists more of not sending emails to specific groups than creating new messages, that’s not a bad thing. Many times, an email not sent is better than an irrelevant email.

Email segmentation is important, and you need to start somewhere. Don’t be overwhelmed. Starting in a manageable way will help you feel more comfortable doing it and can help identify roadblocks to further advancing your segmentation efforts.

Removing these roadblocks will help your email team become more efficient, which will ultimately help you drive even more revenue from your email program.

After all, isn’t that the goal?


Originally published on Multichannel Merchant.