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The Tangled Web of Email Segmentation

As any seasoned Email marketer knows, there is almost an unlimited amount of ways to segment email marketing subscriber data. Here is an overview and summary of a variety of email segmentation sources, some tips, and best practices. Keep in mind that the objective of segmenting your subscribers is to increase the relevancy of your email messages. This way there is more value to the subscribers, and ultimately they buy more from you.

Types of segmentation. There are three types of segmentation discussed here. These are behavior segmentation, demographic segmentation, and other segmentation.

I - Behavior segmentation
Here is a simple overview of segmentation that relies exclusively on subscriber actions. This data does not take into account gender, location, age etc. Behavior segmentation data is based 100% on email activity. The actual definitions can be changed based on a marketers needs. Behavior segmentation is usually easy to start and update. This is an easy win.

1- new subscribers - these are new to your list. They should all receive a welcome.
2- inactives- those who have not opened or clicked
3- actives – those who have opened and clicked
4- buyers – those who have converted
5- browsers - people who have opened e-mail, but not clicked or converted.

Other behavior segmentation can include purchase history (time of year, month, day of the week etc.), number of items purchased, purchase price, anniversary date, browse behavior (i.e. web analytics data), gift lists, email domain, and special programs.

II. Demographic segmentation
Gender, age, race, interest based preferences, education levels, occupation, location, marital status, number of children, income or other socio-economic factors are all demographic attributes. These can be used in segmentation.

It can be difficult to gather all the demographic information you desire in the registration page. The more required information, the higher the chance of a potential subscriber abandoning the registration process or providing false information.

Here are some tips for collecting demographic information.
- Ask for demographic information after a new subscriber has subscribed. This way you will have them as a new subscriber even if they abandon the demographic form.

- Promote a preference center where subscribers can update and add demographic information. Preference centers can take a good amount of work, testing, and planning. But a well planned and utilized pref center can pay dividends in demographic segments.

- Use online surveys or welcomes after a subscriber has subscribed to gather more demographic information.

Here is an example of a Welcome Email from They are not only welcoming me to their list (and giving me free shipping) but are also asking for more demographic data. Smart!

- Validate the information entered. A misspelled email address, name, or postal address could mean lost revenue, lost chances, and unhappy customers. Take a look at Experian QAS for email, mailing address, and phone validation technology.

- If you ask for information, you should use the information. If I let you know that I love camping, but never get a camping related email – an opportunity has been lost.

- Briefly explain the benefits to subscribers and potential subscribes why they should provide their information. Why should he or she complete this form? and What’s in it for the subscriber?

- Keep the registration form look and feel consistent with other marketing endeavors. The move from a website to registration form should be seamless.

- Send a thank you or confirmation message in a timely manner once the registration is complete. This could be an email or at the very least a simple thank you page once information is submitted.

III. Other segmentation
There are a variety of other segmentation types. One of the largest is acquisition channels. Different acquisition channels have different characteristics. Co-registration email list members, for example, will usually respond or convert differently than organically acquired email subscribers or an in store acquisition.

With any segmentation program it is important to take a step back. Remember that there is a real person on the other end of each email address. Every time you create an email, ask yourself whether your email content is addressing the specific needs of your audience. Email segmentation is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. Utilize creative and subject line test to all segments to see what works for specific audiences.

Here are some links to a variety of online studies, articles, postings etc. concerning email segmentation.

- Really Simple E-mail Segmentation: A Framework
- Optimize E-Mail with Segmentation, Frequency and Different Message Types
- Email Segmentation 101 - Things To Segment Your Email Campaigns By
- Does segmentation work? Stats and case studies
- Email Reaches Coveted Demographics
- Too Many Choices Can Be Dangerous

Below are some RANDOM THOUGHTS based on some things I saw in my inbox this past week.

Shape FX does a good job incorporating a mention in Life & Style magazine in an email. This not only shows the subscriber that others think the product is great, but it also validates the brand and links it to print media.
This email from Radio Shack confused me at first. Why would I want to "Print and cut out the word "THE"...take a picture of it, yada, yada, yada? ~ Then I clicked the image in the email. The idea here is to post the picture you take to the Radio Shack Facebook Page. This is kinda cool. My guess is that the result of this campaign will either be a wildly successful Facebook Page, or a totally horrible collection of bad pictures. I am hoping to see the former. Stay tuned...

If you read my last post you will know that I am a big fan of email. This week they sent me the email below asking if I wish to re-order the last order I made. This is a nice touch. In many cases parent's purchase the same products (i.e. diapers, lotions etc.) over and over again. Having a quick one touch order option is great. This is especially true for a sleep and time deprived parent.

I found this survey towards the bottom of a Men's Wearhouse email. This little survey is fun, but not related at all to the content of the mailing. This is fine because my interest is now piqued to see what the results will be for the August Quick Poll. I will be sure to open the next Men's Wearhouse email I receive.

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