Are They Listening? Tips on Email Segmentation Via Webhooks

Irina Doliov
May. 6, 2015 by Irina Doliov

Are-you-listeningWe typically think of segmentation as a function of marketing. Marketers are the ones worried that one email’s content is relevant to a 25 year old woman in San Francisco while another is more appropriate for a 55 year old man in New York. While making content relevant to your audience is absolutely critical to long term marketing success, that’s not the type of segmentation I’m talking about here.

Email Segmentation

Deliverability experts say that if an individual hasn’t opened or clicked on your email in a certain amount of time, it is time to adjust the segment they are categorized into. You might want to send them a different type of message, not the same message you send to people who express interest by actively engaging with your emails. In fact, it might be time to take recipients who haven’t engaged in the past 6 months off your active list entirely.

Using SparkPost’s webhooks to get subscriber-level engagement data, you can update your database of record – or customer relationship management (CRM) system if you have one – as recipients open and click. As time of last engagement gets older, you can modify your content to those recipients with additional incentives to engage.  Once a recipient reaches 6 months from the last open or click, you can send a “win-back” message. We’ve all gotten these: “Dear Customer, we want you back. But if you don’t want to hear from us again, please let us know.” Honoring these opt-out requests is important: it reduces the number of messages you send to recipients who may not want them. And removing those that don’t respond one way or the other from your active mailing list helps ensure you don’t hit spam traps and hurt your deliverability with ISPs.

To start, a simple engagement-based segmentation strategy might look like this:

  • New recipients who signed up within the past 2 weeks: welcome messages, information to get started with your product or service, and then ongoing, regular contact. The type of content to send is of course specific to your product or service and ideally you know something about your customers to know what they would like. For example, existing paid customers might want more in depth information on HOW to use your product vs. prospects would like to understand WHY they should.
  • Recipients who’ve engaged in the past 6 months: consistent, ongoing communication is key. This is where a content strategy, and understanding your audience is really important. Your goal is likely to convert recipients to becoming paying customers (if they’re not already.) And provide relevant, timely content to existing customer to keep them coming back.
  • Recipients who haven’t engaged in 6 months or more: the goal is win them back. Or give them the chance to opt-out.

Another behavior-based strategy is segmenting based on time of day. If you know your customers engage with your email at a certain time of day (typical spikes are first thing in the morning in their time zone, lunchtime, and evenings), then striving to be at the top of their inbox at those times is likely to boost engagement.

The SparkPost user interface enables you to look at your data in 15-minute increments. This is in contrast to some other providers that show day as the smallest level of granularity. This allows you to see any obvious spikes in engagement and then using your webhooks to segment recipients into transmissions that send at those times based on when those recipients engage. For example, in the data below, we see a slight uptick in opens and clicks around noon. Using webhooks to understand which recipients are opening and clicking at that time, putting them into their own segment, and sending to them around noon will likely boost engagement of that group. Experimenting with different sending times for other recipients might yield another timing-based segment.

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