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.

To learn more:

Data + Tech + Messaging = Customer Engagement

Email is not just a tactic. It’s a strategic communication channel, one that’s capable of generating an immediate response. With more digital channels, campaigns and data, messaging is becoming more complex, but managing that complexity can lead to deep, long lasting and engaged customer relationships.

Messaging can fall into the categories of being focused on the product, brand or offer. Data enables customer profiling, advanced segmentation, precise targeting, dynamic customization and unique 1-to-1 messaging.

Matt Vernhout, Chief Privacy Officer and Manager of Deliverability at Inbox Marketer outlined the parameters for his presentation at Interact 2013 with a formula for customer engagement – leveraging a combination of customer data, messaging technology and digital messaging.  Through a series of case studies, he highlighted how brands were able to more successfully engage customers.

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Case Study 1: Walgreens Demonstrates The Value of Combining Data Sets

By getting data from the Centre for Disease Control, Walgreens was able to provide value for their customer database by sending coupons to people in places of high flu density.  Walgreens’ success stems from the following:

  • Going beyond clickstream
  • Combining data sets
  • Profiling, segmenting and targeting customers
  • Leveraging on insights to drive behavior change

Case Study 2: SureBaby Provides Useful Information for Mums-To-Be

SureBaby, an online community for mums-to-be places subscribers into automated stream. Aside from sending a welcome message, SureBaby tracks the progress of their subscribers’ pregnancies and sends relevant emails based on the number of weeks a mum-to-be is pregnant.

Case Study 3: Petro-Canada Reactivates Customer Purchase Behavior

Petro-Canada runs a Petro-Points Loyalty Program for customers and enters declining purchasers into an email program. Through the automation of a dynamic eFlyer that pulls products and offers based on customer location data and postal codes, Petro-Canada were able to streamline their team and channel resources to more needed areas, going from a team of 7 to 3 people managing the program. A third of declining purchases also went back to their normal behavior.

Matt talked about how it was necessary to set up a messaging blueprint once so as to fully understand the program and what data can tell you.

Relevant content is critical, so optimize messages / campaigns, and send messages based on behavior by:

  • Automating data flow (2 ways)
  • Automating messaging
  • Using triggers and business rules
  • Designing for all devices

Case Study 4:  Publix Created A Sense of Urgency With Real-Time Messaging

Publix, a supermarket chain, created a sense of urgency among customers for their products by allowing them to sign up for alerts the moment fresh fruit reached shelves.  An engagement stream was created where customers received six touches over 31 days through email and SMS. There was a retention stream, where customers received relevant product eAlerts, as well as a loyalty stream.

Publix was able to succeed in their campaign through dynamic customization. They created personalized content using dynamic blocks, were relevant and the smarter messaging approach they took led to customer engagement and behavior change.

Case Study 5: M&M Meat Shops Targeted Behaviors To Change

Having done a lot of research, M&M Meat Shops discovered that while their customers’ lifestyles have changed over the last decade, the company had done little to keep up with those changes.  With the goals of increasing shopping frequency in a key segment and upselling new products and categories, M&M Meat Shops decided to move away from the “one size fits all” messaging approach.

They created an eMax eFlyer, which was one publication that was intended to satisfy 10 objectives. The eMax eFlyer incorporated 20% loyalty messaging, 10% new product features and 20% on brand and lifestyle messaging. It had content geared towards:

  • Purchase: Recipes, Product Suggestions
  • Segments: Content, Images
  • Shopping: Promotions, Offers

Matt concluded his presentation by emphasizing the need to tap into data, technology and messaging to become a leader in the industry:

  • Combine and condition data
  • Set up message automation and triggers
  • Segment audience to deliver relevant messaging

While personalization appears to be key to customer engagement, Matt was also quick to warn about the creep factor – mainly don’t freak your customers out by sending them information that is too personal. Remember Target?

Yep, we do too. No one wants to be confronted by an angry dad, so pretend that you know less than you do so as not to creep out your customers in sensitive situations!

Email Marketing News Digest

In this week’s issue, we look at a preview statistic from the 2013 DMA Tracking Study, the average company response time to complaint emails, reasons why consumers mark email as spam and ways to work that subject line!

Segmentation driving email…driving segmentation

One third of respondents in the 2013 DMA tracking study still feel that 20% or less of the emails they received were relevant – a clarion call to marketers to start doing more segmentation with their lists. Superficial personalization may well be falling out of favour, but subscribers appreciate emails that are properly customized to their preferences. The official 2013 DMA tracking study will be launched on October 17 and needless to say, we’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing the results.

News Byte: 59% of Companies Take More Than Eight Hours to Respond to Email Inquiries

When it comes to email enquiries, 59% of companies take more than 8 hours to respond, and 26.5% take 24 hours or more. Email remains the most common channel for complaining with 42% of respondents listing it as their preferred channel and 36% listing the phone. For comparison, the average Twitter response time is 4.6 hours. If you’re one of these companies that have a long lag time in responding to customers then it seems that automation may be the way to go.

Read about how US Airways has managed to raise customer satisfaction in the case study, or watch the video below.

Top Reasons Consumers Give For Marking Emails as Spam

Here’s a finding that would make most email marketers sit up and take notice: Reasons why subscribers mark your email as spam.

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Four Approaches to Make Your Subject Lines Work Harder

Subject lines remain one of the main determinants on whether an email is opened. If subscribers can’t be bothered to click on your email, they can’t see your special enticing offer, which means the possibility of a sale is absolutely zero. Here are some ways to get your subject lines noticed.

  • Incorporate special characters like ✈
  • Personalization
  • Frontload subject lines with the most important information
  • Include Quick Action buttons from Gmail that allow subscribers to convert without opening your mail

Infographic: How Email Strategies are Changing

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Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

On this week’s edition of the email marketing news digest we’re looking at what the experts have to say on the do’s and don’ts of email segmentation. We present the views, so you can do your own testing to see what works best for your business! And for the email segmentation experts out there, we’ve kept it diversified with tips from mobile marketing and study results on the industry performance of email marketing.

7 simple and effective ways to use email segmentation

Targeting increases relevance, which in turn boosts customer engagement leading to increased email clicks and open rates. Targeting is achieved through segmentation and here are 7 ways to segment an email list:

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  • Gender
  • Geotargeting
  • Age
  • Automated triggers
  • Purchase data
  • Activity
  • Customer Preferences

Break These Email Segmentation Best Practices

While the previous article gives a good overview of basic email segmentation practices, Jordie van Rijn provides examples where it’s okay to make an exception, or to go one step further in ensuring your email is both relevant and targeted.

  • Early segmentation – Sometimes it’s best to put off collecting customer preferences to make email sign-up less painful. Instead, go for a customer preference center.
  • Age & behavior – Don’t make assumptions about age group. For example, just because you are targeting baby boomers doesn’t mean you don’t need an email that is optimized for mobile.
  • Gender segmentation – Remember that during the season of giving, people might purchase something on your site for the opposite gender as a gift.
  • Geographic location – Rethink the way you present content to a national audience if you segment by geography. Be creative!

Using Mobile Marketing Tactics to Add Email Subscribers

Couple of weeks back we featured an article on how you can improve email deliverability through SEO tactics. Now we’re letting mobile marketing teach us a few new tricks. Get users to opt in to receiving email through text by:

  • Asking them
  • Offering incentives
  • Opt-ins within mobile apps
  • Point-of-Sale
  • Customer review
  • Captive audiences
  • Short codes
  • QR codes

We’re all about multi-channel these days so we might as well apply that to our marketing tactics as well!

5 Ways to Personalize Emails and Enhance Open Rates

Our client Eloqua has gathered data revealing that personalized subject lines are key to open rates. Email subject lines that contain the name and one other personal detail perform the best.

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Here are 5 other tips to boost your open rates.

  • Segment your list separately by social data
  • Craft templates that enable you to trigger personalized emails
  • Exclamation points don’t necessarily drive opens
  • Test and track the effectiveness of calls to action (CTAs)
  • Align your email and social language for consistent communication

61% of marketers rate their email campaigns as poor or average: infographic

Think you’re good at email marketing? Here’s an infographic to give you some insight on how you compare in the industry (or in UK at least).

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Looking for a digital messaging software with built-in functionality to segment lists for behavioral marketing? Read more about Momentum.

Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

We hone in on the debate surrounding confirmation opt-ins this week: When are they necessary and what percentage of marketers are deploying it in practice? Also on the agenda, tips for successful email personalization and most commonly followed email marketing best practices.

When COI Makes Absolutely No Sense

Andrew Cordek from Trendline Interactive challenges permission purists by questioning whether confirmed opt-in is necessary in certain situations. One such situation is where a user registers to access site information through the following process:

  1. Creating a username and password (with CAPTCHA)
  2. Filling out a long form with information
  3. Managing opt-ins for other email publications through a preference center (with cadence/frequency info)
  4. Confirming choices on another page
  5. Receipt of a welcome email which had all of the email choices listed

In such a scenario, Cordek argues that a closed loop email for subscribers to confirm their choices is unnecessary.

No, COI actually makes sense most of the time

And here’s the rebuttal by David Romerstein from LivingSocial. While Romerstein agrees that COI might not make sense in some scenarios, it certainly isn’t that one outlined by Cordek, for one reason: The detection of typos.

Confirmation emails help to eliminate typos, whether committed on purpose by a competitor trying to affect your reputation, or by accident. Minimizing typos helps in keeping one’s IP reputation clean.

Email Deliverability: Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list

In the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, the following question was put to marketers:

Q: Which of the following tactics is your organization using to improve email deliverability rates? Please select all that apply.

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The results showed that only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list. Providing an easy unsubscribe process was the tactic that was most widely deployed by marketers at 62%. Of concern was the fact that only 21%of marketers used email authentication like DKIM or SPF to improve email deliverability.

The ultimate email marketing mistake

Here are three tips to make email personalization work for your business:

  • Use a valid reply email: A noreply@ address means you are missing out on opportunities to hear from your customer
  • Make sure you have the data: Skip personalization altogether if you don’t have many member names in your database
  • Avoid generic placeholders: Segment your list and send recipients without a listed name emails without a personalized greeting

73% of businesses carry out basic email segmentation: report

The new econsultancy email marketing census provides some interesting data for email marketers.

Top three email marketing practices are basic email segmentation at 73%, encouraging the sharing of content at 52% and regular list cleaning at 49%.

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The most commonly used email trigger was automated response to website visit/sign-up emails at 35%.

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Abandoned basket automated email programmes provided the greatest return on investment according to 13% of companies surveyed.

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