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3 tips for effective email marketing segmentation

Getting your message to the right customer at the right time… it’s the standard we all live by, right? Unfortunately it is sometimes easier said than done. There are times when reverting to the old “batch and blast” mentality instead of spending the time to craft segments and develop multiple versions of the creative is a very tempting trap to fall into.

At Freshpair, we have spent the last two years evolving our email marketing segmentation strategy. It’s been a series of trial and error, though ultimately a very successful process (and all without a data analytics team, no less).

While there were many iterations, the entire journey can be boiled down to three key takeaways when it comes to having effective email marketing segmentation:

1. Look for simple patterns in how your customer shops and don’t get stuck in the demographic trap

Trying to determine who your customer is can be a daunting task so we started at the beginning, Segmentation 101 if you will, and divided our customers into segments based on gender and age. We quickly learned that people do not choose their underwear based on age – imagine the angry emails we received when we decided women of a certain age would automatically want to buy granny panties!

We then began targeting based on brands purchased and categories shopped. While this was a vast improvement for our customers, it still wasn’t ideal. Through research and testing, we finally determined that our customers shop by aesthetics – not necessarily brand, certainly not age, and sometimes not even gender. Manties, anyone?

By classifying every product into a distinct category that mirrored the aesthetic associated with one of our eight customer personas, we were then able to analyze their individual purchase history and assign them into the segment. For example, Customer A has purchased four Wacoal bras and two Bali bras during the last year. With our previous method, we would have classified her as a “Classic” customer based on the majority of her purchases being Wacoal. Now looking at the aesthetic of each bra, we see her primary segment should actually be Legacy since her new basket alignment is four Legacy bras (two from Wacoal and two from Bali) and two Classic bras (both from Wacoal).

2. Test, test and then test again

As email marketers, this is the easy step… we love to test. You certainly don’t have to ask me twice (I sometimes think my co-workers get tired of my standard response “let’s test it and see” anytime they have a new idea). In this particular case we ran every test imaginable to validate the segments – from product images, to lifestyle images, to romance copy, to offers.

Throughout all of the testing we were able to prove that our segmentation assumptions were correct. We were also able to determine that certain segments respond differently than others. For instance a customer who shopped within the men's segments respond strongest to relevant imagery while those shopping in the women's segments respond stronger to relevant offers.

3. Pay attention to the data… sometimes you’ll learn something that you weren’t even looking for

Even with all the well planned out testing, there is always a chance you will stumble upon some results that aren’t expected. For us that was the discovery that customers who had both a primary and a secondary segment were much more engaged than those customers who only shopped within one segment. Now we are looking at ways to not only up-sell and cross-sell within a segment, but also across segments.

What works for Freshpair may not work for your company. Classifying every product you sell may simply be too difficult. However, thinking about segmentation beyond the traditional methods is ultimately the point here. There are more ways to look at your customers than by demographics or even an RFM score. Think about what works for your situation and start there… even the simplest of segmentation strategies is better than the old “batch and blast” any day.

Jason Scoggins is Director of Customer Experience at Freshpair, the largest online retailer of men's underwear and a leading online retailer of women's intimates.

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