A Retailer Strikes Out: The Importance of Email Segmentation

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mets from day one;
The team was old, injured and worn,
Yet I was optimistic, without any shame;
A new season of baseball, my favorite game.
I went online to purchase team gear,
The retailer sent confirmation emails, calming my fear.
But by the time it arrived, my team was in last;
If I expected a winner, I’d have to live in the past
And now just as the dastardly Phillies have won the division
That very same retailer has made an awful decision
They sent me an email promoting their big win
50% off merchandise, from hats to a pin
Don’t they know I’m a Mets fan, what’s this about?
There is no joy in my inbox – this mighty retailer has struck out.

“Casey at the Bat,” it’s not.  But hopefully it makes my point.

Perhaps I’m being a bit overdramatic with that colorful prose, but I cannot help myself.  When I woke up the other morning to see an email in my inbox promoting Phillies NL East Championship merchandise, I first thought it was one of my friends trying to rub it in my face.  But alas, it was sent by a retailer; a retailer I have previously done business with!  I thought they knew a little more about me.   Apparently this major sports retailer does not understand the fine art of email segmentation.

While the mailing list is the foundation for any email marketing campaign, in order to actually be successful with email, the list must be segmented and broken into multiple groups.  An optimal segmentation strategy can lead to better email responses, providing marketers with higher open rates, and increased conversions.  In this specific instance, I was just another name on this retailer’s email list.  Marketers cannot let this happen.

Email marketers must look at personal interests, behavior, geographics, and demographics before they deploy an email.  This should be the first step after initial contact with a customer.  When I first made my purchase with the retailer, I specifically requested to receive updates from them.  My first email from them was a confirmation email about my order.  Over the next few months, I received a coupon and an alert about free shipping.  But not once did they do anything to learn more about me. 

There are a number of things this retailer could have done to better segment its mailing list based on my interests. Perhaps the most effective thing they could have done was ask me to select my favorite sports teams.  This is a sports retailer after all.  The same type of questioning can be applied to any type of business.  It’s really quite simple and it would have come off that this retailer actually cares about its customers.

But even missing this crucial step, all they had to do was look at my purchase history.  Seeing as I bought a retro New York Mets 1986 Keith Hernandez jersey, the easy assumption could have been I was not a Philadelphia Philly fan!

The more data a marketer has on its customer, the more relevant subsequent email campaigns will be.  Segmenting your mailing list allows you to better hone in on your audience to help increase lifetime engagement.   My own engagement with this specific sports retailer is over faster than the Mets season – I have since unsubscribed from their email list and won’t be visiting any of their retail stores. If you want to avoid alienating your customers, make sure each segment has its own unique message that reaches out to the reader in a personal way so you can knock that next email campaign out of the park.

– Michael Goldberg
Director of Marketing
StormPost, a Datran Media Company
Email Michael