The 5 Stages of Email Segmentation Sophistication: How Evolved Are You?

Email segmentation is almost guaranteed to improve your email marketing results because it leads to targeted, relevant messaging and that in turn leads to conversions. Yet for all of its ROI potential, email segmentation is not commonly utilized, and even with those organizations that are segmenting their lists, the level of sophistication with which they’re doing so is fairly low.

As I’ve observed the varying degrees of email segmentation sophistication among a wide variety of organizations, I’ve outlined five distinct stages I think most business go through as they evolve. Most businesses are still in the very early stages, and of those that do progress into more sophisticated segmentation, most of them will likely not get past stage three. And that’s okay! As long as an effort is being made to continuously improve and offer ever more relevant and targeted email marketing, I accept that there will always be technological and/or staff limitations for many businesses. However, the key here is the try: trying to continuously improve.

To guide your organization along the email segmentation sophistication continuum, below I offer the five stages I’ve identified, so you can see where you’re at…and where you want to be.5_stages_of_email_segmentation-cm

1) Batch and Blast: In the very beginning stages of email segmentation, you or your staff probably lacks the technical sophistication or maybe the access to the data you need to do any kind of segmenting. That means you’re still doing generic batch and blast email marketing, sending the same message to everyone on your list, and that’s okay as long as your intentions are to improve upon this approach. The businesses that start at this primitive stage and stay there are the ones that give email a bad name.

2) Profile: As your email segmentation evolves, your company will start to use basic customer profiles to segment your lists. You’ll start to have more than one list, and to tailor content to each. For example, if you’re segmenting by ZIP code, you might send a very different kind of wintertime message to someone in snowy Fargo than to someone in sunny Phoenix. Other basic categories for email segmentation include gender and age group, although you might even be able to segment based on purchase history if you’re set up to know which products or topics were clicked on in an email message. The Profile Stage is a broad one, because it includes the early stages of email segmentation by only one or two categories, but can include actually quite sophisticated segmenting the more categories you have.

3) Persona: At the Persona Stage, you’ve definitely evolved past simple or even profiles. When you evolve to this point, you’re creating persona-based segments based on profile information about customers. Essentially, you’re taking your profiles to a whole new level of sophistication, and making predictions based on the personas you develop. Personas might be segments like the “Urban Warrior” who tends to be a technology using male between the ages of 18 and 24, or the “Sophisticated Spender” who tends to be a female, high-end spender, aged 35-44, who spends more money than your other customer segments. When you get to this stage, you’re able to deliver more personalized content which translates into more conversions, and even a higher email deliverability rate as you engage with your audiences in the inbox. This is only our middle stage in the degrees of email segmentation sophistication, but even if you only evolved to this stage, you’d likely be heads above your competition!

4) Behavioral: After personas, we move into behavioral segmentation, At this stage, you target your email marketing to how a customer behaves in their shopping and purchasing patterns. You’ve developed a strategy for important touch points during the sales cycle, or after a sale, depending on your market. You do re-marketing, emailing those with abandoned shopping carts, and you’re creating triggered email campaigns that are tailored to your segments.

5) Predictive Modeling: The most sophisticated email marketers are harnessing the power of predictive modeling, having reached the pinnacle of email marketing best practices and effectiveness. At this stage, you target customers based on analytics that scientifically predict what and when they will purchase next. You collect behavioral and event data on customers, and use it for predictive modeling. You likely integrated your email marketing with other systems within your organization, such as ecommerce, web analytics and CRM.

As I said above, it doesn’t matter so much where you are on this continuum, only that you’re constantly striving to improve and deliver ever more segmented messaging to your audiences…who will love you for being so relevant, and likely buy more as a result.

Marco Marini, CEO/President ClickMail, eec Gold Sponsor

6 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of Email Segmentation Sophistication: How Evolved Are You?

  1. I’ve been with companies who have been in all of these various stages. My experience has been that companies that are constantly trying to improve drive more and better traffic. To do this, they have to listen to their target customers and really narrow down what the customers want to see. Great post and information!

Comments are closed.