By Ian Goldman | CEO Celerant Technology
You already know that your customers differ from each other. What resonates with one may fall flat with another. Marketing strategies in the past have taken the approach of including something for everybody, or making sure that as many customers as possible see at least one thing they may be interested in. That still works for legacy communication channels, but email is different -- it’s personal.
That puts greater responsibility on the sender to populate emails with offers that provide value to readers while leaving out products that they have no interest in. Failing to do so risks losing customers forever. Many email providers offer users the ability to register an email sender as spam with a single click. Before hitting send on any campaign, realize that you are potentially one click away from never being able to reach recipients again.
Segmenting customers quickly is important, but it is vital to do so accurately. Information on behaviors and preferences is necessary to segment customers properly. Until you have enough data to segment accurately, it is advisable to put customers into a generalized segment. Send them offers that are nonspecific and appreciated by anybody, like 5% off the purchase of any single item. Once they start engaging, you can monitor every behavior and that will put you on the path to fast and accurate segmentation.
Fast track your email list to get each recipient into the most appropriate segment as quickly as possible.
Avoid assumptions based on demographics. It can be very tempting to make initial segmentation decisions based on age, sex, income, and other demographic data. This is often the first information that is available on targets, but it is unreliable in predicting shopping behaviors. Men may be interested in products specifically for their wives, some high income shoppers may be extremely budget conscious, and some people that live in warm climates may be primarily interested in buying gear for their winters ski trips.
Assumptions based solely on demographics can quickly lead you down a very wrong path and risk customers receiving marketing materials that are irrelevant to them. Demographic data can be quite useful in further stratifying customers that have already been segmented based on behaviors, but without that context it is not generally an ideal starting point.
Behaviors are the best segmenting counsel. Watching the shopping behavior of customers is the best way to segment them, but it can seem challenging to obtain. Marketing automation software provides insights into these behaviors by tracking which recipients opened the message, how long they spent reading it, and which links they clicked. That’s a good place to start, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what behaviors should be measured.
Integrating your website into marketing automation gives you access to a more complex and meaningful suite of behaviors. What did customers do after they clicked a link to your site? Which products did they look at? How long did they spend on each page? Did they make a purchase? When you track these behaviors and tie them to each email recipient, a clear picture of preferences emerges. It should also drive continuing engagement by triggering communication based on behavior. Customers that purchase an item should automatically receive an email asking if they liked it and inviting them to contribute a review; abandoned carts should trigger an email reminding customers the item is still available, and so on. The more engagement you generate, the more behavioral data you can analyze to improve segmentation accuracy.
Segments do not remain constant. Behavioral data is measurable in real-time, and that makes it an invaluable tool in ensuring that segmentation remains current. As people advance through stages of life and encounter experiential changes, their behaviors are your window into their evolving preferences. Customers are not going to tell you when they buy a new house, have a new baby, or get a massive raise at work. Changes like these can move them into new segments rapidly and it is up to you to keep a watchful eye on their behaviors to determine when a shift has occurred. This will empower you to send the best offers right when they are desired.
Whether you are sending a general email to customers that have not yet been segmented or an offer to customers you have tracked for years, remember to stay authentic at all times. No matter how great an offer is, customers are keen at identifying when a message is automatically generated and they instantly stop paying attention. Respect the fact that email is an invitation into very personal lives and realize that abusing that relationship will quickly slam a door in your face. Track as many behaviors as you can through email, on your website, and at POS through loyalty club programs or manually by asking clerks to tie purchase data to customer records.
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