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Email Segmenting: Only as Effective as Your Message
By: Elaine Reed
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List segmentation is a tried-and-true way to maximize an email list. Basic segmentation includes location, specific interests, and order history. Segment by order history seems like a no brainer. If a customer ordered a refillable product, they get a message just before the typical refill time. If they ordered a product that has new accessories or upgrades, they get an email announcing the new options. Easy, right?

It seems that while bigger sites have gotten a handle on this concept, the bigger the site is, the more difficult it is to get the messaging right. This email I recently got from Amazon is a perfect example. The email opens asking if I need something from the MP3 player accessories department. (I do; my case recently broke.) Then it shows me expensive solar-charging kits. While I am a huge fan of green energy, I’m not about to spend over $200 on a solar battery charger for my MP3 player.

Amazon is not totally off the mark. At some point I did look at solar chargers. Had they repositioned this message to say something like “Did you know that one solar charger can generate enough energy to power your (insert devices here) for x hours at a time?”

A message like that definitely would have hooked me. Was I planning to spend hundreds of dollars on a solar charger for my MP3 player? No. But I might go ahead and do it if I knew that a solar charger could power all of my devices, including my cell phone and laptop.

It is all but certain that Amazon’s email segmentation system is automated and probably has been for so long that there is limited, if any, human oversight of the actual messages that go out. And there is so much traffic on Amazon that a person or even department can only catch so many errors. But a smaller business could.

Cross marketing to email segments is a fantastic way to expand the buying power of repeat customers and visitors to a site. The key is making sure the message is relevant. As a marketer, I understood why I got the email that I did from Amazon. But will the average consumer with an overflowing inbox even take the time to read past the first item in that email? Not likely. In fact, that email, even though the message wasn’t totally off, could generate an unsubscribe.

The point of list segmentation is to deliver targeted messages to a qualified group. Make sure your reader can clearly see why they are qualified to see — and more importantly, to act — on your message.

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About the Author
Elaine Reed is a marketing professional with heavy emphasis on e-commerce and Internet marketing. She blogs regularly on her website and tweets often.
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