what is audience segmentation in digital marketing

What is Audience Segmentation in Digital Marketing and why should I use it?

One of your main tools when it comes to digital marketing may be sending out frequent newsletters or email campaigns. Getting your message — and product — directly to people’s inboxes is a major way to increase your brand awareness and promote your new products or services. However, not everyone who receives your emails is interested in the same things. That’s where audience segmentation comes in.

Segmentation is when you break your email subscribers into smaller groups, or segments, depending on certain factors. It’s a way to better target your content to those who are going to be the most interested in it, therefore allowing you to reach your goals faster. Think about it — getting a generic email from a brand might not really catch your eye, but a personalized email that speaks to your specific interests will.

Since email marketing has been shown to be more effective for conversions than SEO or social media, segments are a powerful tool for taking your email blasts to the next level by reaching all members of your audience and ensuring you are meeting their individual needs. 

While it may feel a bit easier to send everyone who signs up for your email list one general message, segmenting can pay off big time in the long run. Your subscribers will notice you going the extra mile and reward it with more clicks and conversions. In fact, email segmentation has been shown to increase your email open rates by 203%, and HubSpot reports that segmented campaigns can increase revenue by 760%. These are huge margins that you don’t want to miss out on, and we’re here to break down how to effectively segment the audience you already have. 

What types of segmentation are there?

What types of segmentation are there?

Now that you know what segmentation is and why it’s important, let’s look at the different kinds of segments you can break your audience into.

Demographic email segmentation:

Demographic information includes someone’s age, gender, income, and geographic location. This information is a big predictor of what someone is interested in or needs from your company. For example, you might be having an in-person event in New York, which wouldn’t be important to your audience based on the West Coast. In this instance, you can segment your email list to only notify recipients who are in the geographical area of your event and therefore more likely to attend. Not only will this prevent those in your general audience from getting annoyed with irrelevant emails and be more likely to unsubscribe from you altogether, but isolating your New York base can give you insight into how effective your campaigns are after seeing the turnout. You should try to gather as much of this data as possible from your subscribers by adding in demographic questions when they sign up for your email list. This will be beneficial when it comes time to introduce audience segmentation to your email marketing. If you already have many subscribers and haven’t gathered this information, rest assured that you can still effectively segment your audience. Some email platforms can give you insight to the demographics of your audience, such as your audience’s location, but you can also send out an option survey to your email list with these questions and let them know it’s to help you tailor your emails more effectively to your interests — and send them less junk mail. Of course, not all demographic information might be necessary for you to know, so think about which ones are most relevant to the services you provide. For example, a jewelry brand might be interested in knowing the gender and income level of its audience so it can send out the most relevant deals to that group. 

Role-specific email segmentation:

If you work with other businesses, this kind of audience segmentation will be important to you. Since you work with different people with different positions, what is relevant to a CEO might not be relevant to the company’s social media coordinator. For example, if you offer a myriad of digital marketing services, it would be important to know what a subscribers’ role is in their company so you’re communicating the appropriate message to them. Because of this, you want to be able to segment your audience by their company or position in order to effectively reach them with your messaging.

Behavior-specific email segmentation:

For this kind of segmentation, you’ll need to take a look at your website data to see metrics such as how long a customer is on a certain page for or how many times they visit your website and specific pages. Certain website platforms or independent programs such as DotDigital are able to track this information that you can use to segment your audience based on this behavior. Knowing which pages someone lingers on can be helpful for segmentation because it gives you an idea of what parts of your website they find the most useful to them. For example, if you see someone spends a lot of time on your blog, you can send them a personalized email when you post a new one. Oppositely, if a group of people has never looked at your blog, you can tailor a specific message to them in an effort to persuade them to take a look. 

Engagement-specific email segmentation:

Looking at how an email subscriber interacts with your emails themselves can be another way to segment your audience. Some subscribers might loyally open every email, but not necessarily click all the way through it. Others may only open your emails when they’re sent at certain times of day or have certain keywords in the subject line. You can use this information to better figure out how to tailor your email marketing to certain audiences depending on how they’re currently interacting with it. For example, you can target a segment of only subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in the past month and send them an incentive to engage with you, such as a discount code for your website. 

Purchase-specific email segmentation:

If you offer a range of products or services that vary widely by price, collecting purchase-specific data can be an asset to you in segmenting your email list. Looking at a customer’s purchase history can give you an idea about how to do this. For example, do they tend to purchase exclusively from your sale selection, or are they consistently a big spender? Are they a repeat customer of only one product, or have they tried an array of your services? Knowing this information can help you be strategic with your messaging by suggesting your services that can supplement those they have already purchased from you. For example, if they previously had you design their website, you might want to offer them your service of social media management. This type of segmentation can also allow you to follow up with them a few months after their purchase if it is something they might need to buy again, like a hair or skincare product.

Position-specific email segmentation:

The sales funnel is the journey a customer takes to purchasing a product or service. Knowing where someone is in this journey can help guide you to sending emails that can give them the push they need to make a purchase. New email subscribers, as an example, should receive different messages than people who have been on your email list for a year. Another aspect of the sales funnel you can look at is those who began to make a purchase and abandoned their virtual shopping cart on your website. Research shows that almost 70% of carts are abandoned across industries, but being on top of these metrics can make a huge difference in terms of giving a customer the push they need to follow through with their purchase. Sending an email reminding a customer about their abandoned cart — or even offering a small discount for that product — can be the boost they need to commit to the purchase. In fact, data shows sending a targeted email to those who have abandoned their carts without one hour can boost conversions by over 6%.

Interest-based email segmentation:

On your website’s email sign-up page, you can have a checkbox of different topics for subscribers to opt-in to. This is a fairly simple way for members of your audience to self-report their interests, which you can later use for audience segmentation. For example, if you sell women’s clothing, you might ask if they’re interested in receiving emails about parenting, fitness, styling tips, or accessorizing. This will keep fresh emails coming to them without spamming them with information that is irrelevant to their lifestyle.

Now what?

Now what?

Once you feel comfortable identifying the segments that would work best for your business, where do you go from there? 

Your next step is actually creating the email content and tailoring it to your different audiences. 

You should have a goal for your email marketing to help you shape your strategy and measure its effectiveness. These goals should be specific and achievable, and should be able to help you break your strategy down into smaller steps. If you want to increase your brand awareness, for example, maybe your goal is to get 100 new subscribers a month. Then, you should know that your strategy should include ways to reach those who aren’t currently getting your emails or for your current subscribers to share your content with others. 

Before someone even reads your email, they see your subject line — so make it count! Especially since people are often inundated with hundreds of emails a day, you should make your subject line feel personal to them so it catches their eye and entices them to read through it. 

Next, your audience should feel like your email is providing some value to them, not just selling them something. You can provide educational emails, offer them free tips or resources, or share the latest updates in your business or industry. If you’re struggling to know what kind of emails you should be sending, click here to read our guide to starting a newsletter.

How do I find the right email platform?

How do I find the right email platform?

After learning the basics of email segmentation, you have to actually put it into practice. As most  email platforms might have the tools you need to use segmenting, it will hopefully be fairly easy for you to navigate. However, if your current platform doesn’t offer data tracking or audience segmentation, you can transfer over your contacts to one that does. 

Some of the main email hosting platforms such as MailChimp will provide you with the option to segment your audience, plus tracking metrics such as your website activity. MailChimp even allows you to set up automatic customized emails to people depending on how they interact with your website. You can read more of our tips for picking a good email marketing platform here

As mentioned previously, websites such as DotDigital or Oribi can track individualized metrics of someone’s behavior on your website, which you can manually add to a segmented campaign if it isn’t built into the platform you choose. 

You also want to be sure that you’re tracking the results of your email marketing and segmentation strategy. After all, what good is putting in all this work if you aren’t sure how it’s affecting your business? Nearly every platform shows you open and click rates, but some such as SalesLoft go a step beyond and offer insights like your return on investment and revenue per email sent.

If you feel stuck in the lengthy process of mastering email marketing, don’t worry — you can check out our complete guide to getting started, or reach out to us for a one-on-one consultation. 🍑