A Twitterview: E-mail Segmentation Tips from Sierra Trading Post
I recently interviewed Wendy Croissant, e-mail marketing manager for outdoor gear and apparel cataloger Sierra Trading Post. We talked about how powerful a strategy segmentation is for e-mail marketing. Creating the kind of great e-mail experiences that increase response and help ensure inbox
deliverability are predicated on relevancy. That sounds so simple, but
in practice it can be tricky. Relevancy is in the eye of the beholder.
What works for some of your subscriber segments isn't likely to work
for all of them.
In the Twitterview, she shared some great tips and learnings. We’ll publish the second part of my Twitterview with her in the May 8 edition of AAE. And you can also read the original, full conversation on Twitter here:
- Segmentation is worth the time and effort. Even if lists are pulled manually, Croissant says, Sierra Trading Post finds the boost in revenue worthwhile. The increased ROI will be worth all the time and effort you put into it.
- Segmentation helps improve the subscriber experience and lower complaints, or clicks on the “Report Spam” button. It's a key way to reach the inbox.
- E-mail segmentation provides valuable insight as to what works and what doesn’t for various types of customers/prospects. That data can effectively shape merchandise and marketing outreach strategies.
- Don’t let segmentation overwhelm or intimidate you. Take it slow, test and find the kind of segmenting that works for you.
Improving response with segmentation
In terms of importance for Sierra Trading Post, e-mail segmentation is “right at the top, alongside our offer/merchandise strategy," says Croissant. "It plays a very important role in our overall approach. We can look at e-mails that were segmented well versus ones that weren’t and see a drastic difference in response.”
Improving response is just one reason segmentation is so important. Custom, relevant messages build loyalty and encourage sharing, as well as reduce complaints, which are recorded every time a subscriber clicks the “Report Spam” button. Those complaints add up quickly, and even a small number — such as 2 percent to 3 percent of your total volume — can get you blocked by the ISPs like AOL, Yahoo and Gmail.
A variety of segmentation strategies
For Sierra Trading Post, the top segmentation rule is purchase behavior. Croissant segments the cataloger's file and customizes not only messages, but frequency and timing, using this behavioral characteristic. With purchase behavior as a guide, Sierra Trading Post sends 30 unique messages each week, with individual subscribers receiving three to six messages each.
Even simple segmentation can significantly improve results. Most e-mail broadcast systems can easily segment around new subscribers, inquirers, first-time buyers, recent purchasers or nonresponders (haven't opened or clicked in three to six months).
Self-segmentation is offered by many e-mail marketers — including Sierra Trading Post. This tactic allows subscribers to choose their content types. Sierra Trading Post, for instance, has DealFlyer offers, alerts for specific product availability and a blog e-newsletter that customers can choose from. A new preference center is also planned for later this year, Croissant says. Today, however, “buying habits trump choice for us,” she adds.
“We’ve thought about segmenting influencers and have tested a couple of e-mails based on that,” Croissant says. “Surprisingly, some of our most valuable segments are some of our smallest segments, and just [because] the segment is small doesn’t mean response will be. I think that’s a poor assumption made all too frequently by marketers.”
Are you doing something cool with e-mail or social media? Want to be interviewed in a Twitterview? Want to hear from someone else in a Twitterview? Please post a comment here with suggested topics or interviewees.
Stephanie Miller is the vice president of market development at Return Path, a New York City-based e-mail deliverability firm. Reach Stephanie at stephanie [dot] miller [at] returnpath [dot] net or via Twitter @StephanieSAM. Reach Wendy Croissant via Twitter @email_queen.