How to Optimize Your Email Targeting Efforts

Apr 14, 2012 6:45 AM  By

Today, consumers are savvier than ever before. Not only do they know that marketers collect, gather and analyze information about their shopping and buying behaviors, most expect marketers to use that information to create an experience with them that truly resonates.


It isn’t enough to merely batch all of your email subscribers together and send a single communication – you have to create an experience within the communication….preferably a good experience.

Within the world of email, it is relatively easy to create a good experience for your subscribers. At minimum, you know how they engage with your email communications; on the more sophisticated end, you know buying and site behavior, life stage and other key attributes.

Putting this information to work for you via targeting and segmentation is an easy and obvious way to achieve greater relevance within your content. It should no longer be a question of whether you target – instead, the question should become, “Who is the right audience for this offer?”

The challenge in targeting and segmentation efforts is that there are so many different approaches to determining “who” you should talk to and “when.” So much so, that you may not get it right the first (or second, or third) time around.

As you look to start, modify or optimize your targeting efforts, here are four questions you can ask yourself (or your team) to get moving in the right direction:

What information do you currently collect from customers during the registration process?
Customer-provided information is the best place to start when identifying targeting and segmentation opportunities within your email database. If you are collecting this information, you should be prepared to use it.

The excuse of “just being curious” has never been acceptable to the customer (trust me, I have seen it). The customer has an innate understanding that if they are providing this detail to you, it will be used (and should be used) to create a more relevant and applicable experience for each individual.

What additional information would you like them to provide?
Oftentimes marketers will minimize the information collected at the point of subscription to avoid subscription abandon. But there are often data points that you would like to get your hands on as the relationship progresses.

Using polls and surveys within your existing email stream is a great way to collect this information without appearing burdensome, which can then be used to further target your customer-base.

What data points do you collect regarding behavioral engagement?
Additional behavioral data points can range from offline to online and anything in between. The ability to bring this information together to create a single view of the customer should be the goal of every marketer.

This knowledge not only provides great profile data for you, applying it correctly creates the most relevant experience for the subscriber.

What do your customers expect to receive from you?
As you collect this information and apply it to your targeting and segmentation tactics, it is imperative to execute this in line with customer expectations. If you are sending them content or targeting them for deals that they do not expect, it could result in a negative experience. The point here is to keep this in mind as you analyze the elements of your customer profile.

This is exactly what Wayfair did when it launched its private sale site Joss & Main in January 2011. As the second-largest online retailer of home goods in the United States with over $500 million in sales in 2011, Wayfair wanted to create an enduring brand in the popular flash sale market by offering premium, one-of-a-kind home goods at alluring discounts of up to 70% off retail. In order to execute effectively, they knew it was imperative to not only understand their customer but to target them effectively.

Since the launch, Joss and Main has successfully leveraged data elements to create the most impactful and unique experience for the subscriber possible. Segmentation elements they have leveraged include, but are not limited to:

Life stage: Recognizing that families with small children at home versus empty nesters have different needs and desires associated with high-end home furnishings.

Demographic and psychographic attributes: Families with pets have different buying patterns than those without pets.

Purchase behavior: Leveraging cross-sell/up-sell opportunities aligned with previous purchases made by a customer.

Click-stream analysis: Categorical interest demonstrated via click behavior on the site can influence product offerings within the email communication.

Marketers have endless data at their fingertips – you just need to get your head and hands wrapped around it and put it to good use.

Kara Trivunovic is global director, strategy and market innovation, at StrongMail.