By the end of 2019, the number of email users is projected to grow to 2.9 billion people. In the United States alone, there will be 254.7 million email users by 2020. That's a lot of potential customers for your emails to target.
However, many businesses don’t segment their email lists and as a result, everyone on their lists get everything whether they like it or not. If you’re guilty of doing the same thing, it’s time to rethink your email marketing strategy. People simply don't open emails they don't want. Those just end up in the trash.
What people want is a more personal approach. In fact, according to Experian Marketing Services, personalized emails delivered 6 times higher transaction rates (clicks, opens, etc.), but 70 percent of brands don't use them.
An easy way for you to stand out from the pack is to personalize your emails. Start by segmenting your lists to achieve higher open and click-through rates.
What is email list segmentation?
Email segmentation is an email marketing trick where a business splits its email list based on different criteria. That criteria might include geographic location, age, education level, job function, industry type, persona and knowledge by the company which previous email campaigns a customer may have interacted with. How a company chooses to segment its list will vary based on the needs of that business.
Here are a few ways to get started segmenting your list.
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1. Subscriber quizzes
Quizzes are a great interactive lead generation tool. They also provide an easy way to have subscribers self-identify what they are most interested in so you can easily tailor what you send to them based on their interests.
As an example, Daniel Ndukwu, founder of KyLeads, discussed how this could work for a business in the fitness space: You would create a quiz to measure someone’s body type with three potential result outcomes: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph.
During the process of answering a series of questions that allow you to provide them with a relevant result you receive a host of valuable information about the individual such as their gender, exercise habits, eating habits, etc. In the end, they get a result and are added to your mailing list. [Interested in email marketing services? Check out our best picks to find the right one for your business.]
When it is set up correctly, each of these categories tags the individual and allows you to easily segment your list into different demographic or interest profiles within your email service provider to provide greater customization and utility in your email marketing efforts.
2. Behavioral segmentation
When you first meet someone you find interesting, you take the time to get to know more about them. Behavioral segmentation works in much the same way but in a way that is scalable and valuable for your business.
First, you identify the behaviors you want to pay attention to. For most online businesses, this will include things like new leads, cart abandoners or inactive subscribers. To do this effectively, you will need to link your email marketing service with your website or e-commerce platform. Then, you will need to create automated nurture sequences that target the identified behaviors.
For example, if you have a new subscriber who has been exploring your website, but hasn’t made a purchase, you may want to begin with offering highly valuable content based on their interests to build a sense of brand loyalty. This can be done by tracking the pages they visit and offering additional content around preferred topics.
If it’s a brand-new customer who just made their first purchase, you can send them tips for getting the most out of their new product, a thank you note with a discount for a future purchase, or a follow up to find out if they were happy with their shopping experience.
3. Opt-in surveys
Do you want to know what your email subscribers are passionately curious about? Just ask them. When you offer an opt-in gift it’s easy to add a short survey that allows the subscriber to tell you a little more about themselves. Even asking a simple question such as, “What are you most passionate about?,” can yield a wealth of information.
Automate this process with predefined options from which they can choose and you will know exactly what email sequences, offers and incentives to provide that will make them feel understood and valued. In providing incentives that make your customers and prospects feel like “you get them” you quickly build trust while enhancing their experience with your company.
4. Personalized onboarding
Onboarding is an important process that is often overlooked in the world of email marketing. It is an opportunity to introduce a new member of your community to your company and gives you the chance to learn more about them at the same time.
Start with personalization. Be sure to use the subscriber’s name and in the subject line, let them know you have something special for them. Within the body of the email provide several different ways for them to access your content and then, further segment the account based on their selections (such as via an invitation to join a Facebook group, view a video tutorial or get a free download). By noting what your new members are interested in you will have a better idea of how they prefer to engage with your company and can further customize their experience.
According to the latest research, relevance is one of the most important considerations when trying to improve email engagement. You can increase the relevance of your emails through careful list segmentation and thoughtfully prepared nurture sequences. While this does take a bit more planning and organizational effort, the numbers clearly demonstrate it is time well spent. If you truly want to maximize the potential of your email list, effective segmentation is a must.
More Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaign
You've segmented your list. Now what? Here are a few ways to make sure you're catering to that personal experience your customer is looking for.
1. Have a dedicated welcome email
When you do start using email marketing, don't rely on the automated opt-in messages that your email management software provides. Instead, create an automated series of custom emails that subscribers receive.
A custom email series, also called an autoresponder sequence or sales funnel, helps new subscribers learn more about your business and guides them toward making a purchase. And out of all these emails, the welcome email is the most important.
Sending a welcome email allows you to direct your new subscribers' attention back to your business right after they have signed up for your list, which is when they are mostly interested in what you have to offer. In fact, welcome emails generate, on average, 320 percent more revenue than any other type of promotional email.
These emails should be automated so that they are sent based on when a person signs up for your list. Emails sent in real time see 10 times more interaction from new subscribers than emails sent in bulk.
The best plan for your business is to have an entire sequence of emails that are automatically sent when someone new subscribes. But if you have to pick just one email to customize, make it a welcome email.
2. Be mobile-friendly
As more and more people use tablets and smartphones, your customers are more likely to read your emails on a mobile device. A full 51 percent of email is opened on mobile devices, and people are more likely to look at email on an Apple iPhone than on Gmail.
Before you schedule your promotional emails, though, make sure your design looks as good on mobile devices as it does on a desktop. If your emails look odd or format strangely on mobile devices, customers aren't going to save them to read on a desktop. They'll just delete it and move on to the next message. Having a mobile-friendly email design, often called a responsive design, will keep all your promotional messages looking professional.
If you're worried about how your design will look, you can always stick with a plain-text email, which looks the same no matter where it's opened. You don't even have to worry about whether customers will like it — across industries, plain-text emails have higher open rates than those designed with HTML.
3. Play with your subject lines
If you want customers to open your emails, you need to play around with your subject lines and figure out what catches their attention. Try out different subject lines by asking questions or teasing content. Avoid words that can be off-putting, like "donate," which can reduce your open rate by 50 percent or more.
Adding emojis in subject lines is also becoming more common: The use of emoji in email marketing increased by 775 percent between 2015 and 2016. Just make sure to use emojis as emphasis or decoration, rather than using them to replace actual words, as some email servers may not display them.
To figure out which subject lines work best, try A/B testing, or sending different subject lines to segments of the same email list to see which one gets a higher open rate. The key is to experiment and learn what your customers respond to.
The goal of email marketing should always be to connect with customers and increase their loyalty to your brand. Focus on customer experience and response, as you would with any other form of marketing, and tailor your email marketing campaigns to your audience to see the best results possible.
Additional reporting by Katharine Paljug.