Your customers expect and demand highly customized and relevant content. How can your company deliver that? The long answer involves a complex marketing mix that utilizes customer data and aligns that data with business goals and blah, blah, blah. The short answer is email marketing.
Email remains the main channel for direct communication between a company and their subscribers (potential, past/lapsed and current customers). Why? Two main reasons. One is that customers still want relevant emails. The other is that your company gets to control 100% of the communication. You don’t have to play by another platform’s rules and try to fit your brand into some rigid structure. Email allows companies to use optimized content and customized designs to connect with customers on a more personal level than other channels.
Consumers demand that your communications be tailored to their wants and needs. If you break this unspoken agreement, then you will annoy them, and they will unsubscribe from your emails. If you don’t follow best practices, then the contacts on your list may report your organization. In turn, this damages your email account’s reputation and hinders your ability to successfully send to any and all subscribers going forward.
I’m going to use the “S” word: segmentation. You should add this word to your marketing vocabulary, too. It’s a big deal and many companies are not using it at all. What is segmentation and why is it important? For starters, segmentation empowers marketers to communicate with a specific audience and include a specific message at a specific time.
Segmenting your email list(s) and grouping your subscribers can be a pain to set up, but it is the best way to improve ROI. Warning: this can get intensely complicated. Don’t fret, though. Even at a basic level, segmentation is extremely valuable. Before you get started, there are three steps you need to take.
First, you need to find out what kind of technical capabilities your Email Service Provider (ESP) has. While most ESPs have some segmentation capabilities nowadays, they are not all created equal. MailChimp and Klaviyo, for example, have very advanced segmentation tools. You may want to segment by demographic information in your subscribers’ profile. Or you may want to segment based on past purchase behavior. Ideally, you’ll do a bit of both.
Secondly, if you have an e-commerce arm to your business, you will want to integrate your ESP with your Content Management System (CMS). Major platforms such as BigCommerce, Magento and Shopify usually have pre-built integrations with leading ESPs. That makes it simple to connect the two. Beware, it may not be possible to connect your two systems at all. Alternatively, it may be possible through a custom integration, which may be costly in terms of both finances and time. Nevertheless, it may be worth investing in, since this is what will allow you to do segmentation based on purchase behavior.
Thirdly, you need to ask a lot of questions. Which groups of subscribers do you want to focus on and what messages do you want to send them? Do you have the information you need to target these groups in your ESP? If you don’t, then how are you going to get this information about your subscribers? If you do, are you going to do any A/B testing? If so, what are you testing? How are you measuring success? Which Key Performance Indicators (KPI) matter for which segments? You need all this information early on to set up your segments correctly.
Congratulations are in order if you made it past these three steps. The hard part is over. You can now focus on actually identifying segments in your ESP and creating the targeted messaging for them. With so many opportunities to capitalize on, you may fall down a rabbit hole. Our recommendation is to start somewhere, anywhere. Collect data and measure your success.
Every small win will get you a closer to developing a more advanced email marketing strategy. If you want to really kick things up a notch, you can pair segmentation with automation. More on that in another post! To get started now, we offer a free e-commerce analysis to show the ropes.
Faith is a Senior Email Marketing Specialist at EXCLUSIVE. Her work focuses on using data to develop strategies that help her clients best meet their goals. Faith is a hardcore gamer with an appreciation of art and design. She spends as much time as possible at the beach sporting big floppy hats with her feet buried under the hot sand.
Email marketing has come a long way over the years, and the latest of many updates has come in the form of artificial intelligence. With AI-powered insights like the ideal emailing frequency and send times, content effectiveness reports and even foresight into how clients will respond, this new tech is a buffet of innovative goodies for email marketers — and more AI-powered tools are sure to follow.
How is Artificial Intelligence Different?
We’re all familiar with automation, but how is that different from AI? Automation, for all its benefits, still requires a level of human input. An AI-powered system, however, can function on its own without anyone lifting a finger.
When it comes to email marketing and shifting customer interests, AI analysis means human workers have more time and better reports to let them create improved email strategies using all kinds of features and tools.
Improved Subject Lines and Open Rates
It’s common knowledge that a subject line can make or break an email campaign, with word count, personalization options and more to consider. Knowing the best approach for your brand and client base while factoring in technical requirements is just the tip of the iceberg for effective email marketing.
Since AI is designed to respond to rapidly changing data as it comes in, it’s ideal for developing email subject lines. Based on proven customer engagement from live data, AI can recommend optimized and natural content for subject lines that match your clients’ current interests. This leaves human marketing staff free to dedicate their efforts to your brand’s voice and improved email design using AI-generated performance reports.
Efficient Testing and Analysis
Plenty of brands find success with several weekly email campaigns based on their customers’ needs measured by open rate, clickthrough rate and more. Determining those needs requires thorough, continuous testing for the strongest email marketing strategy that meets changing client tastes from week to week — or even day to day.
Manually performing these tests, reviewing the data and optimizing based on that analysis for each and every campaign while maintaining a regular email schedule is arduous and inefficient. More importantly, it’s totally unnecessary when we have responsive computing power from AI.
An AI-guided email strategy can present the final test results and data analysis to a marketing team far more quickly than just one person or even a team could. This frees up time to meet shifting customer preferences and keep to your brand’s voice and goals better than ever. Considering that eMarketer found over half of adult internet users expect AI will lead to easier purchasing decisions, this is a big part of effective customer marketing.
While AI is certainly on the rise, most companies are just brushing the surface of AI’s potential. But you can take advantage of existing AI tools in email marketing — at this very moment — to save time, improve strategy and prepare your company for AI applications to come. If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help get you up to speed.
Jacky Blute is a content editor and project manager with a deep appreciation for intricate minutia. Her free time is spent on casual research, costume work, creative writing and telling her four pets how cute they are.