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Bullseye! Send more targeted emails with behavioral segmentation

· 18 min read · Tips and resources · May 5, 2021

Do you want to send email content that anticipates a subscriber's interests before they even realize it? It's time to try behavioral segmentation!

If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then targeting your email content based on subscriber behavior is the holy grail of personalization.

Behavioral segmentation uses automation to organize your subscribers into targeted groups based on their online actions. 

By using automation to segment based on behavior, you'll be able to send tailored messages that make each individual reader feel like you're talking directly to them. While in reality, you only have to set up your campaign once and email automation will do the rest. 

The best part is that you can do this in MailerLite! We’ll show you how to use behavioral segmentation and share examples to help you with your campaigns.

Let’s dive in!

Behavioral segmentation is when you group your subscribers based on how they interact with your emails, signup forms, website and landing pages.

For example, those who clicked on a link in your email to buy something could be grouped together, while those who subscribed from a specific landing page can be put together in another group. 

Email segmentation used to be “let’s organize all contacts with the gender female in one group.” Sure—this improved your email marketing strategy (or at least made sure you didn’t advertise men’s razors in your newsletter), but email segmentation options have gotten more sophisticated over time.

Nowadays, email segmentation can be based on many different online behaviors, such as when your subscribers click certain links, visit certain web pages or make a specific purchase.

behavioral segmentation

When you segment your subscribers by these types of behaviors, you gain insight into what they like. Your behavioral emails can anticipate what your subscribers already like and speak directly to their interests, which will skyrocket open rates and engagement. 

To decide which behaviors to segment, you need to put on your detective hat. Think about what you want to achieve and then analyze your subscribers’ actions to figure out what will help you target them better.

The smaller the size of the segment that you create, the easier it is to send ultra-relevant messages.

Behavioral segmentation illustration 👟

Let’s say you run a sneaker boutique. It would make a lot of sense to send your female customers emails that promote sneakers for women.

But wouldn’t it be even better if you grouped all women that bought Nike sneakers into one segment and automatically sent them an email when a new women’s Nike sneaker is released?

The relevancy and timing of this type of behavioral email will result in higher customer satisfaction and increased sales that will have you doing a little dance at your desk.

Behavioral segmentation is not some super technical practice that only experts can use. With a few steps, you can start targeting by behavior using MailerLite and see what the hype is all about! 

1. Conversion rates will thank you 🎉

When people receive targeted campaigns that are tailored to their interests, they’re more likely to convert! In fact, 72% of consumers only engage with personalized messaging. 

2. Subscribers get a more personalized experience 🤩

Everyone likes receiving messages that are relevant to them. Behavioral targeting ensures your emails deliver content that matters to each individual. This will build trust over time. 

3. Track your campaigns 📈

You can see which types of behavioral segments engage the most with your content, which can inform future content choices. 

With the use of automation, segmenting contacts becomes a dynamic process. Contacts are added and moved to different groups as you collect more information about them.

Although behavioral segmentation can be based on various online actions, we’ll focus on these 4 types of behavioral segmentation for email marketing:

  1. Interest

  2. Engagement

  3. Purchase (like the sneaker example above)

  4. Customer feedback

As you read along, you will learn how to use automation to create each segment. If you’re new to automation, take a look at this easy-peasy tutorial from Marcin to pick up the basics. 

1. Behavioral segmentation by interests

This behavioral segmentation strategy uses your audience’s interests to create personal, engaging emails. Big players like Spotify and Netflix use this method all the time to send out automated behavioral emails.

Have you ever received Spotify's yearly roundup email that includes your most played songs and favorite genres of that year? Spotify smartly uses this information to automatically introduce you to similar music or update you about new releases.

Spotify roundup email example
You don’t have to be a huge company like Spotify to benefit from behavioral segmentation.

What do you know about your target customer’s interests and purchase behavior? And how can you use this information to get loyal customers, add value, sell other/more products or increase product usage? 

Let’s use a fictional example to see what this marketing automation looks like...

Let’s say you’re a travel agency. Last night, Sally from Chicago signed up for your email list through a landing page promoting an Art Basel Miami special. She was automatically added to a subscriber group called “Art Basel Miami Signups.” This interest can later be used to send Sally automated behavioral email marketing campaigns about this event and similar events.

Your new workflow might be set up like this.

Workflow Art Basel Miami

1. The signup form on the landing page automatically adds a new subscriber to a group named "Art Basel Miami Signups".

2. The automation workflow is triggered when a subscriber joins the group.

3. The first marketing message is a personalized welcome email that includes 2 promotional offers. The first includes a flight, a 3-day stay at Wynwood hotel and an entry ticket. The second is just for the flight and entry ticket.

automated segmentation workflow

You can take advantage of behavioral targeting by interest with automated emails based on where your subscribers visit and engage. Let’s say your subscribers read your blog. You can segment them based on which blogs they read by using link triggers (we’ll discuss link triggers below).

2. Behavioral segmentation by engagement

For one reason or another, some of your subscribers are more active in opening your emails than others.

You can automatically segment a group of subscribers based on their engagement with your campaigns.

Let’s head back to Sally. How does her email engagement influence the workflow?

Remember Sally? After step 3, you can set up another condition based on whether Sally opened the email or not. Which leaves it up to her engagement how the workflow continues.

If she opens, Sally will be added to a group named “Engaged.” If she didn’t, a reminder email is sent 2 days later.

engagement workflow

When you have a segment of “Engaged” subscribers, you can target specific emails to them with special offers or other forms of appreciation for being loyal.

3. Behavioral segmentation by purchases

When using segmentation based on purchasing behavior, you can go about it in several different ways.

You can use previous purchases to predict the future purchases the customer will make. Or, you can observe customer behavior patterns in different phases of the customer journey to estimate how likely the person is to complete an order.

Did the person click the CTA in the email and put a product in their basket? This shows that the chance of a sale is very likely. In the event of cart abandonment—where the customer doesn’t end up buying—then an automated reminder email can help complete the order.

ecommerce checkout

Let’s look at an example of this behavioral segmentation in Sally’s story.

Let’s say Sally opened the email and got carried away by the thought of exchanging Chicago coldness for Miami sunshine. She clicked on the CTA in the email to potentially book the flight, hotel, and entry ticket package.

But then, she didn’t complete the order...

No worries. Another automated behavioral email marketing campaign can seal the deal. Add an abandoned cart email to your workflow that kindly reminds Sally that she should hurry and confirm her trip before the promotion ends. This can be done using the “Updated field” trigger.

If she goes back to her shopping cart and books the trip, you can celebrate another conversion (hooray!). If she doesn’t, you can send out a “now or never” email a couple of days later.

For our fictional example, let’s give this story a cha-ching ending. Welcome to Miami...Bienvenido a Miami!

4. Behavioral segmentation by customer feedback

The easiest way to gather more information about your customers is to ask them. In-email surveys are the perfect way to do this.

A simple implementation is a survey where the customer is asked about their satisfaction. A thumbs up or thumbs down rating at the end of a newsletter can help you discover if the email was valuable for the reader.

In our Sally example, the feedback is used to nurture the relationship and collect reviews.

The last thing we knew about Sally is that she headed to Miami, but what happens next?

Well, you can implement a survey block in a new email and ask the art aficionado what she thought of the trip.

Customer feedback survey

If Sally only gives her experience a sad face, you can automatically group her with other subscribers that need some TLC. In a new automated workflow, a voucher for her next booking can be sent out once a subscriber is added to this group.

On the contrary, happy campers that gave 8-10 shiny stars can also be segmented into a group. This workflow can, for example, automatically send out an email motivating the client to write a public review on social media, in exchange for a discount. Customer data allows you to plan your upcoming campaigns to be even more effective.

If you’re new to survey automations, here’s what we learned from sending out our NPS customer feedback email.

Now you’ve gotten a taste of how behavioral segmentation works together with triggered emails. Behavioral data—aka your audience, their interests, purchases, and engagement can all be used for future automated email segmentation opportunities. But there’s more!

You can use customer segmentation also based on: 

What segmentation can tell you about your customers

The list goes on and on. This doesn’t mean that each segment makes sense for your business and customer base. Have a look at your personal data and see what segment groups make sense for your strategy.

​Keeping your automated segments up to date

Where demographic segmentation has no expiration date (birthdays will happen each year, as much as we’d like to stay young), preferences can change.

If we look at Sally, she might just want to visit Art Basel and have no interest in any other artsy adventures.

Therefore, make sure to set up an automated trigger that no longer bothers readers when they show inactivity.

Or, run a win-back email campaign that asks inactive subscribers if they still want to receive your newsletter (and if so, what kind of content she’d like to receive).

And how about Sally?

With the information about her purchase, you can add Sally to a new subscriber group called “Art Basel all-in package” and send tips, artist information, city guides, and reminders ahead of her trip (all automated, of course).

As we talked about earlier, the shopping behavior of your customers is a perfect base for automated emails (and more personalized experiences 😍 )! 

By connecting your MailerLite account to your e-commerce platform using an integration, you will have all the purchase information available.

Then it’s up to you how to use that information. For example, cross-selling can be done easily with the use of email automation. One cross-selling method is to filter customers that have bought a specific product (let’s say a MacBook). 

You can then find products that are also relevant or interesting to that customer journey stage, and create a product newsletter with your recommendations (things like a mouse pad, antivirus software or laptop case).

Your automated sequence then works like this: When a customer purchases XYZ product(s), wait 7 days and then automatically send the cross-sell email.

cross sell newsletter

What would this look like in Sally’s situation?

For Sally, this would mean you could send her updates about other art fairs in America. In another segmented automated email, you can tell her about package deals for upcoming music festivals and fashion week happenings. Based on whether Sally clicks on any links, you will discover what other interests she has. We call this self-segmentation.

Want to set up your own link trigger construction? Read on…

Want to create your first email automation workflow?

Do it now in minutes and for free!

Try email automation!

Link triggers let you tag subscribers and add them automatically to an interest group based on behavior. If the reader clicks on a link anywhere in the newsletter, a customer field is updated. This custom field can then be used to start a new workflow.

In MailerLite, this works as follows:

  1. First, you create a new workflow.

  2. Then you select “When a subscriber clicks a link” as the trigger and insert the link.

  3. Next, you can create the workflow. You decide what happens when the subscriber clicks the link—maybe they automatically receive an email or are added to a group.

  4. After activating the workflow, the workflow will automatically start when the link from step 2 is clicked on. (This counts for every email that has this link.)

Our video maestro Marcin gives you the rundown on how to set up link triggers in this video.

The possibilities of how you can use link trigger segmentation are endless! The workflow can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. From just adding people to a group to activating a series of emails.

For example, you can start talking about a subject in your newsletter and then add a CTA with the text “Want to know more? Click here”. Your workflow would then automatically add everyone that clicks on the link into one group and send targeted follow-up behavioral emails on that specific topic.

Let’s take a look to see how these two forces can work wonders!

Example #1—Netflix

Netflix’s algorithm can identify what you’re currently watching, and then send you a triggered email requesting feedback. This means that they can send you even more personalized film and series recommendations the next time. (Quick, let’s make some popcorn!)

Netflix behavioral email example

Example #2—Spotify

Spotify really nailed its behavioral segmentation and automation strategy. In this email, they are offering concert tickets based on the music you listen to. Chances are, if someone is regularly listening to the Stereophonics, then they’ll jump at the chance to hear them live. 

Spotify behavioral email example

Example #3—IL MAKIAGE

Makeup brand IL MAKIAGE shares a quiz on their site that helps people to identify which foundation will best match their skin tone and type. They then receive a marketing email with the results. The following marketing emails are tailored to include the subscriber’s ideal foundation match, so that they receive relevant content every time.

IL MAKIAGE behavioral email example 1

If people don’t take action and start the purchasing process, then they receive follow-up re-engagement emails to encourage them to convert—along with a coupon code to sweeten the deal!

IL MAKIAGE behavioral email example 2

Example #4—G2

The marketers at G2 send out an email that lets people share their reasons for signing up, so that they can deliver even more relevant content. Adding link triggers in your campaigns is easy to do, and it can deliver long-term results!

G2 behavioral email example

Behavioral email targeting is pure magic—you set it up once, and then your subscribers receive personalized messages at the perfect time. Whenever you create a campaign, you’ll be confident knowing that each email will resonate. And your subscribers will love it!

Which type of behavioral email segmentation are you going to try first? Let us know in the comments!

And for extra tips, check out this ultimate guide on email automation.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2019. It has now been updated with new insights and examples of behavioral segmentation and email automation.

Jonas Fischer
I'm Jonas, Content Manager at MailerLite. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!
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