Web Analytics: Understand, Then Segment Your Audience

  |  September 11, 2007   |  Comments

Failure to target a message can kill an initiative right out of the gate.

What do a Korn concert and Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes have in common?

Nothing, except that they're both events I have zero interest in seeing live.

The other day I received an e-mail from a local venue offering presale tickets to both events. The subject line read, "Pre-Sale: Korn and Disney on Ice." It got me thinking about targeting digital messaging to the appropriate audience. It's not that difficult to segment messages and not that much more expensive. But it's typically a lot more effective.

Yet what percentage of e-mail recipients are into both Korn and dancing princesses on ice? Is it any greater than 1 percent, if that? I glanced at the e-mail's subject line on my BlackBerry and instantly deleted the message without opening it. It wasn't for me. While I like live concerts, I've never purchased tickets for Korn. And while I do have two young boys, neither is into princesses (not that there's anything wrong with princesses). If it were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or "Cars," we'd have been there.

Because of the subject line, I deleted the message and moved on. When I got back to my computer, I retrieved the message, opened it, and shared it with some coworkers.

This message is from a club that I previously registered for when buying other tickets. Imagine if I'd been asked what types of events I'd be interested in attending. Or if my past purchases were tied into the system to target future promotions. The club could have segmented my interests and promoted family or sporting events or a different music genre. Something I might actually have been interested in.

There are a few fairly simple ways to segment your customers and tune messages:

  1. Ask customers what interests them.

  2. Segment the visitor base by what visitors are looking at on your site and what offers they respond to.

  3. Segment customers based on offline behaviors or past interactions (e.g., purchases) with your organization.

  4. Consider onsite behavioral targeting using a tool like Omniture TouchClarity. This allows you to tune messaging based on a set of automated decisions determined by either rules or predictive real-time modeling, based on individual visitor behavioral information, such as where visitors came from, what they viewed on the site, and what you know about them from previous visits. In addition to delivering the most relevant content to each visitor, this is a great way to identify and determine what your different customer segments need -- and what will help them convert no matter how you define a conversion.

While this is just a sampling of how to segment your audience and thus your message, the key is determining how to best use these segments to meet both your and your customers' goals.

Step back and look at your home page. Are you trying to sell Korn and Disney on Ice to people who only care about sports and classical music? Think about it, are you really speaking to what interests your audience?

Most likely you aren't. There's a good chance your home page is doing one of two things:

  • Focusing too much on one aspect. Often, in an attempt to simplify and make the home page more direct and easier for visitors, only one aspect of the business is featured on the home page. Yes, the page is simplified, but you may be losing the chance to speak to the right prospects in the right way.

  • Not focusing. An equal concern is trying to speak to all your customer and prospect segments from the home page, thus serving no one.
  • This is clearly a problem. We've all seen sites with this problem. Usually the second example is easier to identify because you don't stick around on the first long enough to know it may offer you something that meets your needs.

    To resolve this problem, find a way to communicate effectively with your audience on the home page and throughout the site. It's often difficult to create a perfect home page that supports each segment's needs.

    You must also determine the best way to speak to different audience segments throughout their touch points. Segmenting an audience then leveraging behavioral targeting by tuning specific messages and offers to the different types of visitors is a great place to start.

    After scrutinizing the Korn/Princess e-mail, I found an event that interested me three screens down. But I would have never known about it if I hadn't gone back to look at this e-mail for this column. Sure, it could have been a very roundabout way to target me, but I highly doubt it.

    In any case, failure to target a message can kill an initiative right out of the gate. Try defining, segmenting, and tuning your message to your audience and see what sort of lift you can get out of the generically targeted methods of the past.

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    Jason Burby

    As President of the Americas at POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. With more than 20 years experience in digital strategy, he is a long-time advocate of using data to inform digital strategies to help clients attract, convert, and retain customers. Jason supports POSSIBLE's clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works. He is the co-author of Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions.

    Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.

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