Times Have Changed - and so Should Your Approach to Segmentation

  |  July 23, 2013   |  Comments

When thinking about communicating across email, mobile, and social, how are brands handling segmentation?

As marketers, we've aptly armed our consumer base with an unlimited amount of options when considering how each varying audience group might choose to receive our communications and related marketing information.

As we look beyond some of the most humble beginnings of direct marketing and to what's now become commonplace for other channels, the usual suspects (i.e., the strategies that have led to the marketing efforts behind them) are driven by the fact that from one recipient to the next, the desired method of receipt is more times than not - different. One might have a preference for receiving communications via email, SMS messaging, or deals that can be shared with friends and family across a wider social platform. When thinking about communicating across any of these mentioned channels to an audience, how are brands handling segmentation?

Segmentation for Email

Segmentation for email as a channel across industries still continues to grow leaps and bounds. As consumers, we have demanded and come to expect our marketers to segment and create better message experiences based on things like brand affinity and registration activity down to our account details (e.g., balance statement summaries, member level exclusivity messaging, etc.).

One great achievement with segmentation in email stems from the beauty of progressive profiling. It's not entirely a new concept, but definitely gaining traction more and more. Providing the sensibility to allow any subsequent pushes to recipients based on a previous consumer-instigated action is not only reasonable, it's logical, as well as expected by your consumers. This focus helps the next iteration of communications seem more personalized and less like an unsolicited marketing effort.

Segmentation for Mobile

Quick, easy access is undeniably hot right now. Even those of us who are historically slow to catch up with technology bank on the fact that we have access to email, financial accounts, and other information at the touch of our fingertips. It's just convenient.

Companies are no longer denying the fact that more and more users are accessing their information via their mobile devices, and in turn have begun taking steps to make the user experience more readily accessible by optimizing creative and marketing communications for mobile devices.

Much like email, in the future, as more thought is being placed into segmentation for mobile, consumers can look to communication preferences being explicitly mapped to the following areas (if not already taking place): area code, country, region, geo-location, carrier, brand, model, OS, etc.

Segmentation for Social

Which social networks are your active audience segments currently a part of? Does your brand have a social presence of any kind? Do you care about social marketing and what value has your organization placed on it? What vested interest has your company placed on social marketing and to what degree does that level of interest play into the overall goals across channels? OK, now that we've gotten the "first date" questions out of the way...

Do you currently capture data values from your audience segments that give any visibility into their preferred social networks? Some may not see or feel there is a need in doing this well - if at all. However, there are those who have made concerted efforts in this regard. They've gone further than simply regurgitating marketing or promotional email messages onto distinctive brand social pages. The more progressive marketers have even begun to think more intuitively. Questions about segmenting - socially - are posed among the decision-makers of the organization. Which segments have an affinity for LinkedIn? Which brand loyalists are merely communicating via Facebook or Twitter? How can we make note of our followers' "interests" or "likes," and message more appropriately to them?

Socially, it is reasonably understandable that for any audience segment, a company's social presence has to make sense. An even better strategy is to look at building a segment of a company's top influencers, making an effort to incentivize those loyalists, and giving them reason(s) to be the quintessential brand advocate. Realistically though, this might not be so wise if an overwhelming majority of a database has no social activity at all. Reiterating that first point, it has to make sense to even play in the social sandbox.

The Recap

At the very least, creating a holistic experience for any particular market requires a segmentation strategy that if done well (and deemed appropriate) would provide overarching, cross-channel direction that is explicit and tailored in nature. In our efforts to learn more about our consumers, we've gone to such great lengths to capture various data points, and yet so few are actually pausing to take a step back and look at the obvious: to see if there's a propensity for one channel over another or what the preferred format might be. The more intuitive stance to take would be to interact with our associated audiences based on data-driven activities and preferences. What harm could come from that?

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Katrina Conn

Katrina leverages more than 15 years of cross-channel email, mobile, social, display, and direct marketing experience to oversee the development and execution of StrongView's suite of cross-channel strategic, creative, and implementation services. An established industry thought leader, Conn works with StrongView's enterprise marketer clients in retail, financial, hospitality, consumer services, and media to help them develop, deploy, and measure cross-channel marketing programs and advanced marketing analytics initiatives.

Conn has been in the business of email and database marketing since 1999. Most recently, she served as a senior strategist at Responsys, where she helped brands design and optimize cross-channel marketing programs. Prior to Responsys, Conn served as Director of Client Services for Datran Media's StormPost division, where she managed client services and strategy teams serving brands such as Microsoft, NBC, and Turner Broadcasting. She has held management roles at digital marketing companies Alterian, Donnelley Marketing/Yesmail, and DoubleClick/MessageMedia.

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