What is behavioural email segmentation? Why is it important?

Recent stats show that only 33% of businesses find segmentation significantly impactful. Why? Many marketers solely depend on only traditional geographic and demographic email segmentation. Cue, advanced behavioural email segmentation.


“Marketing segmentation is a natural result of the vast differences among people.” – Donald A. Norman

Simply understanding who your customers are is not enough. You must also know what they do. Therefore, leveraging other data like behavioural cues is just as important. Without it, your geographic and demographic email segmentation may be rendered moot. Hence, you need behavioural email segmentation (a.k.a behavioural segmentation) in your email marketing arsenal.

This article covers the following topics about behavioural email segmentation:

  1. What is behavioural email segmentation?
  2. Why is behavioural email segmentation important?
  3. Types of behavioural email segmentation

Ready to dive in?

While understanding – and knowing – your audiences’ location, age, gender, job title, values, lifestyle, etc. are essential first steps to addressing your audiences’ needs and delivering on-point email campaigns, sometimes it’s necessary to go even further to ensure the right people are getting the right message at the right time with the right content.

Behavioural Email Segmentation: Definition

Behavioural email segmentation divides and groups your target audience into groups according to people’s behaviour patterns as they interact and engage with your business. 

Simply put, this type of segmentation studies the behavioural traits of your target audience such as – 

  • knowledge of, 
  • attitude towards, 
  • use of, 
  • likes/dislikes, and  
  • response to a product, service, brand or promotion.

Let me paint you a picture…

You’re running an exclusive fashion boutique (women and man fashion). You just received the latest Prada and Balmain bags. It would make a lot of sense to send your female customers email campaigns promoting the exclusive new bags, right?

But… don’t you think it would be much better if you grouped all women that purchased Prada bags into one segment and those who bought Balmain bags into another and automatically send them an email when a new Prada (or Balmain) bag is released and in-stock?

The relevancy and timing of such a behavioural email campaign will certainly result in higher customer satisfaction and a significant increase in sales both of which will have you crazy-jumping-up-and-down dancing at your desk. 

Behavioural Email Segmentation Objectives

Everything has a point. A goal. An objective. In behavioural email segmentation’s case, the objective is to – 

  • understand how to address your target audiences’ particular needs and desires to a T,
  • tailor your product or service to meet your target audiences’ needs and desires,
  • discover opportunities to optimise the buyer journey,
  • quantify your audiences’ potential value to your business, and
  • develop a smart email marketing strategy to improve and expand your customer base.

The Importance Of Behavioural Email Segmentation

Riddle me this, if all your subscribers or customers experience the same marketing technique over and over again would it work every time or just some time?

Dividing and grouping your target audience into smaller segments each with a common variable allows you to effectively use valuable time and resources much more efficiently. By understanding your audience better, and grouping them accordingly, you can target your email campaigns to a T and ensure your customers’ needs are being met.

Behavioural email segmentation is important for seven reasons – 

1) identifies the most engaged subscribers/customers,
2) improves message and targeting accuracy,
3) provides a refined personalised experience,
4) improves conversion rates,
5) sifts engaged users from uninterested ones,
6) builds brand loyalty, and
7) saves you money.

The 4P Advantages Of Behavioural Email Segmentation

1) Personalisation. Understanding who to target different groups (segments) with different content at the most appropriate time, using the right email marketing software, increase personalisation allowing you to nurture your subscribers/customers/leads further along their customer journey.

2) Predictiveness. By understanding and analysing historical behavioural patterns, you will be able to predict and influence future customer behaviours and outcomes.

3) Prioritisation. The knowledge and expertise to identify high-value prospects with the most prominent possible business impact will help you make more informed decisions on how to properly allocate budget, time and resources.

4) Performance. By watching and analysing the growth and behavioural patterns and changes in segments over time, you will be able to gauge your business’s health and performance.

One of the most important things to realise – and remember – is that behavioural email segmentation does not exist independently from other types of segmentation such as demographic, geographic and psychographic segmentation. Demographic data – age, gender, income, occupationoften and frequently correlate to behavioural data. 

Types Of Behavioural Email Segmentation

Four main types of behavioural email segmentation will help you create a complete customer profile throughout the buying process.

Behavioural Email Segmentation 101 | EmailOut.com

Purchasing Behavioural Email Segmentation

Purchasing behavioural email segmentation looks at how your subscribers/customers act differently during the decision-making process. 

Segmenting your target audience based on purchasing behaviour unravels the diverse trends and behaviour patterns that people have when making purchase decisions.

Purchasing behavioural email segmentation will help you understand – 

  • how people approach the purchase decision,
  • the complexity of the buying decision,
  • the customer’s role in the buying process,
  • barriers along the purchasing path, and
  • behaviours that are the most and least predictive of purchase-making decisions.

Purchasing behaviour can be divided into the following four categories – 

1) Complex buying behaviour. High customer involvement in the buying and decision-making process plus a notable distinction between the brands into consideration.

2) Variety-seeking buying behaviour. customer is not very involved in the buying process but there’s still a difference in the products/services offered by different brands. 

3) Dissonance-reducing buying behaviour. The customer is doing a rather huge purchase decision but there is not much contrast between the similar products/services offered by different brands. 

4) Habitual buying behaviour. The purchase does not require much involvement, the products/services offered don’t diversify much across various brands and it’s primarily just down to personal preferences in the final buying decision.

Timing/Occasion-based Behavioural Email Segmentation

Timing/occasion-based behavioural segmentation categorises your target audience based on who is more likely to interact with your business or make a purchase from your website on either a specific occasion or set of times.

Timing and occasion-based behavioural email segmentation typically refer to – 

  • Universal occasions. In this case, buying patterns apply to the majority of your audience within a certain demographic (i.e. holidays, seasonal events, etc.).
  • Recurring personal occasions. Here, buying patterns for an individual customer is constantly repetitive over some time based on their personal life (i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, regular monthly purchases, etc.).
  • Rare personal occasions. Buying patterns for an individual customer is more irregular, spontaneous and quite tricky to predict (i.e. weddings, road trips, etc.).

Benefits Sought Behavioural Email Segmentation

Benefits sough behavioural segmentation refers to splitting your audience based on the unique value proposition your customer is seeking to gain from your products or services.

Dividing and grouping your data by benefits sought will help you narrow down the specifics of what drives customers to purchase while also revealing which products features, benefits, problems or service aspects they feel most attuned to. Use these benefits sought categories to divide the data for behavioural email segmentation – 

  • Quality. What makes your product/service better than the competition?
  • Usage. How will using your product/service benefit the customer?
  • Customer feedback. Are your customers happy with your product/service?
  • Unique selling propositions (USPs). What differentiates and makes your product/service unique compared to others already existing? 
  • Extra benefits. Are there any additional advantages and benefits customers could get from buying your product/service?

Loyalty-based Behavioural Email Segmentation

Loyalty-based behavioural segmentation measures the level of loyalty your customers have with your brand either via a reward program or the number of purchases or general engagement with your (email) marketing efforts.

This type behavioural email segmentation goes arm-in-arm with some of the other types of segmentation such as purchase-based and timing/occasion-based segmentation. However, the distinction here is that habitual customers are in continual need of the product/service you are offering while loyal customers regularly and frequently purchase your product/service.

Loyalty-based behavioural email segmentation yields valuable answers to the following questions – 

  • What are the key behaviour patterns along the customer journey nurturing loyalty?
  • Which customers are the most appropriate for loyalty programs?
  • What can you do to keep your most loyal customers happy?
  • How can you maximise the value received from your most loyal customers?

Customer Journey Stage Behavioural Email Segmentation

Customer journey stage behavioural segmentation enables you to arrange. Align and adjust communications and personalise experiences to boost conversions at every stage while at the same time helping you discover stages where customers are not growing or progressing as you’d expect so you can improve your email marketing efforts. 

Customers in different stages of their journey still interact and engage with content in other stages across various channels at diverse times in no distinct order. An individual customer behaviour or interaction is not enough to pinpoint which journey stage they exist in. Therefore, this type of behavioural email segmentation is not easy.

However, to cope with that, simply collect more data on all touchpoints through every marketing channel you use – email, social media, search engines, chatbots. Once you gather the data, you’ll be able to better personalise and target your email marketing campaigns.

Engagement Behavioural Email Segmentation

Engagement behavioural email segmentation is built on how often your audience logs in/uses your service/product and how many orders/purchases they make. Furthermore, this type of behavioural segmentation will help you reduce churn rates and improve your sender reputation

These are the 3 main levels of engagement – 

  • Occasional. Your audience has contact with your brand but it’s not systematic
  • Regular. Your audience regularly interacts with your product/service but doesn’t use the full extent of its functionalities and benefits.
  • Intensive. Your audience integrates your products/services into their everyday life.

Customer Satisfaction Behavioural Email Segmentation

Customer satisfaction behavioural segmentation is solely based on your customers’ feedback. It will help you fix any issues your audience may face and experience with your products/services before any negativity towards your brand is spread. Additionally, it also helps you build stronger relationships with your customers who are already hooked on your brands’ products/services.

Final Thoughts

Behavioural email targeting is pure gold – and magic. 

Behavioural email segmentation is a vital part of your email marketing strategy. By knowing and better understanding your audience and their behaviour, you can improve your email marketing performance, boost email marketing KPIs and, ultimately, increase your profits. 

In addition, behavioural email segmentation will help you gain a more comprehensive insight into how to adjust your email content and products/services to stay ahead of the competition and reduce your churn rates.

Remember, the key objective of behavioural segmentation is to understand the needs and desires of your target audience by offering something unique back based on their behaviour when buying products or services.

Which type of behavioural email segmentation are you going to try first?

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Writing Marketing Emails 101
2) Email Marketing Automation 101
3) Email List Segmentation Best Practice
4) Lead Generation Tips
5) Email Marketing Campaign Checklist (PDF version here)

[EmailAddress]
[EmailAddress]
[YouTube Music Video]
[YouTube Music Video]