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China Marketing

How to rocket up your email marketing ROI through segmentation

Sending an email to a person is easy. But when it comes to 1,000 people, things get much more complicated. You want to talk to everyone as if it’s a personal message, yet they are different individuals interested in different products with different social backgrounds. No worries! Through careful segmentation, you can easily bring the conversation to a personal level.

Before you start:

Before investing any effort into segmenting your database, you want to make sure about two things: 1) your mailings will be delivered to those who truly want to receive your messages; 2) all the addresses are correct, so that you are not wasting money on non-existing mailboxes. Here is how:

Adopt ‘double opt-in’

As soon as someone signs up on your site, trigger a confirmation email to make sure that this person truly wants to hear from you regularly. Otherwise, your mailings would likely be marked as spam.

Make good use of the ‘greeting email’

Send a welcome/happy holiday email to everyone in your database. Analyze the feedback and remove/replace the incorrect addresses. Meanwhile, you can also integrate SMS to retrieve the valid contact: If the mailing bounces back, trigger a text message saying ‘Hey, seems like the email you provided is incorrect. Please reply to the message with the right address!’ And then, the right address will replace the wrong one automatically. (Check out how K11 combined SMS with email to clean its database!)

How should I segment my database?

Now that your mailing list is ready for segmentation, it’s time to ask yourself ‘how should I group my contacts? Based on what criteria?’ There are many ways, for example, according to user demographics (gender), product interest, purchasing behavior (online vs. offline), customer type (new customer vs. returning customer)…the list goes on and on. Below are several real examples of how brands segmented their database to personalize communication with each user.

Product interest

If you have a wide range of products, one of the most effective way is to divide users by which product(s) they are interested in. For instance, Web International English (WIE) provides English learning courses and tips to its subscribers. Once someone subscribes, a greeting email would be triggered. At the bottom of the mail, the recipient could choose his/her personal label (home-stayer, parent, student, office worker or backpacker). Based on the label, WIE were able to send personalized content to each user. For example, business English vocabularies to office workers; and travel-related phrases to backpackers. In this way, WIE encouraged users to segment themselves based on product interest. After all, they are the ones who know the best what they want. (Read the full WIE case here)


Channel preference

Besides the right content, messages should also be sent via the right channel. ASOS, a British fashion retailer divided its contacts by channel preference: email, SMS and social media etc. For those who regularly check email, they would receive promotion newsletters. Meanwhile, those who prefer mobile would receive SMS with a link directing to the brand’s Tmall store. In this way, companies could avoid sending unnecessary messages to its audiences and save cost. (Read the full ASOS case here)


Customer lifecycle

Oftentimes brands can also separate their database by customer lifecycle. A cruise tour company segmented its users into prospects and customers. Prospects would receive emails inviting them to register and start their first trip at a discounted price. At the same time, existing customers would receive an ‘anniversary email’ reminding them of the last trip. The purpose of the mailing was to recall the pleasant memories and encourage the next purchase. By doing so, the company was able to bond with different types of users, nurture loyalty and strengthen its brand image.


In conclusion, email marketing becomes massive spamming without proper segmentation. Every customer is a unique individual and the only way to engage them is through relevant communication.

Author bio:

Zhe (Haley) Gong, International Marketing Executive at Webpower, discovered her passion for digital marketing and online communication when she studied at the Johns Hopkins University in U.S. Now, Haley together with her team in Shanghai, strive to provide marketing automation solution to international companies wishing to reach and engage their audiences in China.

About Webpower

Webpower is a global provider of marketing automation solution. The company was founded in the Netherlands and entered the Chinese market in 2006. During the past decade, Webpower has proudly served thousands of companies in over 14 industries. The company strives to help clients achieve personal communication with Chinese consumers. Email, SMS and mobile marketing are integrated to create an intelligent and multichannel approach.


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