How to Segment Emails Based on Buyer Persona: Step By Step

21 Apr
How to Segment Emails Based on Buyer Persona: Step By Step

When done correctly, segmenting your email list can lead to higher interest in your email content, more clicks to your store website, and finally higher sales. But on what basis will you segment your contacts in the first place?

The answer lies in buyer personas, which are summaries of your contacts’ essential characteristics.

Know what your contacts are like, and you can segment them according to their respective shared characteristics. You can then send them email campaigns that appeal to these shared characteristics, and have them engaging and shopping with your brand more!

Want this for your store? Then let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the various ways you can segment your contacts, and how you can then segment your emails based on buyer persona, step by step.

Why is it important to personalize emails based on buyer personas?

To recap, a buyer persona is a profile of your customers’ shared general characteristics. Such characteristics could include your customers’ gender, age, aspirations, pain points, and spending history.

For example, if you sell plants, you might have a buyer persona of “Grandma Gina” containing the following info:

  • Age: 62 years old
  • Gender: Female
  • Employment status: Retired
  • Interests: Loves pottering about in the garden every day, tending to her prized roses.
  • Pain points: Wants to grow new plants but doesn’t know what else she could try growing.

A single buyer persona provides a snapshot of one type of ideal customer. As a result, if you serve multiple target audiences, you might have multiple buyer personas—each representing the unique characteristics of a certain target audience.

So as a plants store, you might also have another buyer persona for another target customer, “Green-Thumbed Thomas”:

  • Age: 32 years old
  • Gender: Male
  • Employment status: Holds a full-time job
  • Interests: Wants to keep houseplants to add a sense of calm to his home environment.
  • Pain points: Being busy at work for most of the week, he doesn’t have time to tend to his plants so frequently.

His profile is very different from that for “Grandma Gina,” indicating that you’ll need to approach both customer types differently if you want to earn their business!

Detailed buyer personas therefore provide rich insights into your customers and how you can adjust your eCommerce marketing strategies to market to them more effectively. This includes how you personalize your emails’ marketing messages.

Continuing from the same plant store example from above, “Grandma Gina”-type customers may appreciate receiving gardening subscription box offers via email. In contrast, customers who embody the “Green-Thumbed Thomas” persona may prefer getting recommendations for low-maintenance plants that suit their busy lifestyles.

By sending such tailored email content to your customers, they’re more likely to spend time checking out your email and your products. They might even place an order or two. Score!

What are the types of segmentation in email marketing?

Strictly segmenting your email list according to your separate buyer personas—such as “Grandma Gina,” “Green-Thumbed Thomas,” and so on—is one way of doing it. However, you could group your contacts based on specific characteristics found in your buyer personas, too.

Here are some essential segments for eCommerce that demonstrate what we mean:

1. Demographic segmentation

In demographic segmentation, you’ll segment your contacts based on various demographic information, such as their:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Birth Month

For example, if you were segmenting your contacts by age, you could have a segment of contacts aged between 25 and 30, and another segment of contacts aged between 31 and 40.

Segment of contacts whose ages are between 25 and 30 in Sendlane

On the other hand, if you were segmenting your contacts by education level, you might have a segment for high school graduates and another for college graduates.

A drawback of segmenting based on demographics, however, is that your segments may not provide sufficient insights for informing your marketing strategy.

Sure, it may be interesting to know which of your contacts are in their twenties, for example. But how could you market to such contacts using that information alone?

With the 21 to 30-year-old age range being a period of significant life changes for many people, making broad generalizations on the backgrounds of contacts in their twenties may pose a challenge.

You may therefore have to pair your demographic segments with other segmentation methods—such as the ones listed below—to target your contacts more effectively.

2. Psychographic segmentation

Psychographic segmentation involves grouping your contacts by their psychological attributes.

Such psychological attributes include:

  • The personal values they hold dear, such as integrity, kindness, or a sense of adventure.
  • Their personal beliefs, such as a belief in the importance of leading an active lifestyle, a belief in the existence of a divine being, or a belief that the environment is worth caring for.
  • Their outlook on life, such as whether they are a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” type of person, whether they see others as generally trustworthy, and whether they believe there is a future worth looking forward to.

For instance, you might have a segment of contacts who are more environmentally conscious, and to whom you might market “greener” products such as reusable containers.

Environmentally conscious contacts” segment of contacts in Sendlane

On the flip side, you might have identified a segment of contacts who believe in always going for the cheapest deals. In this case, you could email them budget-friendly offers that emphasize the potential cost savings.

3. Geographical segmentation

Geographical segmentation is quite straightforward: you’ll segment your contacts based on their geographical location.

Your geographical segments can be:

  • as broad as grouping contacts based on their country of residence (such as United States, or Canada),
  • as narrow as grouping contacts based on their individual zip codes, or
  • even somewhere in between, such as grouping contacts by states or cities.
Canadian residents” segment of contacts in Sendlane

Segmenting your contacts geographically is especially useful for promoting offers and products that apply only within a certain geographical area. That’s because it’s likely that only contacts who live in such an area can take advantage of the offer.

For example, if you are running a pop-up store in New York City, you could publicize your pop-up to just contacts who live in the Big Apple.

Similarly, seasonal items might be more relevant to shoppers based in colder states versus warmer states.

4. Behavioral segmentation

How do contacts interact with your business? You can use such behavior to inform your segmentation efforts, too.

Here are some ideas on how you can segment your contacts by behavior:

  • Segmenting by average order value: Create segments for various average order value ranges, such as $0 to $100, $101 to $300, and $301 to $500+. Segments of contacts who tend to spend more money with you each time are likely to value your products more, so you could promote larger-ticket offers to these segments.
  • Segmenting by the products your contacts typically order: This detail could shed light on your contacts’ interests and how you can target these effectively. For example, if a person tends to buy cat food and cat toys from your pet supplies store, you could reasonably infer that they belong to your segment of cat owners. You could then email them products they may need to care for their feline friends.
  • Segmenting by whether the contact has abandoned their cart: If a contact has put items in their cart without checking out, you could add them to an “abandoned cart” 
Segment of contacts in Sendlane whose average order value is greater than $101 but less than $301.

5. Interest-based segmentation

As you interact with your contacts over time, you may realize that some of them have common interests. In this case, you could create separate segments for contacts who share the same interests.

For example, if you run an online bookstore, you could segment your contacts based on whether they prefer fiction or non-fiction books.

Apart from that, you can also create sub-segments of interests!

Fiction books come in a range of genres, such as mystery, fantasy, and romance. So once you’ve carved out your segment of fiction lovers, you could split these bookworms up into further segments based on their preferred genre.

Segment of contacts in Sendlane who have been tagged with “Interest: Mystery Books.

If you aren’t sure what your contacts’ interests are, ask them by conducting a survey. A person’s interests can change over time, so it may be worth periodically re-surveying contacts to get their latest interests. This way, you keep your interest-based segments up to date.

6. Engagement-based segmentation

How frequently your contacts engage with your emails—in other words, how often they open your emails and click the links in them—can also provide a basis for segmenting them.

That’s because when you’ve pinpointed the contacts who haven’t engaged with your emails recently, you can send them an email designed to re-engage them.

Check out this example of such a re-engagement email, courtesy of men’s streetwear store Urban Industry:

Urban Industry re-engagement email

With luck, recipients of your re-engagement email will become active readers of your emails and shoppers of your business again.

Unengaged contacts” segment of contacts in Sendlane

And even if they don’t, and remain unengaged, you can clean them out from your email database and stop sending future emails their way.

Such preemptive removal beats the situation where they get themselves off your list by marking your emails as spam. Being on the receiving end of “Mark as spam” just a few times can be enough to dent your sender reputation and deliverability!

7. Lifecycle segmentation

Last but not least, lifecycle segmentation is the practice of segmenting your contacts based on where they are at in the customer lifecycle.

The customer lifecycle comes in a few distinct stages, so you can neatly segment your contacts according to each of them.

Here’s an overview of each stage of the customer lifecycle, plus some emails we recommend sending to customers in the respective segments:

  • Early: This is the stage where potential customers have just gotten to know about your brand (they may have joined your email list within the last six months). These customers aren’t too familiar with your products, so it might be worth sending them welcome emails to introduce your brand’s offerings and expertise. You could also send lead nurturing emails to keep the conversation going.
  • Mid: At this stage, the contact has likely made at least one purchase with you (hooray!) Now, keep them engaged so you maximize the amount of revenue earned from them. For instance, send cross-sell emails to recommend products similar to those they’ve bought previously. Alternatively, send loyalty program emails to thank the contact for being a regular customer.
  • Late: Contacts in the “Late” stage of the customer lifecycle have likely not purchased from you for some time (say, in the last 60 days or so). In this case, try sending win-back emails containing exclusive offers. These emails may do the trick in having them to shop with you again.
Segment of contacts who have been added to Sendlane within the last six months.

(P.S. Read more about eCommerce email marketing segmentation strategies in our other guide to this topic.)

How to segment emails according to buyer persona

Phew, that was a long explanation of the types of segments you could extract from your buyer personas!

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the process for using buyer personas to segment your email list.

1. Identify your buyer personas

If you don’t already have buyer personas for segmenting your emails, you’ll need to create these first.

Start identifying your buyer persona for email marketing by conducting research on your customers. What are their demographics, interests, wants, and pain points?

  • Often, you can learn such information by asking your customers themselves. Try organizing a focus group where you’ll recruit a small and representative group of customers. Once you have everyone gathered in the room, interview them on their backgrounds and experiences with your brand.
  • In addition, observe how your customers interact with your brand. Your eCommerce and email platforms can reveal valuable nuggets of information here, such as your customers’ purchase histories, average order values, and email open rates. So dig deep into their reports!
  • Finally, analyze your customer data for patterns and trends. For example, you may notice that your customers tend to be of a particular gender or age range. Some of them may also seem more interested in emails that promote certain products over others.

Make a list of all the shared characteristics you find. You can then begin to create a buyer persona that provides a complete picture of your customer—from their age to their personal values and the challenges they face.

We’ve got a separate article on how to identify buyer personas for eCommerce if you want to learn more about this subject!

2. Collect customer feedback 

Apart from fleshing out the backgrounds of your customers, collect feedback on what they think of your brand and how they use your products.

Your feedback-oriented questions could be:

  • What made you buy [name of item] over another item for the challenge you were facing?
  • What influenced your decision to shop with us instead of with a competing brand?
  • How do you make use of [name of item they have purchased]?
  • How would you rate your shopping experience with us?

The responses you get to these questions will help you understand your customers’ motivations for buying your products—and subsequently create interest-based segments such as “Follows a gluten-free diet” or “Photography enthusiast.”

After designing your questions, put them to your customers. Train your sales team and customer service department to work these questions into their conversations with customers. With your customers being unaware that they’re being surveyed, they may provide more candid and insightful answers.

Alternatively, if you want to collect customer feedback using a more scalable method, create survey emails that you can mass-send to customers. For example, accessories brand Bellroy sends its customers this email 30 days after purchase:

Bellroy survey email

An email platform like Sendlane can easily put the sending of such survey emails on autopilot so you don’t have to manually send them yourself. Simply build your survey email, then set up an email automation that sends your email a fixed number of days after a customer has purchased an item.

Bellroy has chosen to send its survey emails 30 days after purchase. However, other timeframes, such as 7 or 14 days after, can also work well.

3. Use the data and create segments 

Flesh out your buyer personas further based on the customer feedback you’ve gotten from step two. Your buyer personas should be looking even more solid by now!

So after you’re satisfied with your buyer personas, use them to create segments in your email platform. If you’re doing so in Sendlane, you can set up your segments by clicking the Audience icon in the left-hand menu bar, followed by Segments and + Segment.

How to create a segment in Sendlane

Use the OR/AND conditions to include or exclude contacts with certain characteristics from your segments as you see fit.

Let’s say you’re a jewelry retailer that sells just three products: diamond earrings, ruby earrings, and diamond necklaces. And while your customers hail from all over the world, you want to send a special offer on ruby earrings to previous buyers of your diamond earrings who live in United States.

Armed with this info, you could create three customer segments using these OR/AND conditions:

1. A segment of “Earrings buyers” that includes buyers who have bought diamond earrings OR buyers who have bought ruby earrings.

2. A segment of “Diamond necklace buyers” that includes buyers who have bought a diamond necklace. (No OR/AND condition needed here!)

3. A segment of “Diamond earrings buyers” that includes buyers who have bought diamond earrings AND who live in United States.

You can then send your promo email to just the contacts in the third segment.

Segment of contacts in Sendlane who have bought diamond earrings AND whose location is United States

This help article on segments will be a handy resource if you need more guidance on setting up segments in Sendlane.

You can also check out our article on the best ways to segment your contacts in Sendlane for more segmentation inspiration!

4. Use tags

There’s another way of keeping track of your contacts’ characteristics in your email platform—and that’s through the use of tags.

In short, tags are labels you can apply to contacts who have undertaken a certain action or exhibited a certain behavior.

If you run a fashion apparel store, for example, you could tag all contacts who have engaged with “shoe” content.

A single contact can have multiple tags at any one time—such as a tag for “shoes” and another for “VIP customer.” But what if you wanted to create a group of all contacts who have the same tag?

That’s when you’d use your trusty segments.

For example, you could create a “VIP Customers” segment to group all contacts who have been tagged with “shoes” to let them know about an upcoming product drop.

VIP customers and shoes segment

Learn more about the differences between tags and segments here.

5. Realize multivariate testing

Think of multivariate testing as A/B testing, but on steroids.

This cool feature lets you create up to four split-test emails for testing different email campaign components, such as:

  • Your subject line
  • Preheader text
  • Email body content

You can test up to 12 different variables at the same time, and select the percentage of recipients who will receive your split-test emails.

Multivariate testing in Sendlane

After you’ve sent your emails, your email platform—such as Sendlane!—will monitor the performance of each email version. When it has identified the version that performs the best (such as by having the highest open and click rates), the platform sends that winning version to the rest of your recipients.

Using multivariate testing, you can identify the combination of email campaign components that is most effective for a particular segment of contacts. You can then tailor subsequent emails to that segment in the same manner moving forward.

(Note: You could also apply multivariate testing when sending emails to an unsegmented audience, but doing so may be less helpful.

That’s because you might have to make your email copy more generic to appeal to a broader audience—and this dilutes your email’s effectiveness.)

6. Personalize your emails with segmentation 

At this stage, you’ve:

  • identified your buyer personas,
  • segmented your audience in your email platform, and
  • gotten a basic grasp of multivariate testing.

So now, it’s time to do the actual personalization of your emails using your audience segments!

Decide on the segment(s) of contacts you are targeting with your latest email, then suss out their particular characteristics from their buyer persona. Afterward, strategize how you can craft your email to appeal to such characteristics.

For example, if you are emailing a segment of contacts whose customer persona indicates they are expecting moms, you could personalize your email to recommend infant clothing or other products that expecting moms may find useful.

How to set up email segmentation based on buyer persona

As this guide has shown, there are many ways of segmenting an email audience—from demographic segmentation to behavioral segmentation, and more.

You can glean these characteristics from your contacts’ buyer personas, so get cracking on creating these buyer personas if you haven’t already!

Your email marketing software will also need to be able to categorize your audience into precise segments. So if your current solution isn’t adequately supporting your segmentation or marketing efforts as a whole, it might be time to switch to Sendlane.

Our Sendlane email platform offers advanced features for segmenting and tagging your contacts based on buyer persona. Use these to split up your contacts into segments, then send them emails personalized to their unique characteristics.

Keen on giving Sendlane’s segmentation features a go? Then sign up for your free trial of Sendlane here (credit card not required).

Want to learn more about emails? Check out our similar posts:

20+ Product Launch Email Subject Lines That Get Results

6 Best Triggered Email Examples for Your Automation

Email Segmentation Based on Buyer Persona FAQs

How can I create a segmentation strategy for B2B and B2C?
How does email segmentation increase my sales?

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