Learn about targeted email campaigns to deliver more personalized experiences

Email is one of the most effective channels available to marketers today — but only when it’s done right. Generic email blasts just don’t resonate with customers or produce a good return on investment. Targeted email, on the other hand, delivers the personalized, engaging experiences that users have come to expect. And the great news is that this kind of personalization is no longer out of reach for companies of any size.

In this blog post, you’ll learn:

What is targeted email?

Targeted email is a marketing strategy that delivers personalized content to people in different audience segments. These emails are tailored to reach the right customers at the right time, dramatically boosting engagement and return on investment (ROI).

Benefits of targeted email campaigns

A little effort can go a long way when you send targeted emails. The benefits can be summed up by the four “Rs”:

  1. Response — Personalized emails get opened and links get clicked 2.5 times more than non-targeted emails.
  2. Revenue — Marketers who use segmented campaigns can see as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
  3. Relevance — When you send relevant emails you improve relationships with customers who feel a personal connection to your organization and begin to associate your brand with triggers on their buying journey.
  4. Retention — Customers are more likely to keep coming back when they receive engaging content.

Audience segments for email targeting

A few simple factors can help you segment — or divide into groups — your email lists and create more relevant content. Some of the best ways to target an audience are by gender, location, behavior, and purchase cycle stage.

Target by gender

Gender is a powerful targeting factor. In one study, 28% of shoppers said they unsubscribed when an email promoted products that were mistargeted for the gender they identified with, so it’s important to get it right. In an industry like retail, you can tailor emails based on gender-specific user interests.

An example would be a footwear company that sends an email highlighting women’s styles to a customer who has purchased women’s shoes:

This email works nicely because it responds to an interest the customer indicated through buying history rather than making assumptions about gender from inorganic data. It also includes the option to shop for men, which is effective because a customer who purchased a gift or an item for another family member might not want to buy women’s shoes again.

A company that sells items aimed at one gender can further segment and tailor content to speak to gender-specific concerns and values, like in this example:

While this company sells a product, the email is audience-centric rather than product-centric. It demonstrates an awareness of customer needs and aligns with customer values in its graphics and wording.

An email like this is designed not just for someone looking to buy a hijab, but for women who care about style and graceful aging. It’s a great example of gender targeting because the email uses gender as a factor that helps the company connect to its customers — and it might be sent to an audience that’s further segmented by age.

Targeting by gender is different now than it was even a few years ago, as marketers work to support people’s diverse gender identities, and some brands may prefer to target customers based on other criteria.

Target by physical location

Segmenting according to location is a useful way to send relevant content, and you can do it without location-tracking technology. Knowing where your customers shop and gathering data with surveys and incentives are simple ways to divide email lists.

Successfully targeted emails might give information about the closest stores, current promotions, or upcoming local events. Metrics can tell you which items are popular in certain locations, and then you can highlight those items for people living nearby.

A great example of a business that uses location-specific information is from Apartment List:

The subject line includes the name of the city where a user has searched for listings, so recipients know the email can take them straight to the information they really care about.

A similar example is a DoorDash email that includes the name of a local grocery store in the subject line:

A person who lives near that store will be more interested in using DoorDash than just anyone. And different geographic segments can be customized with the name of the nearest store.

Target by behavior

Behavior-targeted emails respond to actions that individual users have taken. Action triggers might include purchases, online engagement, software use, or other behavior. A tailored email responds to that behavior in a helpful, intuitive way.

A common behavior-targeted email in retail will show the specific item a user viewed or left in an abandoned shopping cart as a reminder:

This email from Hugo Boss has a clearly personalized message with helpful information about an item the shopper has already expressed interest in but did not yet buy.

While this type of email is common in retail, it works really well in other industries too. A fantastic example is from Grammarly:

Grammarly sends emails with metrics on user behavior. The stats are a fun and individualized report for a user to read, and they provide a sense of reward and user engagement.

Target by purchase cycle stage

Emails targeted for the purchase cycle stage are customized based on whether the recipient is a prospect, new customer, or established customer. An example of an email for existing customers is this Starbucks message promoting a rewards program:

This email doesn’t need to promote specific products as it would for new customers because the target audience is already familiar with them. Instead, it nurtures a relationship with existing customers who are at the end of the purchase cycle — or in a recurring one.

In a totally different industry, you can see another example of personalization based on the purchase cycle. In addition to using the person’s name, this email is segmented for students who have already taken out loans:

How to get started with targeted email campaigns

Creating a targeted email campaign might feel overwhelming, but getting started is easy if you just follow a few simple steps:

Step 1 — grow and refine your email list

While you could buy email lists, it’s far better to grow your list organically with tools like lead magnets and social media promotions. Create a survey or opt-in campaign to ensure your list represents people who actually want to be contacted.

According to MediaPost, “Between 31% and 43% of consumers rejected being included in a target segment defined by probable age and gender to location tracking and online behavior. A majority would accept inclusion in segments if they could opt in, opt out, or receive more relevant ads.”

A cool example of a list-refining email is from Canva. It gives customers the power to choose what kind of messages they want to receive and shows that Canva cares about their personalized experiences:

Step 2 — create personas

Before you create targeted emails, you need to understand your customers. The best way to do this is by creating user personas. A persona is an imagined profile of the ideal customer for each audience segment. They don’t represent real people — just relevant, common features of each audience segment. A healthy range for most campaigns is 3–10 personas, and while the details should come from research, you might be surprised how much data you already have.

Start with demographics like gender, location, buying history, and purchase cycle stage. Then you can define pain points, values, and motivations. Use tools like email questionnaires, sales team feedback, and customer interviews. Read reviews to find out how and why people are using your product. Or you can find websites that give free information on industry and social media statistics, hashtags, and keywords.

Step 3 — create targeted content

Create targeted content for one persona at a time. Employ a problem-solution formula that speaks to unique pain points, using a color scheme and images that align with the mood or theme. Use relevant keywords and the right tone of voice — perhaps it’s playful or professional, confident or subdued, informative, urgent, progressive, conservative, extravagant, or something else. It all depends on your brand identity and audience.

The personas and tailored emails you create depend completely on your business and the information you gather. More customized and accurate personas will lead to more relevant and effectively targeted emails.

Metrics and analytics for target emails

To find out whether your targeted email campaign is working, you can’t forget about analytics. They are especially relevant for targeted email campaigns, as opposed to general emails, and there are a few key metrics that can show how you’re doing and help you make adjustments:

  1. Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of emails with links that not only get opened but also get clicks on the links. You calculate the CTR by dividing total clicks by the number of emails.
  2. Unique click-through rate (UCTR) is different from total CTR, which might include the same person clicking on a link multiple times or sharing it. The UCTR lets you know how many unique — or different — users clicked.
  3. Conversion rate is how many of those clicks led the recipient to perform the desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.

There are many other metrics to consider, depending on what you want to measure. A few more examples are bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, list growth rate, email sharing, and ROI rate. Different metrics might be important for different audience segments.

Take targeted emails to the next level

In contrast to all the other channels out there, email gives marketers the chance to connect with customers directly. A thoughtfully targeted email campaign has the power to drive meaningful engagement on a large scale.

If your email lists are ready and personas are clear, you are ready to create highly targeted content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

The key is being aware and responsive as that dynamic customer base grows or changes. As more customers engage, you need to be ready to use new data strategically. When you are ready to take your targeted email campaigns to the next level, Adobe Marketo Engage can help. Marketo Engage brings marketing and sales together to nurture leads, orchestrate personalized experiences, optimize content, and measure business impact across every channel.

Watch the overview or take a product tour to see how Adobe Marketo Engage can make your email campaigns more strategic, targeted, and valuable.