What ‘90s R&B Teaches Us About User Segmentation

by Yosem Sweet on August 6, 2014
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Sometimes when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

For site owners, this is an easy trap to fall into. If you have an exciting new promotion, it’s tempting to serve it to all your traffic. Who wouldn’t want to see the awesome value you’re offering?

But that would be a mistake; your users are not all the same.

Demographically, they come from different age groups, locations and cultures. Technically, they come from different referrers and use different devices.

And if you serve them all the same content, your segmentation strategy would look something like this:


That’s probably not going to fly. So what’s a better segmentation strategy? In the 90s, female R&B groups ruled the airwaves, and these gals were all too willing to share their segmentation strategy with the world.

First, let’s look at how TLC’s “Scrubs” gave a detailed segmentation of guys they wanted no part of:


Or in a more positive sense, here’s how Salt n’ Pepa segmented guys they find attractive in the bad-girl classic “Shoop”:


Both these groups set fine examples for how online marketers should treat their traffic. Because in love—as in online marketing—failing to segment is a recipe for missed opportunities, bloated spend, and broken hearts.

Why segmentation matters more than ever

The phrase ‘user segments’ sounds complicated, but it’s really quite old school.

If you worked in a hardware store and a lady walked in with a newborn baby, you’d probably show her the child-proofing gear before trying to sell her chainsaw oil (though assumptions can be dangerous). This is an example of segmentation at its most basic.

But today, segmentation has taken on greater importance. The web has given rise to a new breed of customer that is more saavy, informed and sophisticated than ever before. The availability of vast online resources has enabled customers to self-educate, and align their values with brands long before entering the sales funnel.

Customers often walk into a store—or land on a webpage—after already having multiple points of contact with the vendor. They’ve read articles, heard buzz, researched competitors, and educated themselves on which brands they choose to associate with.

This discerning breed of customer cannot be accommodated with one-size-fits-all approach—and the numbers prove it. According to Forrester, 83% of users won’t come back to a website if the experience falls below expectations. They don’t like being treated like another spoke in the wheel.

In other words, they value relevance. Revelance to their needs, wants, ethos and values. And segmentation is essential to achieving this.

Segmentation is all about delivering relevance

So what’s the goal of user segmentation? To deliver content and promotions that are relevant to the attributes of your visitors. Relevance is one of the core principles of conversion optimization.

Web content should be targeted based on user intent and context, some of which can be inferred from site behaviour, traffic referrer, visitor location, and even what device the visitor is on.Ultimately, you want to deliver content that is proven to resonate with each segment.

Site owners who are able to deliver relevant, content-rich experiences will own the web moving forward. So let’s tuck in to a few ideas for making that happen on your website.

Segmentating your incoming web traffic

1. Traffic Source

Different traffic sources produce users with different intentions, and segmenting them is essential. You don’t want to push steak on vegetarians.

For example, if you’re generating traffic from social media sources like Facebook, Stumbleupon, or Pinterest, you have users that aren’t likely in ‘buy’ mode. They’re probably more interested in pictures of cats (for now), so the sales cycle will be longer.

On the contrary, if you have incoming traffic from a paid source like pay-per-click or display advertising, these users generally have greater intention to buy. Most likely they’ve seen something that’s advertising a promotion, and as such should be shown ‘buy’ driven messaging.

Further, if you’re promoting an online subscription service and you have traffic coming from a blog or case study that discusses how you can solve your problems, these users are excellent candidates for offering a free trial to your service.

2. Geo-Targeting

Separating users according to the location of their IP address is one of the pillars of effective segmentation. But although it sounds complicated, much of geo-targeting is common sense.

People visit your site from all around the world, and some things simply aren’t available in certain areas. People speak different languages, have different buying habits, and different cultural expectations. If you treat them all the same, you have your blinders on.

Image Source

Geo-targeting ranges from high-level segmentation by country, to more granular separation (example: state-by-state). The ultimate goal is to make sure offers have relevant, local value to each specific population.

It’s a no-brainer: incoming traffic should always be segmented by geography.

3. Device targeting

Although you should have the goal of creating a consistent user experience across all devices, different strategies should apply to different devices.

The user experience for people using mobile devices is much different than someone using a traditional desktop. There are formatting differences—much less ‘retail space’ on mobile—and differences in device speed and power.

User behaviour also varies considerably. Mobile users tend to make decisions more quickly with as many as 65% completing their purchases within the day. This is likely because mobile devices are used in different environments.

The differences are endless, so no matter what, you should be splitting your traffic between different devices.

4. User behaviour

Since it takes an average of 7 customer engagements prior to a sale being closed, it’s safe to assume your visitors are in all different stages of the sales funnel.

Some users will have visited your site before, while others will be first-timers. These users should not be shown the same content and offers.

For example, a first-time visitor should be shown relevant content to build trust and context, hopefully with the intent of moving them along in the sales funnel.

Someone visiting for the fifth time, however, would be a better candidate for a hard sell on your exciting new subscription software tool!

What to do with your segmented traffic

Once you’ve applied basic segmentations to your incoming traffic, there’s an incredible opportunity to isolate and increase conversions from profitable sources.

One of the best ways to go about this is to conduct conversion optimization tests on your site.

With conversion optimization, there are two options: conduct your own tests, or employ a conversion optimization firm to implement and test your changes. The avenue you choose depends on your skills as a marketer, and how deep your marketing budget goes.

Conducting your own tests is a great way to save money. The disadvantage is that it’s time consuming, and requires a wide range of skill sets to get it right. A keen understanding of analytics, marketing, user experience, design, copywriting, development, and project management are all required.

The second option is hiring a firm. This will save you a huge amount of time, and it will ensure your tests are conducted properly. But it also represents a significant cost to your organization, and whether it’s worth it depends on your situation.

If you’re searching for a conversion optimization company, Vancouver-based WiderFunnel Marketing is a reputable market leader in this space. Another firm to consider is ConversionXL.

Monetizing profitable segments with user engagement tools

If you had only 2 hours to optimize your site to take advantage of profitable segments, what would you do?

Employing user engagement tools on your site is a faster, less time-consuming method of getting your newly crafted value proposition in front of users. And since these tools are mostly automated, they can also save you a boatload of time.

One of the most exciting new user engagement technologies uses what’s called exit-intent technology.

Exit-intent technology employs ‘exit overlays’ to recover value from abandoning users by capturing email addresses, social followers, sales leads—and eventually—paying customers.

Exit overlays use tracking algorithms to detect when a user is about to abandon a site. When they detect a user is headed for the exits, they activate the overlay. Here’s an example below:

The reason exit overlays work well in tandem with user segments is that they’re highly customizable. They can segment abandoning users into different groups—first-time visitors, returning visitors who haven’t purchased, users who are about to abandon a shopping cart—and tailor the message accordingly.

Further, they can account for the ‘buyer vs. non-buyer’ intent of your different segments. As discussed earlier in the post, visitors from social media sources often don’t have the intent to make a purchase. And since many users aren’t willing to commit on their first visit, exit-intent is a great strategy to gain contact information from abandoning users, especially if your opt-in is a ‘soft ask’ for a newsletter or email subscription signup.

The exit-intent tool we’ve developed, Rooster, has shown some outstanding early results in capitalizing on user segments. We’ve had clients convert new leads, sales and signups from 3 – 18% of abandoning users.

cropped rooster 537x150.png

If you consider how big the pool of abandoning users is for many sites, recovering leads, sales or signups from up to 18% of abandoning visitors represents a very generous lift.

So how many abandoning users can you convert to leads, sales and signups? When used in tandem with well-segmented traffic sources, user engagement tools like Rooster can do incredible things for your bottom line.

Try Rooster on a free 30-day trial.



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