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Push Notification Segmentation

Push Notification Segmentation

Segmentation is an important marketing tool across a wide range of platforms and applications. When it comes to web push notifications, the ability to deliver highly personalized instant messages makes proper push notification segmentation more critical than ever. New technologies are making it possible to carry out segmentation automatically, with a level of efficiency that only ML can achieve. Read on to find out more about the importance of segmentation and where it fits in with your push notification campaigns.

Push Notification Segmentation

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Segmentation is an important marketing tool across a wide range of platforms and applications. When it comes to web push notifications, the ability to deliver highly personalized instant messages makes proper push notification segmentation more critical than ever. New technologies are making it possible to carry out segmentation automatically, with a level of efficiency that only ML can achieve. Read on to find out more about the importance of segmentation and where it fits in with your push notification campaigns.

The Importance of Segmenting Your Opt-In List

On the surface, a large opt-in list for your browser-based push notifications is a wonderful thing, especially when paired with low opt-out rates. It means you have a good value proposition and are holding to it over time, right? Not necessarily. Look more closely, and you might find that your conversion rates tell a different story. It doesn’t matter if you have a million customers opting in for notifications if none of them click through. This is why segmentation is so important.

All List, No Conversions

Of course, there’s something to be said for an audience. But unless you’re focused entirely on informational or other push categories in which user interaction doesn’t matter, there’s still the question of engagement. Some would argue that sheer numbers can make up for low conversion rates, but that is, at best, playing the ball game to tie.

This is where segmented push notifications come in. In fact, a modest, well-segmented list is usually worth more to a business than a giant list that’s poorly segmented. To understand why, let’s look at an example. You have a simple value proposition: Sign up for weekly push notifications to get alerts on weekly deals. And true to form, you deliver on that value proposition… with a generic “BUY!” message.

Buy what? What do your customers want to buy from you, and how do they want to buy it? Pay attention to the notifications you get from shopping, and you’ll find retailers never tell you just 20% off, but 20% off something specific, like a book you browsed on the site or an item you buy on a regular basis. This is why segments are important: They offer focus.

One Clear Idea

The fundamental value of browser-based push notifications as a marketing channel is that they communicate one clear, loud, urgent idea. They work because they’re specific: “Click this link to get this discount,” or “your product has shipped, click for the billing slip.” Notifications grab your customer’s attention and direct it to a specific channel or action.

Segmenting works here because while your customers may be united in wanting to patronize your business, they are unique individuals with differing needs. Plenty of people buy nails from hardware stores, but the mom searching for treehouse supplies for her kids is a very different customer from the professional contractor doing a last-minute supply run for her job site. These two consumers could be similar in some respects; they could both be moms, for example. But you need to understand each one’s needs — why each one is reviewing your products — and segmenting helps you do that.

Once you have those segments, they in turn give you a path to better focus your notifications. A big list gives you a lot of segments to work with, but it’s ensuring all those segments feel heard that will get the most out of that list.

Any push notification segmentation strategy is about balance. It’s not enough to just reach a wide number of people who want to hear what you have to say — you have to say something that makes them urgently want to engage with you. So build your opt-ins, but look closely at who’s coming in and search for the spark of inspiration that will make them a loyal customer.

What Are Your Segments?

When launching segmented campaigns via push notifications, it is important to know to whom you are pushing and why you are pushing this particular message to them. Too often, “global” campaigns are run with little consideration for your individual user data. That is a missed opportunity for more sales and stronger loyalty. Here is how you can drill down, find specific segments, and re-capture that opportunity.


Who Are Your Users?

Every user who comes to your site is unique, of course. However, for the most part, there are only so many reasons to come to your website in the first place. It pays to look at those reasons and build segments that correspond with each.

For example, you likely have a group of continual “subscribers.” These are loyal customers who come back to your site with regular frequency to renew a service or to refill their supply of your product. What types of push notifications would these subscribers appreciate?

Conversely, you probably also have a group of bargain hunters. You will never see this segment until you have a great sale running, and then they will be filling up their carts as fast as you can process them. So how can you turn them into subscribers?

Fuzzy Segments

You will often find that segments overlap. A subscriber can just as easily be a bargain hunter too, one who hits the clearance section on a regular basis. When you find these overlaps in your push campaign, you have to ask yourself what your goals are. On which membership do you want to focus? What makes sense for your metrics? Do they tend more toward one or the other?

Again, every user is unique, and segments should not be treated as iron-clad boundaries that neither you nor your users will ever cross. Users will often surprise you with how they act or react to the market, your site, and their own lives. By the same token, segments change over time. Users see their needs shift, their budgets increase or decrease, and a whole host of other changes.

These shifts are rarely abrupt, but they do happen, and you will need to keep an eye on them as they occur. They will often turn up in your metrics as gradual changes. Slowly a segment will shift to new products, look for different things, or stop clicking through on certain notifications. Also keep in mind that you might see entirely new segments emerge as you introduce new products and services or as users find different approaches to your product. Remember when Mentos embraced the Diet-Coke-and-Mentos fountains fad? Hey, it was a small segment, but it was still a segment!

Segments will be an ever-shifting part of your marketing strategy as it evolves, and your view of them should evolve too. By keeping track of these changes, you will be able to stay on top of your user’s changing tastes and move to match them.

With Segments, How Small Is Too Small?

Market segmentation is one of the greatest innovations in marketing. Where before you had to put out the broadest possible message and hope for the best, now you can use data to pick out the many, many groups your customers belong to, whether it’s by location, demographics, or purchases. You can slice and dice your data so many different ways and pull out the tiniest segments and craft a message just for them. But should you?

How Segmented Is Over-Segmented?

Much like the global push is a bit excessive or simplistic in the opinion of many experts, you can take it too far the other way and narrow your audience down to excessively tiny groups that won’t make much of a difference. Sure, it’s neat to be able to pull a list of all the people who opted in for push notifications, bought one specific product of yours, and live in Chicago. But do you really need that level of granularity?

When looking at segments, start with your conversion rates. It’s true that the more personal and unique a message feels, the higher the conversion rate. But if you can get the same raw numbers — or higher ones — from using a broader segment, that should influence some of your decisions. Why spend extra time for the same — or worse — results?

Similarly, it’s worth looking at the time you’re investing. Crafting a narrow message to a small group can make sense if there’s a high rate of return. If you’re writing for a small audience that you absolutely know will click on your link, buy your product, or otherwise engage with your actions, then it’s well worth every bit of effort you’re putting into it. If you’re not sure or conversion rates argue against it, then perhaps you’re better off finding a broader segment.

What’s the Value?

Let’s look at it another way: Turn the question around and ask yourself what the value is for the customers you’re contacting. Again, if this is a slam dunk for every last member of a small segment, if you’re selling a $500 product you know every single one of them will buy, then maintaining such a small segment likely worth the investment. But if they’re not going to click, then why spend the effort? If you’re not sure, ask yourself this: How likely would your target segment be to send this message to a friend?

Value is one way to avoid over-segmenting. What does that segment need, and how can you meet that need? Another approach is to ask yourself what other groups this small segment belongs to. No customer belongs to only one group, especially as you examine those smaller segments. Take our Chicago example. If you were selling winter outerwear, your whole audience in and near the Windy City would be interested in your push, so why not write it for all Chicagoans?

Segment marketing is brilliant, and even the smallest segments can help you understand your audience. If your winter wear is selling better in San Francisco than Chicago, that’s something you need to know. But segments are just a tool, and you don’t build a house with just one tool.

Should You A/B Test with Segments?

There are two things anyone working with push notifications is advised to do:

  1. A/B testing on their customers, where you change one aspect of your copy and test it on a randomly selected group.
  2. Segmenting their customers, or dividing them into groups based on various characteristics.

It’s good advice, too: Segmenting helps you better understand your customers, while A/B testing keeps copy fresh and can point you toward more effective ideas. But don’t they conflict? In truth, segmenting and A/B testing are layers, one resting on top of the other, and using both can lead you to some fascinating insights.

Segment By Segment

The top “layer” of any marketing approach needs to be segmentation. Your customers are not a monolithic block of people who engage with you for the same reasons and act the same way every time they visit your website. They are a diverse group of people from across the globe using different technologies to engage with you and doing so for wildly different motivations. Walk into your local coffee shop, and you’ll see people using it as a freelance workspace, a date spot, a space to conduct informal professional meetings, and, oh yeah, a place where you can buy a coffee. And how you use that coffee shop might change from day to day, depending on anything from your schedule to your health.

Those different uses and needs demonstrate the importance of segmentation as a way to better understand your audience. As we get more personal and develop a better understanding of our customers, they, in turn, want us to view them as more than an invoice. Customers want to feel understood and heard, and both segmentation and A/B testing are part of that.

Always Be Testing

The joke about A/B testing is that it stands for “always be testing,” and that’s true, but it’s also important to test with a specific goal in mind. You can fiddle with your copy in a dozen different ways, but A/B testing needs focus, and that’s where segments come in.

Sticking with the coffee shop example, let’s say you’re trying to sell more carafes of coffee instead of individual cups. You’d approach each segment differently, but within that segment, you can engage in A/B testing. For example, for half of your customers holding meetings, you might push out a preorder link; for the other half, push a coupon for a free carafe. Then keep an eye on preorders and how often the coupon is used, and you’ll have useful data on that particular segment.

Your approach can get much more granular than that, of course, but the goal here is to test within the segment, to better understand what appeals to them and why. A/B testing is a useful way to gather small data points on each segment as you learn what they engage with and don’t, and that knowledge ultimately makes a big difference. Think of segmentation as what you learn about a person before you arrive at a meeting and A/B testing as the small talk that fills in the rest. If you take opportunities to ask questions and listen to the answers, your customers will have plenty to tell you.

Global vs. Segmented Campaigns

The case for global push argues that “global” messaging has gotten a bad rap. Before modern data analytics and laser-focused advertising on the internet, the only way to get a message out was through big, loud messages that everybody heard. Television ads were watched by millions of Americans, print ads flooded magazines, and so on. But as anybody who’s looked at conversion rates can tell you, it wasn’t the most efficient method of reaching people.

And that remains true today. With the exception of a tiny handful of industries in which everybody wants what they’re selling, mass media advertising is inefficient. But of course, we’re talking about a list of your most motivated and engaged customers in the form of an opt-in list. They’ve self-selected themselves to receive your message. That shifts the dynamic a little bit since you’re no longer throwing an ad for tires on a billboard and hoping everybody who drives by remembers you sell them; instead, you’re engaging with people who are already interested in the tires you sell and want regular updates. So where does the global push rest in this particular scenario?

Global Push, For and Against

There are two schools of thought here, and neither is particularly wrong. The first is that users prefer messages that are tailored to their specific interests and needs. This line of thinking suggests that any message that’s not narrowly focused is a waste of time and consumer interest.

The flip side of this argument is that you’ve already attracted an audience that has self-selected themselves into your marketing message. No one forced that consumer to follow you on social media, subscribe to your email list, or opt in to your push notifications on their browser. You need to consider this self-selection when segmenting while keeping the needs of the customer in mind.

The reality of the matter lies somewhere in the middle. In some cases, your product range or customer base will be broad enough that a global push makes no particular sense. If you sell men’s and women’s shoes and only have a sale on the men’s, why push it to the women? But in some cases, your audience is united around one product category or topic, so a global push will be relevant to everyone who sees it and reduce the amount of work you’re doing to reach them.

So it really comes down to your customers. If you think every single one of your customers would be interested in your notification, it’s certainly worth a global push. But look closely at both your message and your segments before sending it.

Your Segmented Push Solution

Digital transformation is affecting the way that segmented campaigns operate within enterprise marketing efforts. ML now makes it possible for each subscriber to have a completely personalized experience, resulting in higher levels of engagement and customer satisfaction. Pushnami is your only full-stop solution to segmented push notifications, as our machine learning platform automatically learns the perfect combination of content and delivery time.

To find out the true potential of push notifications for your brand, try a demo of Pushnami today.