SMS Segmentation: Best Practices to Power Personalization

subscriber segmentation illustration
Posted in
SMS Marketing
Published on
Jan 12, 2023
Written by
Pia Tserkonis
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Segmentation can make a big impact on your personalization strategy—leading to higher engagement and increased ROI of your SMS channel.

Have you ever tried to order pizza for your family or a group of friends, but each person wants a different topping? One person wants veggies; another wants plain cheese; and then there’s the meat lover. Ordering a pizza that suits everyone’s preferences quickly becomes a near-impossible challenge.

If you’re an e-commerce marketer, you’ve likely faced a similar challenge: providing personalized content to each subscriber based on their preferences can be difficult, especially without the right tools. To stand out and deliver the best experience for your customers, you need to be able to collect accurate data and easily use that data to both build targeted audiences and send personalized messages.

That’s where a smart segmentation strategy plays a critical role, allowing you to target the right audience with the right text.

We’ve put together these SMS marketing segmentation best practices, plus six effective ways you can implement segmentation to personalize your text messaging program and increase ROI.

SMS segmentation best practices

At the most basic level, an effective SMS segmentation strategy should accomplish one key objective: consistently engage subscribers with relevant, personalized content.

Meeting this objective is critical to success. Most consumers want companies to not only understand their unique needs and expectations, but also tailor their messaging accordingly, with 56% saying they always expect personalized offers

For every product launch, flash sale, and any other marketing events you’re running, you should have a plan for who you want to communicate with and how you’ll communicate with them. Each audience segment should receive a text message that’s highly relevant and personalized to their actions, preferences, demographics, and any other information you know about them.

For example, if you’re launching a new line of joggers, anyone who has purchased or browsed your jogger products should receive a text message about the launch based on their previous interest. Better yet, give them exclusive first access to shop first; then, text the rest of your subscribers about the launch a couple days later.

These types of segmentation strategies allow you to maximize opportunities and engage your entire subscriber base, while still personalizing the experience for individual groups.

Mented Cosmetics relies on message segments within Attentive’s text messaging platform to create individualized, memorable experiences throughout the customer lifecycle. Segments are built based on actions a subscriber has taken, including “VIPs” who’ve spent a set dollar amount and subscribers who’ve viewed a specific product page. This strategy has helped Mented Cosmetics achieve a 19x ROI.

Ways you can segment your SMS subscribers

There are many different ways you can segment your SMS audience to reach and engage different groups of subscribers. Here’s are some ideas to help you get started:

1. Engaged/unengaged

Just like with email, creating a group of engaged subscribers is many marketers’ go-to SMS segment. An engaged subscriber is actively opening and clicking your text messages, so they’re more likely to click your next text.

How should you define “engaged”? It depends on how often you send text messages, but a good rule of thumb is creating your segment based on the criteria “has clicked at least one text” within two to four weeks.

Lifestyle brand Izzy & Liv segments their SMS sends based on “45-day window shoppers,” defined as subscribers who’ve clicked a text message within 45 days but have not yet made a purchase. “This is a great way to drive conversions from subscribers who are engaged enough with our channel to click, but might need the extra push or reminder to make a purchase,” said Nicole Brown, Founder and CEO of Izzy & Liv.

Don’t forget about the opposite of your engaged group—unengaged subscribers. While these subscribers haven’t clicked on one of your messages recently, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them. They asked to receive texts from you by opting in to your program, and it’s good practice to re-engage them by sharing your best content or new product offerings.

2. Past purchasers/non-purchasers

Another effective message segment strategy is identifying groups of subscribers who have—or haven’t—purchased recently. Both represent potential marketing and personalization opportunities. For the past purchaser group, you can create effective upsell and cross-sell campaigns based on the item they purchased most recently. 

The non-purchaser group represents a tremendous opportunity to generate more revenue. How should you reach out to them? Experiment with different types of content and messages to see what works best. The approach will vary based on your brand, but may include time-sensitive discounts, enticing product imagery, or rave reviews on best-selling products.

If you want to get even more granular with your non-purchaser group, you can also target new subscribers (e.g., joined in the last 14 days) who haven’t converted since opting in. You know they’re interested in your brand because they signed up for your text messages—they might just need an extra nudge to make their first purchase. Consider sharing educational content that helps these shoppers learn more about your brand or the products they’ve browsed.

3. High-intent

You likely have a subset of subscribers who haven’t purchased (yet) but have shown a high level of interest in your products. These subscribers may engage with your brand without clicking or purchasing. Instead, they browse products on your site or add them to their cart, but navigate away before completing their order. These subscribers get as close as they can to purchasing without actually clicking “buy,” which makes them an ideal audience for personalized follow-ups.

Make sure you’ve activated triggered browse and cart abandonment reminders to capture this otherwise lost revenue. You can personalize the follow-up content further by including information and imagery in the text message based on the specific product the subscriber showed interest in.

4. Geo-location or time zone

Location-based segmentation is useful for targeting weather-related or location-specific events. For example, if you sell items that are more useful in the winter, you can target subscribers in areas with a snowstorm on the way.

jack in the box geo-targeted text message example

If you have location-specific events, such as a new store opening, you can geo-target subscribers by specific zip codes to invite them to the opening or share a relevant offer.

Jack in the Box uses geo-targeting to send special offers to SMS subscribers within local markets—based on their nearest location or delivery coverage zones—to order food online and receive free delivery through food delivery services.

5. Content or shopping preferences

The more you can learn about your subscribers’ unique interests or preferences—through two-way text messaging, preference collection forms, or quizzes—the more relevant text messages you can send them.

Think about ways you can get hyper-specific with your target using zero-party data. For example:

  • If you're a beauty brand, learn about someone's skin type (e.g., dry, normal, oily, combination) and send them the best products or recommendations for their needs.
  • If you're a clothing brand, learn about your subscribers' favorite products, categories, or styles (e.g., dresses vs. pants, work wear vs. casual outfits, men’s vs. women’s clothing) and message them about relevant items.
  • If you're a food and beverage brand, ask subscribers about their favorite items or flavors, and let them know when related products are on sale, or when you're launching something new that they might like.

6. VIP or loyalty status

Determining how a subscriber becomes a “VIP” is up to you. In some cases, brands already have a formal VIP or loyalty program where the conditions and rewards are clearly defined. Other brands may choose to define their segment of VIP or loyal shoppers through actions and behaviors. This criteria can include total dollars spent, amount of purchases made over time, or number of clicks in the past month. For example, your VIP segment might look something like this:

vip segmentation example

Mented Cosmetics frequently incentivizes their VIPs—subscribers who have spent $70+—by giving them early access to sales and bonus offers. By targeting their VIP segment, Mented can connect with their most engaged shoppers, driving a 3x increase in CTRs and a 2x increase in CVRs compared to non-VIP subscribers.

Keep in mind: the segmentation strategies you choose to implement will ultimately depend on your brand’s goals. Take a close look at your list of SMS subscribers and the data you’ve collected to determine the most effective way to segment them and personalize the content you’re delivering.

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