Segmented Email: It’s Not Personalization!

I received an amusing and frustrating email from an analyst firm promoting a report on personalized email. Seeing as how Reflektion recently launched our 1 to 1 Personalized email solution, I had to open it and try to capture some of the insight provided by the analyst report.

To my surprise and amusement, out of the 9 bullet points used to surmise the content of the report they were promoting, 5 bullets included the word segmentation (a sixth spoke to demographic targeting). We’ve recently written about the bastardization of the term Personalization and have also developed a white paper drawing the distinction between segmentation and personalization. To give you the cliffsnotes version, segmentation is not Personalization, segmentation is segmentation and your recipient and shopper know the difference.

Personalization is about specifically messaging or responding to an individual. An email that goes out to a segment of people with the same message and content (other than the name of the recipient) is really not a personalized email, it is a segmented email.

Just because a retailer divides a huge email file into three groups with different creative for those three groups doesn’t make it personalized. In truth it is three batch and blasts.

What happens when you confuse segmentation with Personalization? The first thing is you actually start convincing yourself that you are doing something personalized. Your shopper can feel, and often times sees, the easily discernible fact that the email is really just an ad sent to my email box. It feels impersonal. The complete opposite of what the sender thought they were doing.

This matters because today’s digital consumer is smarter and more aware than ever. They live in a world where highly intelligent services generate on-target predictions of the music (e.g. Pandora) and videos (Netflix) they’ll want to consume. Apps on their phone tell them what the weather will be for the next few days, wherever they are.  With one click, they immediately know what movies are playing just up the street.

Today’s consumers understand that technology can be put to work by companies on their behalf – predicting and making their lives easier. But then, when they open their inboxes, they’re inevitably let down.  For example, when a woman is sent an email from her favorite retailer that’s promoting men’s clothes, she feels like she’s been spammed.

We should really stop using the word personalized to describe something that isn’t personalization. We should understand that segmentation is not personalization. One is a letter you receive that engages and addresses just you, while the other is a generic ad that buckets you into a large assumptive group that has no idea who you are.

Kurt Heinemann

Kurt is Reflektion’s CMO. His resume includes CMO positions at Marketwired and Monetate. He’s also held senior executive positions at Priceline, Time Warner and Walker Digital Companies. Despite living in Yankees territory, Kurt is a die hard Tigers fan.