DTC 42: 📦 Steal This Email Segmentation Strategy
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

Per usual, the marketing team was called in to float a below-average product. After six days, multiple Facebook Ads, email flows, and influencer campaigns, we set sail again. ⛵️

On a more serious note, the Ever Given is back floating after six days stuck in the Suez Canal. How many DTC products are on that ship, ya think? 

New to the newsletter? Welcome! You’re in good company with fellow DTC newcomers from Burberry, Unreal Snacks, The Ten Apparel, Mysa, Boreal Brewery, Danone, Vegan Cuts, Smile Direct Club, and Straight Away Cocktails. 

If a pal forwarded this to you, subscribe so you never miss another. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram. 

In this edition of the DTC Newsletter, you’ll find:  

📦 A three-step starter pack for email segmentation, plus tested segmentation strategies to try today! 

📦 Take the guesswork out of growth with a FREE brand survey from Attest.

📦 Write copy that flows with expert copywriting tips from the Pilothouse team. 

📦 The Amazon slip-up that could be costing YOU money. 

Stick around to the end to check out our creative of the day!  

Email segmentation is the secret sauce to increased revenue and customer retention. But surprisingly enough, only 11% of marketers use this strategy. 

If email segmentation can increase your revenue by 760%, why aren’t more business owners taking advantage? 

We asked Julien, Head of Email at Pilothouse, about the number one thing that marketers get wrong with email segmentation:

Do not treat your list like a single static thing to hammer over and over again. This approach can wreck your sending reputation and ruin the relevancy of your brand to your customers. Rather, treat your actively engaging subscribers with deeper engagements, and cycle out the people who don’t engage. This way you keep your ESP costs down and your sending reputation up. 

If you’re just getting started, here’s a three-step guide to segmentation: 

📩 Step 1: Define who receives your emails, and why? 

The “why” segmentation is easy – drive more sales with custom messaging.

When determining what segments to create for your list, start with the areas of highest value – things like repeat purchasers, high-value purchasers, cart abandoners, and purchase history / seasonality.

Once you’ve driven some sales with your high-value segments, the options for advanced segmentation are endless.

Here are potential segments, with an idea for personalized content: 

  • Demographics – Offer discounts during National Women’s Month
  • Transactions – Send $100 off $300 purchase to high AOV segment
  • Abandoned cart – Send objection-conquering email flow 
  • Purchase history – Annual free gift for brand anniversary
  • Geography – Send local creator/ambassador content
  • When and how often they buy – Check-in campaigns
  • Seasonality – Discount to earlybird Christmas gift buyers
  • Random – Test a name specific discount, and declare tomorrow National Mark Day (and offer a markdown 😎)

It’s important to keep in mind that segmentation isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’ll take multiple tests to establish which segmentation has the highest impact for your brand. 

Recently, the Pilothouse team completed an audit of a men’s clothing brand that assumed they had an exclusively-male audience.

However, the data revealed that 37% of their audience was female. 🤯 Perhaps people shopping for someone else, or women who just liked the clothes. Never assume anything. Look at the data. 

📩 Step 2: Personalize content for each segment 

Your segment is only as valuable as the actions you take with it, so plot out a campaign or automation based on high-value segments and see how it goes!

You can offer custom discounts, promote ambassador programs, offer subscriptions, or any other valuable touchpoint on your brand’s customer journey. Just make sure to track the results.

For a recent date-specific campaign, the Pilothouse team broke down an audience into the following groups and established a different offer and a slight copy variation for each segment: 

  • People who have never purchased 
  • People who have purchased once 
  • People who have purchased two to three times 
  • People who have purchased more than three times 

This type of segmentation is a great opportunity to see what offer it takes to move someone from one segment to the next. 

It could be free shipping, further discounts, or first-dibs to new products. Test, test, test! 

Everyone should be treated differently based on their purchase history. 

You don’t communicate with your best friend the same as a new acquaintance. This applies to your email list. Messaging for frequent purchasers should have a different tone from the copy sent to first-time purchasers. 

Here’s how Birchbox communicates with customers who haven’t purchased yet. “Sweetening the deal with $5 off your first box.”

Compare that to this Athleta email intended for a warmed up audience (presumably segmented by purchase history and presumed gender): 

📩 Step 3: Test test test! 

Use A/B testing to understand which content works for each segment. 

And no, subject lines aren’t the only thing you can A/B test. 😜 You should also be testing: 

  • Length of emails – Do your customers favor short or long copy? 
  • Offers – Does one list enjoy discounts while another goes for informative content? 
  • Landing pages – Are your landing pages converting?
  • Preview text.
  • Sender name.

Your primary focus is monitoring open rates. If you’re consistently hitting less than a 13-15% open rate, you’re in hot water! 

Open rate is the first barrier that will send negative data to inbox providers. Focus on solidifying your rates before tackling click-through-rates, conversions, and unsubscribes.

Use data and keep testing until you find the perfect formula. And keep testing after that! It’s a continuous process, so be patient. 

Bottom line: Define your audience, personalize your content, and conduct lots of tests. 

Other segmentation strategies to up your email game: 

📩 Segment by engagement – Not enough brands segment by engagement. Instead, they send blanket emails to their entire list. 

There will always be churn, as attention spans increase and decrease. People will lose touch with your brand, and that’s okay! Don’t hammer that part of your customer base, as it will damage your open rates and brand reputation.

Individualized attention is the way to go – hit up those who are actively engaging with your emails and isolate those who aren’t to keep your costs down, your metrics high, and protect your sending reputation. 

That said, don’t completely abandon your unengaged audience. Attempt to re-engage them with a win-back engagement flow… 

📩 Implement a win-back engagement flow – Everyone is busy. Many folks have multiple inboxes receiving hundreds of emails. Give them a chance to re-engage with your brand. 

30-90 days is a typical engagement window, but every brand is different. 

For example, DTC Newsletter sends two emails a week. If you don’t open at least one of our twenty five emails, chances are you’re just not that into us. 

At the two-month mark, we put readers into a different segment to try and entice them with catchy headlines, winning content, and boundless charm. 😉

If the reader continues to be unengaged (😢), they then go into a “sunset flow” where they’re sent one last chance to re-engage before being sent on their merry way.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a clean list with engaged readers that care about your brand, rather than just a large list. 

📩  Reward your VIPs – Julien, Head of Email at Pilothouse, says, “60-80% of your sales can come from VIPs.” 

Reward their loyalty with discounts, early access to sales, new products, and freebies.

Take advantage of your primed-and-ready VIP audience with exclusive offers that lean into both urgency and exclusivity. 

Fabletics has a killer VIP email: 👇

📩 “Cart profile” list – If a visitor adds products to their cart and doesn’t complete the sale, remind them via email. Here’s an example from Vessi – notice how they add a “continue Checkout” CTA for easy access:


📩  Viewed- and purchased-product segments – Viewed product is a script you embed yourself, purchased-product is a pre-existing script that comes with any eCommerce integration. Use this data to establish segments of customers who viewed or purchased products.

Take a look at this email from Lululemon based on browsing history: 

This tactic is also helpful if you’re running a sale for a specific product. 

Remember to segment out people who bought that product in the last few days. The odds they’ll want to buy again are limited, even if you’re offering a great deal! 

Plus, they’ll be upset to see an offer the day after they purchased. 😫 

Craving more email segmentation illumination? Listen to our full conversation with Julien Normand and Graham Battie from the Pilothouse email team. 

The pod features a hyper-targeted marketing epiphany that you won’t want to miss. 

Want to work with Julien and the Pilothouse Email Team? Get in touch.

How did Gymshark score a $1.3B valuation and win 2020? 


Consumer research.

By digging into their audience with Attest, they discovered 50% planned to spend less on fitness clothing as a result of the pandemic.

(Not great news for a brand built around workout gear.)

But that same research uncovered insights that allowed Gymshark to shift and meet their audience’s needs:

  • Pivoting their content marketing to focus on home workouts, since consumers expressed interest in adapting their workout routines.
  • Launching a new mental health platform called Deload to address their new concerns (financial stability and stress).
  • Focusing on comfortable “rest day” clothing to capitalize on the athleisure trend.


The end result? 

A hugely successful 2020 and a long-term strategy capable of handling anything the market throws at them.

Here’s the best part: Attest is offering your brand a free three-question survey so you can dig into your own consumers’ behaviors. 

  • Discover how recognisable your brand is with your target audience
  • Learn if people would choose your brand over your competitors
  • See how your brand ranks among your competitors


Head over to Attest to claim your free survey and start setting yourself apart from the crowd:

Take the Guesswork out of Growth

Frictionless Copy

From the powerhouse copy team at Pilothouse Digital

In the coming weeks, Pilothouse copywriting experts David Franklin, Brad Knell, and Alora Bossy will be teaming up to bring you actionable copy advice you can apply immediately to increase your response rates. 

Let’s start with what I feel is the most important aspect of your copy.

Your copy has to be frictionless.

What do I mean by that? 

From the very first click of an ad or link in an email, right to your follow-up after the sale – and every step in between – your copy has to flow like a lazy river.

  • Each step has to make sense to your prospect. They have to feel like they are continuing down the same path that they thought they were starting when they clicked your ad.

  • One wrong sentence can make them question whether this really is the solution they thought was being promised. So choose your words carefully.

  • Make sure every piece of copy flows well and takes them effortlessly down the path towards eventually hitting that order button.

Here’s how to make sure you have everything dialed in…

Go through every aspect of your sales funnel, start to finish, trying to think like your prospect would as you do it.

Don’t think like the fisherman, think like the fish.

Anything that doesn’t seem like the next logical step for the prospect to take in finding the exact solution your ad promised, needs to be addressed immediately. It is costing you sales and money.

Here’s how to break it into bite-sized pieces…

Each touch-point with your prospect has a specific function.

  • For example, the function of a FB ad is to get the right people to click it. 

  • Once they click that ad, what’s the function of the next step in the funnel? What specifically do you want people to do, and why should they want to do it?

  • The same goes for every step in the sales process. They each have their own specific and unique purpose. 

  • Don’t try to get any piece of copy to perform more than one thing. It never works.

Now dig in and analyze each step of your customer's journey, and find the speed bumps in your copy. 👊

Want some help with a specific problem? 

Ask us anything related to your ad copy here, and we’ll do our best to get you rock-solid answers that you can take to the bank.

🚨Are you wasting money on Amazon?🚨

Use negative keywords appropriately across your campaigns. 

Pilothouse Senior Amazon Media Buyer Clifford Donovan points out an example of how you can waste a lot of money on ads showing for the wrong keyword. 

Don’t do this 👇👇



Weber naturals is running a sponsored brand ad for Vitamin C, but it’s showing on the keyword "vitamin e gummies" (among many other irrelevant words). 

This is likely matching a phrase or broad match of "vitamin gummies.”  

Effective use of negative keywords can eliminate wasteful ad spend like this, bringing up ROAS.

This isn’t the first time we’ve told you to use testimonials in your creative (and it won’t be the last 😉). 

Check out Liquid Death’s top-notch leverage of less-than-positive feedback in their Instagram ads: 

We asked the Pilothouse team for their two cents on why this creative works, and as per usual they delivered. 🔥

Can you apply this hilarious anti-testimonial strategy to your creative? 

✏️ How Netflix tests copy with a tool called Shakespeare 

👀 NY Times: Google Aims to be the anti-Amazon of eCommerce.

😎 U.S. online grocery forecast expected to exceed $100 billion in 2021.

📈 Secondhand clothing resale marketplace ThredUp shares jump nearly 43% in first day of trading.

👊 Four ad creatives to test in your ad accounts.

💻 Anthropology launches its first digital only catalog on Pinterest.

🕺 Snapchat developing its own take on TikTok Duets.

🏃‍♂️ How Nike is prioritizing DTC and data to grow.

🛒 Amazon braces for Alabama union vote count.

🚨 Apple’s plan to block user-tracking triggers new digital strategies.

💰 TikTok parent company hires first CFO. 

👩‍🍳 Why influencers are infiltrating ghost kitchens.

📹 Instagram’s ‘Remix’ option for reels is being tested with select users.

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