What’s boring is sexy: 80% of marketers still credit email marketing as the top source of customer acquisition and retention. Yet the majority of brands have struggled to get their campaigns right, since 95% of the emails consumers receive are irrelevant. This lack of targeting is particularly detrimental, as consumers are receiving too much advertising material (the average person is exposed to 5,000 advertisements and brand mentions each day), and 65% of consumers unsubscribe from an email list after receiving irrelevant information.

Brands looking to rise above the clutter of inbox competition must customize email content to the greatest degree possible, deploying frequent A/B message testing as well as micro list-segmentation to maximize results. sending more targeted emails to a smaller percentage of their email list. Among brands in L2’s 2016 Intelligence Report: Data & Targeting, the more segmented an email, the higher the average open rates, and this is true across categories—travel brands have the smallest average segment (8% of the list) and highest average open rate (37%). Conversely, beauty brands demonstrate the largest average segmentation (22% of the email list) and lowest average open rate (21%).

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Despite the clear benefits of email segmentation, a quarter of analyzed brands still lag far behind their competitors, sending the average email to more than 25% of their list.

Brands struggling with email targeting should learn from savvy emailers like West Elm. The retailer identifies new homeowners and targets them with special housewarming discounts, avoiding costly mass discounting. West Elm also targets consumers based on site browsing behavior. For example, the brand puts duvet shoppers into a set of consumers that receive product-specific emails that cover everything from the broad category of bedding (sent to 16% of West Elm’s list) to emails specifically focused on duvets (5% of the list). The more personalized the email, the better the open rate—a fifth of recipients opened the bedding email compared to a third that opened the duvet email. These practices also limit strain on West Elm’s creative team, as these emails can reused across consumers without sacrificing personalization.

The takeaway? If brands want to break through the clutter of inboxes, they can no longer afford to overlook the basics of email segmentation. Brands should move beyond the blunt model of demographic-based segmentation and leverage behavioral data and frequent testing for robust segmentation.

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