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What is behavioural email marketing?
Katie BrennemanNov 15, 2022 12:09:42 AM8 min read

What Is Behavioral Email Marketing? Definition, Tips, and Examples

It’s not uncommon for marketers to take a one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing or choose to put it on the backburner in favor of other avenues. Email isn’t usually the first thing on a digital marketer’s radar, especially when there are multiple sites out there that will give you a template and make it easy to send out cookie-cutter email blasts and newsletters in minutes.

The problem with that? Most consumers recognize when those templates are being used, and they’ll either scan through the email quickly, avoid opening it, or even unsubscribe from your list.

Luckily, there are strategies you can employ to get your audience to open your message and take in the content you’re providing. You can level up your email marketing efforts by using a technique called behavioral email marketing.

Behavioral email marketing takes more work, time, and dedication than simply throwing some content in a template. However, it can lead to more conversions, better profits, and longevity within your business. Let’s take a closer look at what behavioral marketing really is, some quality examples, and how you can use it to boost your business.

Table of Contents

What Is Behavioral Email Marketing?

Behavioral email marketing is a highly personalized form of outreach. Most platforms that allow you to send email blasts can only go so far regarding personalization. They might be able to include the date or even the name of the person receiving the email, but that doesn’t exactly suggest that you’re taking the time to get to know your audience.

While behavioral email marketing is still automated, it targets your audience on a more personal level by focusing on the behaviors and actions of your contacts. That could include things like:

  • Who is following you on social media.
  • Visits to your website.
  • Purchases.
  • Abandoned digital shopping carts.
  • Previous reviews of your products or services. 
  • Click-through rates on your website’s pages.
  • Visits to other websites, if they have opted to allow marketing cookies.

By curating emails that speak specifically to the needs, wants, and interests of those consumers, they’ll feel a greater sense of trust and familiarity with your brand. Nowadays, consumers are valuing those relationships more than ever. The average person sees thousands of advertisements every day, and most people have learned how to tune them out. Brands that value engagement and relationship-building stand out and find long-term success.

So, it might surprise you that only 20% of marketers use behavioral triggers in their email marketing. It’s a relatively untapped area of digital marketing that can go a long way for your business.

Why is behavioral email marketing so important? The more your audience trusts your brand, the more loyal they will be. Emotional and rational trust drive anywhere from 22-44% of customer loyalty. Not only does more loyalty mean lifelong customers, but it will also drive word-of-mouth advertising as those loyal audience members tell their friends and family about your brand.

Key Behaviors To Track

Source: Unsplash

So, you’re on board with behavioral email marketing, but you may not be sure how to get started. You need to be clear about which behaviors you should be tracking and how you can hone in on your audience's behaviors to send out more personal email content.

This starts with data collection. There’s a fine line between collecting and analyzing data and maintaining consumer privacy. However, when you strike that balance, you’ll be able to capture useful and relevant information that can personalize your content and build customer loyalty. Some of the best ways to find that balance include:

  •     Maximizing your data quality.
  •     Remaining transparent about data collection.
  •     Giving your consumers control over how their data is used.
  •     Investing in strong data security.

When you have a lot of data at your fingertips, you can start to track behaviors and patterns and create customer segments based on your findings. Some of the best ways to separate and segment your audience include gender, geography, purchase history, and age. You can get as detailed as you want, and you’ll quickly start to see which behaviors are easier to track and which ones make the most difference when it comes to marketing.

Here are some behaviors you should track in order to create personalized emails:

  • Social media mentions and activity: If someone mentions your brand, products, or services on a social media channel, take a look at the conversation surrounding that and gauge the sentiment of everyone involved in the conversation.
  • Interactions with your brand on all web channels: This include comments on blog posts, direct messages to your social media account or comments on your social posts, the amount of time they spend on particular pages of your website, form submissions, ebook and whitepaper downloads, and webinar attendance.
  • Engagement with your brand after the first touchpoint: Did they open your welcome email? Leave a review? Make a return or complaint? Ask a question? Keep careful tabs on these things and use them to inform your future emails.

How To Use Behavioral Email Marketing

Once you have enough data, consider how you’ll make things more personal in each email you send. Your technique will differ based on the customers you’re trying to convert. For example, if you’ve segmented your audience by age groups, you’re probably not going to connect with Millennials the same way you would with Gen Z or even Baby Boomers. The spending habits of Millennials are different. They prefer experiences to material goods and, as a whole, have a growing debt issue, which means they’re very particular about how they’re going to spend their money.

An example of a behavioral marketing email targeted toward Millennials might include things like brand value and corporate responsibility. It should reward loyalty and make sure they know they will get something back if they make a purchase or share your business with others.

If you’re sending out an email to Gen Z, make sure it’s fully optimized for mobile devices, and use short, snappy language. Your templates should be visually appealing without feeling crowded or cluttered. Younger generations tend to have shorter attention spans. So, including things like short videos or images can also help your email to feel more personalized and relevant to that particular audience.

When To Use It

It’s not easy to send out generic newsletters and email blasts to large audiences while focusing on personalizing each one. While things like welcome emails and monthly newsletters going over trends and hot topics are important, they’re rarely able to be personalized down to specific audience segments. Behavioral email marketing is better suited as a response to an action. When a user does something on your website (and opts into your email list), your follow-up email should be a direct response to that specific action.

For example, if a customer makes a purchase on your website, you can send a follow-up email that contains similar items they might be interested in or a discount code for a future purchase. It lets them know that you’re looking out for the things they’re interested in and you can help them find other items without them having to browse your website for hours.

Other actions that could/should trigger a personalized email include:

  •     Subscribing to your newsletter.
  •     Going to an in-person or online event.
  •     Signing up for something.
  •     Downloading a service or feature.
  •     Watching videos.
  •     Posting comments.

There are plenty of big brands taking advantage of this kind of marketing.

  • Patagonia sends out emails when users have left something behind in their cart, gently reminding them to come back and buy it without pressure.
  • Uber explains how to book a ride once a customer registers as a passenger, offering useful information that can help the subscriber feel more comfortable and confident.

Think about what makes the most sense for your business and what will provide your audience with the most value without inundating them with multiple emails each day.

The steps to get started with behavioral email marketing are easy. Start with a triggered welcome email whenever anyone subscribes to your list. You can use this email to provide a more detailed introduction to your business and assure your new subscribers that they’ll gain value from your emails. From there, put the following steps into practice to send relevant targeted emails that will boost both engagement and loyalty:

  1. Continuously educate consumers with industry trends, tips, and news.
  2. Nudge visitors back to their abandoned carts by offering incentives.
  3. Remind users about free trials or opportunities they’re about to miss.
  4. Ask for feedback or reviews so you can continue to better your business and personalize your content.

One of the best ways to get information back from your subscribers is through email surveys. Let them know they have a chance to influence the actions of your company or offer some type of incentive, and more users will be likely to answer your questions so you can build a better brand.

While surveys shouldn’t look like spam, it’s important that they’re eye-catching and utilize a subject line that will get your subscribers to open the email and participate. It’s a great way to collect more data from an audience you’re already familiar with so you can further hone in on the details that will make each email more personal and targeted.

Tapping Into Behavioral Email Marketing

As you can see, there are countless benefits to behavioral email marketing. If you’re looking for a new and relatively untapped way to target your customers, drive more traffic, and ultimately create more conversions, it’s a great option.

Keep the tips listed here in mind as you create your behavioral email marketing strategy. It will take time to segment your audiences and create personalized emails that can be used in a variety of settings.

However, that kind of planning and personalization will go a long way in boosting your audience’s loyalty and increasing sales. It’s worth it to have someone on staff solely dedicated to creating these email campaigns and keeping track of data to make sure it's always optimized before every email is sent out. Personalization is here to stay, and now is a perfect time to jump on board.Make Your Email Marketing Profitable


Katie Brenneman

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.