“Spray and Pray” Doesn’t Work. Here’s Why.


Let’s talk about gifts, because why not?

So how do you choose a gift for a Secret Santa for an office party? You don’t know who he or she is!

The answer: get a generic gift. Like a coffee mug, a tumbler, a self-help book, or iconic socks. In the 90s, photo albums or cute picture frames also made it to the list of top gifts.

But how do you shop for a gift for a loved one?

It’s totally different.

Admit it.

You put a lot of thought into it. You even do your research — like asking other close friends or family members.

Maybe you even stalk their social media accounts to check if they made some posts about their wishlist. The point is, you make an effort to make sure that you give your friends something that they will treasure and hold dear.

Now think of gift-giving in terms of eCommerce marketing and sales.

It’s exactly the same!

The rivalry between the generic and personalized approach

When you go the generic route, you don’t know for sure if people will like what you’re trying to sell. You may end up making a few sales. If you’re lucky, there might be one or two who really like the product.

But if you zero in on customers who are already interested in the product, to begin with, you’ll have a much higher conversion rate and revenue.

Likewise, if you market something to someone who is already looking for a similar product or solution, chances are you’ll be able to make a sale. Or at least a good first impression for your impeccable timing.

So what’s the difference?

With the generic approach, you’re playing by the “one size fits all” principle. This means using the same marketing strategy across all potential customers.

This example from Home Depot is really generic and just throwing out pieces of information all at once. As a reader, you don’t know what to do first, and you can end up just ignoring or deleting this email.

Now check out this email from Birchbox.

It gives the feeling of one on one communication with the customer. There’s the use of the first name, and the seemingly handpicked products based on the customer’s purchase history.

Plus, at the bottom, there’s the promise of freebies! Yay!

With the personalized approach, you are acknowledging that each customer has different preferences. This means choosing your target audience and exploring different marketing strategies.

Here’s some good news for you.

In today’s business landscape, it’s actually easy to target potential buyers. That’s why there are social ads, digital ads, and boosted posts.

However, it’s the eCommerce stores who have the upper hand. It’s possible to set up your marketing strategy in a way that it appears to be personalized for each new and existing customer.

How? By using email marketing, you can level up the personalization of your marketing strategy.

In fact, Campaign Monitor shares that marketers have seen an average increase of 20% in sales when they go for personalized experiences.

The days of generic and mass marketing are over. Today, you have to make every amount you spend on marketing pay for itself.

What is the ‘spray and pray’ method exactly?

We’ve all been an unwilling audience to the ‘spray and pray’ method. True to its name, the ‘spray and pray’ method is when marketers ‘spray’ large groups of potential customers with their promotional messages.

In the physical world, this pertains to billboards, bus ads, radio ads, and tv ads. In the digital world, this means mass emails — yes, the annoying ones.

What these marketers are trying to do is to get their information to as many people as possible, in hopes of attracting customers and making a sale.

It’s not easy to avoid spray and pray campaigns when you’re out and about. But when you get home and open your inbox, there are more of them.

Sad to say, there are still some eCommerce brands that engage in spray and pray email campaigns wherein all email sequences are sent to all recipients.

These types of campaigns have no regard for clients’ preferences or behavior.

A client could have already bought a particular item from the store, but she’d still keep receiving promotional emails for the same product.

Clients end up receiving product recommendations of items they are really not interested in.

This results in low open rates, and of course, low revenue from email. What’s worse is this can also lead to a bunch of unsubscribes which means saying goodbye to potential income.

And that’s a shame because email marketing has a 4400% ROI. That’s something you don’t want to miss out on.

So why doesn’t ‘spray and pray’ work anymore?

Spray and pray doesn’t work anymore because people prefer a more personal approach.

There are three major reasons why should no longer consider using this method.

You will risk overexposure.

This will definitely happen if you keep bugging and targeting people who are not interested. They will keep receiving your emails but they will end up ignoring them, or straight up deleting them.

This can damage your brand’s reputation as you become branded as ‘spam.’

It’s easy but not effective.

There’s no question about it. Writing one email and sending it to all of your subscribers is easy. Coming up with quality, relevant, and tailored emails mean extra work and more effort. But it is seriously worth the investment.

The more you grow your business, the harder it is to focus on marketing. So you have to really know who you are targeting. The more you know your target buyers, the more you can improve your marketing strategy.

It’s expensive but not worth it.

If you keep ‘spraying and praying,’ you’ll also keep paying. But are you getting your money’s worth? Not really. Instead of having qualified leads knocking on your virtual door, you’re getting more and more unsubscribe notices.

When it comes down to it, you should really put your resources into strategies that actually work.

So if not ‘spray and pray’ what should you do instead?

As e-commerce store owners, you’re probably already familiar with how important segmentation is. Maybe you’re already implementing it or maybe you don’t know where to start.

Here’s a fact: not all buyers are the same.

Essentially, when you segment, you divide your existing list into smaller lists.

When you have list segments in place, you can ensure that your recipients receive emails and content that they are actually interested in. This means higher chances to make a sale.

Look at it this way. When you spray and pray, you’re targeting a large and very diverse audience. Because there is overall little relevance, this results in low open rates, low engagement, and low returns.

When you segment, you target smaller audiences who have something in common.

They can come from the same demographic, or they have similar product preferences. They have bought something in the past month. The categories and options are diverse — you just have to learn how to use these segments to your advantage.

So when you target smaller audiences with similarities, you can increase your relevance meter and pull in more sales.

Segment like your business depends on it — because it does!

Campaign Monitor research shares that marketers have noted a 760% increase in revenue because of segmented campaigns.

It’s actually a domino effect. The more relevant the content you send to your customers, the higher the chance of them purchasing again and engaging with you.

The more they engage with you, the more you know about them. You get to go deeper when it comes to understanding their behaviors. That way, you can continue providing value for them as well as strengthen your relationships with them.

Think of it as shopping for a gift for a special friend. It’s not impossible, but it’s terribly inefficient if you spend your time personalizing emails for every single person on your list.

Segmentation allows you to go explore that level of personalization without having to do it manually.

The case of Sommer Ray’s Shop: 16% to 47% email revenue in less than a month

Sommer Ray’s Shop is one of our clients and we helped them make the most of their email marketing strategy.

Before they partnered with us, Sommer Ray’s Shop was already using email marketing. Sommer Ray is also an Instagram superstar, and this proved to be really helpful in driving people to her shop.

With more than 20 million followers, you would think the shop had no problems earning right?

But why did their emails have low open rates? Why weren’t they earning as much as they wanted to?

After a quick assessment, we figured out the problem.

They didn’t have a defined email marketing strategy. They were sending their emails to everyone on their list. Yes, they were using the ‘spray and pray’ approach.

So here’s what we did.

We fixed their list segments and coupled this with A/B Testing to further refine the customers’ behaviors and preferences.

Here’s a quick look at some of the segments we defined:

Customers based in the United States
Customers who viewed swimwear in the last 30 days
Customers who bought swimwear
Customers who started to checkout footwear
Customers who are highly engaged or those who opened emails at least once in the past 30 days

In less than a month, Sommer Ray’s Shop’s open rates increased from a mere 6% to 25%! The email revenue increase also followed, as well as the revenue generated from flows — from 5% to 36%.

Top tips for proper segmentation

Here’s a collection of tips that will surely help you make the most of your email marketing strategy thanks to proper segmentation.

Visualize your customer journey.

Where are they in your e-commerce marketing funnel? Are they new subscribers? If so, then your approach should be engaging and nurturing so that they can be engaged early on.

Are they loyal customers who regularly purchase? You should treat them with care and make sure that they are always satisfied with your produce and service.

Understanding the different parts of your customer journey will help you craft content that is applicable to their situation. By doing so, you’ll definitely increase engagement and conversions.

Here’s an example of a welcome email. Did you know that welcome emails actually have an average read rate of 34% — 42% higher than the average? So go get those creative juices flowing!

Broadway.com’s welcome email gives you a 20% discount just because you signed up! How amazing is that? It’s sure to grab your attention and push you to buy a ticket.

Get all the data you can.

When it comes to segmentation, data is your best friend! Initially, you’ll only be able to gather demographic data, as well as purchase and browse history. Don’t let this limit you.

Be creative in thinking of new ways to continuously learn more about your customers. Go all out on A/B Testing, or run contests. You can even ask for feedback directly and give discount coupons or freebies in exchange.

Camera Ready does exactly this and offers 10% off the next purchase if the customer leaves a review.

The more you know about your audience, the better your segments and campaigns will be.

Divide into the right segments and conquer away.

Identify the data that will help you create segments that will allow you to add a personal touch. There will be a lot of common data among your customers, but not all of them will be an effective segment.

For example, you can create a segment of ladies aged 25 to 30. But do you have any products that are specifically targeted to women of this age bracket?

On the other hand, if you create a segment of women who have purchased a specific lipstick color, you can send emails to them in the future if you restock.

When it comes to segmentation, here’s a rule of thumb: sending to narrowly targeted segments is always a win! Check out this sample from Rdio. They use their existing data on your preferences to send you updates from your favorite artists.

Also, do NOT be afraid to create as many segments as you see fit. Klaviyo’s Benchmark Report shows that companies with higher revenue had more segments in place.

Personalize details.

Alessio De Luca from the Florence Consulting Group says that personalization-at-scale was one of the most important digital trends in 2018.

According to him, “It’s still selling, but selling in a very efficient yet personalized way.”

Make use of dynamic content and set up who sees what content in an email. Basically, this means that you can set up one campaign that will show different content to different subscribers.

For example, you can set up one email on product recommendations. You send it out to a particular segment, and they will individually see produce recommendations based on their purchase history. This sample from Zalora shows this strategy.

Conduct regular A/B Testing.

Customer preferences and behaviors may change over time.

It’s not enough to set up your segments and base your content on that.

Remember, it is your objective to continue providing relevant emails to your customers so that they end up purchasing. This means you have to be flexible in case of any setups that need to be adjusted depending on their preferences.

A/B Testing is a great way to evaluate and determine which types of campaigns work better in generating open rates, clickthroughs, and revenue.

You can experiment on changing the style of the CTA buttons, or the placement of discount badges. You’ll be surprised at how something so simple can impact your revenue.

Use automation flows!

The great thing about all of these tips is that they can be automated. For example, a customer may be highly engaged now but suddenly goes on an email detox for three months.

Depending on your setups, he or she will automatically be moved to the disengaged list after a specific period of time that you determined. This will then trigger a customer win-back flow, which is a personalized message designed to engage inactive customers.

There are actually seven automation flows that you can set up to maximize both efficiency and personalization. You can learn more about these flows here.

Key Takeaways

Ecommerce stores are growing thanks to technology. The availability of data and accessibility of tools have completely transformed the whole e-commerce marketing industry.

Instead of simply creating awareness and drawing attention, marketing has become very personal, targeted, and detailed. With a combination of proper segmentation and automation, your email marketing strategy can bring your eCommerce store to where you want it to be in terms of revenue.


Klaviyo’s E-commerce Industry Benchmark Report
Campaign Monitor’s collection of statistics on segmentation
Hubspot’s Guide to A/B Testing