Monitoring Mailbox Conduct: How to Apply Behavioral Targeting to Email Marketing


Behavioral marketing, with its ability to truly segment and target your audience by past online behavior, is not only for banners or networks. Using this method in your email campaigns can significantly change the way you send your emails for the better.

By collecting information about your lists, you can send relevant offers based on a user’s prior purchases. Instead of just relying on demographic data, you can deliver each unique addressee offers and information that they want, according to their behavioral patterns.

Stop assuming

Targeting by demographics alone is pure guesswork. You are assuming that someone who is female will respond favorably to a skin cream product. What you are missing out on are the men who have previously purchased similar cosmetic products for reasons unknown to you. A user who has purchased flowers as a mother’s day gift and on secretary’s day is a prime target for chocolate or wine gift baskets during other holidays.

By segmenting and targeting your lists via past behavior, you are reducing wasted resources such as bandwidth and manpower on mass campaigns. You will no longer send 3 mass emails to your entire list of 3 million, generating 9 million emails sent. Instead, you can send 100,000 emails to users most likely to respond to such messages, resulting in the same number of conversions and exceptionally higher CPMs.

By splitting that list of 3 million and sending each user a relevant message based on past behavior, mailings can be cut into a fraction of what was previously sent. This brings costs down while still achieving the same sales or better, since the messages become more relevant and less prone to deletion by users bombarded with too many irrelevant emails every day. Imagine what that can do to your ROI.

The upsell opportunity

Using the same approach, behavioral targeting can be applied to upsell efforts. Instead of upselling because a user purchased “something,” use past purchase behavior coupled with most recent activity to paint a picture of the user, and send an upsell message that takes all of this behavior into consideration. This means that even though Joe bought a plant on Mother’s Day, he also bought a shovel, a gardening book and some seeds a few weeks ago. His past purchase behavior can be used to build a profile and send him relevant messages and offers that may not have been evident from just a plant purchase on a holiday.

Email affords the opportunity to collect immediate results so that you can apply your metrics to your user’s behavior. Past purchase behavior is not your only indicator or target. Applying knowledge gained from what a user clicks on can tell you a lot about their behavior and possibly turn a chronic browser into a buyer.

The only way to know for sure just how well BT will do for your email campaigns is to test thoroughly. Begin by building your database and get to know your users. Then create connections between past behavior and new opportunities. You can make assumptions, as all marketers are prone to do, but unless you test them, you will not know what works and what to scratch. Once you start understanding your users better, you will better serve them by stopping assumptions and offering relevant messages based on past behavior.


  1. Sophisticated behavioral targeting can determine what offer a user might respond to even though there is no obvious direct correlation between the previous responses. This type of behavioral targeting uses clusters or sets of behavior in it’s predictive model.
    For instance, if a set of users respond to offers for “Orlando Vacation”, “designer handbags” and “seeds”; the next set of users that respond to “Orlando Vacation” and “designer handbags” will most likely be receptive to a “seeds” offer as well.


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