In a recent post I asked a question about behavioural email and segmentation that received a number of positive responses but which showed a breadth of approach across the market, from the pragmatic to the fully integrated.

But I was only left with one question that has nagged at me for a couple of weeks, so I thought I would give it an airing: if behavioural email and segmentation is the way the market is going, then is everyone who is building an ‘offline’ RFM (recency, freqency, monetary) database / segmentation tool to drive email wasting their time and money?

It seems vogue at the moment to me to take online behavioural data into traditional ‘offline’ databases in the search for a ‘multi-channel’ solution. But how sensible is this?

I have a few issues with this. Firstly, time. In my experience, it will be days if not weeks before this data can be processed. Any hope of a timely communication with the online visitor or customer is lost.

Secondly, I can only see the requirement for bulk email diminishing over the next 24 months, for two primary reasons. Firstly, because market leaders will switch towards communicating with customers while they are engaged with their websites via behavioural and automated targeting tools, rather than waiting for next month’s segmentation update from the whirligig database in a dusty envelope packing factory before sending the email. Secondly, continuing changes in the deliverability landscape will make communication with inactive or disengaged customers more complicated.

Behavioural email exists to influence customers when they are engaged with the brand (and the website) and is effectively an antidote to bulk mailers who want to bash out the same creative to a million emails.

There is a trend at the moment for organisations – especially those with an existing offline database – to try to drive online segmentation and targeting from this pre-existing base. But is this not answering yesterday’s question (how do we segment our bulk mailing list?) rather than dealing with tomorrow’s issue (which is ‘how do I interact with a customer in a timely and relevant manner?’). The answer to this new question is to engage the customer at the point at which they’re looking to buy something, rather than weeks afterwards.

Only a behavioural and automated approach can make this a possibility, because your prospect will now be a loyal customer of a competitor once your RFM database has chunked out the segments for the next bulk mailing.

It is therefore better to take your multichannel 360 degree view of the customer and use this to unlock the issues of inactivity through a compelling ‘win back’ strategy.