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Andrea Serventi
24 April 2018
Reading time: 6 min

The Right SMS to the Right Recipient: a Guide to Segmentation

Geographic, demographic, and behavioral, each subdivided into subcriteria: let’s take a look at the parameters to use when subdividing recipients to create truly relevant SMS campaigns.

If email is the father of digital marketing, SMS messages are the younger brother. Next to email, text messages are the most long-lived channel which enormous communication flows pass through. It suffices to say that in 2016 in Italy, 3.2 billion bulk SMS messages were sent. This impressive number gives you a good idea of ​​how SMS messages are significant for brands.

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There are several reasons why the SMS channel is so effective. If the premise is obvious – by now everyone has a mobile phone number – a marketing-related aspect should be considered: more than Facebook or any other digital channel, SMS messages are able to surely reach your recipients. On all the other platforms, efforts and investments depend on the ability to attract an audience.

Let’s be even clearer: an SMS is a one-shot, immediate way to get to straight to the heart and mind of the individual recipient.

The right message to the right recipient

There is one but: the biggest mistake you can make in SMS marketing is to think that the same 160 characters (including the URL of any landing pages) are expendable for an entire contact database.

We know how harassing and unbearable generic and irrelevant text messages are. Even more than emails, the effectiveness of text messages follows a delicate balance between content restrictions and the messages’ relevance for the recipient. When an SMS hits the target, a campaign can fully deploy its incisiveness. A generic approach always hinders a campaign. On the other hand, the more a communication is focused, the greater its communicative potential.

This is precisely why brands must apply segmentation activities before sending, thereby saving costs and avoiding sending irrelevant messages that can lead to unsubscriptions.

Filters also make it possible to automatically manage all the phases following a first purchase: communications regarding transactionsfollow upremarketing actions, and up-selling and cross-selling campaigns.

In this post we’ll take a look at the segmentation possibilities for SMS campaigns. One by one, here are the criteria that you can apply to your database.


Geolocation makes it possible to address offers and product launches exclusively to recipients living in the geographic area of the offer you want to communicate. Whether it’s an event or a limited store offer, with a geolocation filter you can restrict the list of recipients to the actual communication targets. Here’s an example:

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The advantages of geolocation can be amplified by using complementary technologies. One of the most useful technologies applied to an SMS marketing strategy is beacons: by detecting the proximity to a specific place or a physical store, the beacon can trigger an SMS with a high degree of customization. Here’s how Starbucks does it (in the example below):



Using personal data filters, an e-commerce clothing site can launch flash sale campaigns diversified according to different subcriteria.


The gender difference is the main distinction. Each gender has specific needs and desires. Segmenting your sendings by differentiating the offer for a female and male audience is a necessary operation if the offer requires it. Let’s consider the case where a recipient has subscribed to a spa’s promotions: even if it is true that offers for massages and treatments are “unisex”, it is unlikely that a male would like to receive a similar text message on his phone:

-15% on all beauty products, this weekend only! Take advantage of it now!


The second fundamental demographic criterion is that which leads brands to segment their database for age groups. This is because, as we all know, generations have significantly different backgrounds and mentalities. Generation Z was born into technology and the digital world; the Millennials have an agitated, restless temperament; the Baby Boomers are inevitably prone to nostalgia. This may seem like a sophistication, but it is not. Consider an SMS message such as the following:

Are you ready? Our competition on Instagram has begun! You can win a coupon worth 100€. The offer can be combined with mid-season sales.

It is highly unlikely that this text message will attract a recipient who is part of the Baby Boomers generation.


This is perhaps the most difficult segmentation criterion, because it forces the brand to carry out profiling. There is no lack of tools: for example, forms make it possible to send a text message or email that asks the recipient to fill in a questionnaire asking about their interests and preferences. The form is a simple landing page that you can create with MailUp in just a few clicks and insert in the SMS with a shortened URL. Here’s an example:

Hi Giacomo, we’d like to get to know you better to send you offers in line with your tastes. Complete the questionnaire for a 15% discount

Here’s an example of segmentation based on lifestyle: flight attendants, whose work takes them from one side of the globe to the other in a matter of hours. Enhancing this type of data lets you launch offers which are consistent with lifestyle, for example a chain of hotels could launch discounts for short stays.

Let’s hypothesize a real strategy: a hotel chain could take advantage of data on flight cancellations (which leave an average 90,000 US passengers stranded every day). By tracking flight delays and cancellations in real time, the brand could trigger the sending of targeted SMS messages offering a stay in its hotels located near the airports. The text of the SMS could say something like: Stuck at the airport? Spend the night with us!


Knowing what each recipient bought and how long ago makes it possible to streamline the flow of SMS messages and reach each contact with a customized, relevant communication, thereby engaging customers and offering them an incentive if they have not made a purchase for a long time, or incentivizing those who are already loyal customers to make larger purchases or offer related products. These are just a few possible parameters of the behavioral criterion, which in fact could be elaborated on much further.

Average customer spending

In this case loyalty cards are a very precious tool, as they let you combine the purchasing data of each customer with the features of the sending platform. We were given an excellent example by Loytrend a few months ago which gave rise to a case study. Loytrend is a business that offers companies loyalty solutions and strategies. For its customer CVG Moda, Loytrend took advantage of the company’s loyalty card purchasing data to set up a multi-channel customer satisfaction strategy based on emails and text messages. The case study provides a detailed explanation of how the strategy was developed and the results it brought.

Purchase history

An old technique of e-commerce marketing is to analyze each user’s basket. People who buy a product usually end up buying another more or less related product, and in doing so reveal their purchasing models and schemes. The analysis can be used to create a basket to send users to who have purchased a particular product in a certain direction, proposing a complementary, coherent offer (with greater conversion probability).

Purchase frequency

E-commerce platforms usually keep track of single users’ purchase frequencies: taking them into consideration makes it possible to modulate subsequent sendings and the relative offers for each customer. For example, regular customers can be offered more frequent but more limited discounts, while customers who have not made a purchase for some time must be convinced and persuaded with a larger discount.

Hi Martina, it’s already been a month since your last purchase. That’s why we’re giving you a special 30% discount on your next purchase

Behavior on the website

Users’ behavior on your website can also be segmented. Based on the pages visited, a brand can develop a set of multi-channel sendings (email and SMS) to bring the user’s attention back to products that had attracted and intrigued him or her. This is no more nor less than simple remarketing.


Engagement is an excellent indicator for dividing a database into sub-groups.
A brand could trigger the sending of diversified campaigns depending on each recipient‘s level of involvement. For example:

  • Send larger offers and benefits for those who are less engaged
  • Modulate the tone and register depending on whether the recipient is more or less involved.

Beyond promotional activities is the management side of contacts, which is no less important for email marketing. Thus engagement, when crossed with the email channel, has a very useful tool with SMS messages. In this post we spell out all the details.

In conclusion

Everything we have mentioned here can be done with a single tool such as the MailUp platform. Thanks to its filters, you can create different sending segments to send relevant SMS messages and cultivate one-on-one relationships with your recipients.

If you’re still not familiar with it, try the MailUp platform for free for 30 days.

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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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