What Is Behavioral Marketing? Types, Segmentation, & Examples

Patrick Lane Marketing Manager
Key Points
  • Behavioral marketing is the practice of serving targeted content or ads to a person based on their prior online interests, behavior, or actions.
  • Behavioral marketing enables you to send the right message to the right prospect at the right time.
  • Combine behavioral targeting with data-based segmentation to improve marketing KPIs.

Fortune 1000 marketing executives are obsessed with personalization. And for good reason: behavioral marketing outperforms generic targeting in every way.

147%

Behavioral targeted emails have a 147% higher click-through rate

Marketo
71%

71% of consumers expect personalized brand interactions

McKinsey
78%

Personalization makes customers 78% more likely to purchase again

McKinsey

Behavioral marketing draws from audience interests, so each campaign you launch delivers more value and builds deeper relationships.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can leverage customer behavior data to amplify performance across your entire marketing mix.

What is behavioral marketing?

MARKETING
TERM
DEFINITION

Behavioral Marketing

Behavioral marketing is the process of targeting specific audience segments based on past interactions, intentions, or geolocation to deliver more relevant, personalized content.

Have you ever seen a completely irrelevant marketing message and thought, are you even listening to me?

Behavioral marketing prevents this disconnect by keeping web pages, content, emails, ads, and messaging relevant.

With behavioral marketing, you gather customer data to communicate with your target audience more effectively. To that end, use marketing techniques such as dynamic website content, customized calls-to-action (CTAs), and retargeting.

This behavioral data enables you to create better marketing campaigns through accurate segmentation and behavioral targeting. As a result, your digital marketing campaigns will prove more successful because you’re talking to the right people with the right message at the right time.

Behavioral marketing in action

Here’s an example of how behavioral marketing works alongside multiple customer touch points:

Bob needs a new mattress, and he found your website when he Googled “best organic mattresses.” Your blog post ranked number one (good job!). So he clicked on it and read your article. When he reached the bottom of the post, your site dynamically offered him a quiz about sleeping habits.

Bob finished the quiz and almost exited your website when you automatically served him a guide with sleeping tips.

Because he has trouble sleeping, he downloaded the guide. In parallel, you distribute a series of emails to him about what to look for in an organic mattress.

He ultimately clicks on a CTA to check out organic mattresses on your product pages. Although he places a mattress in his shopping cart, he holds off completing the transaction.

He then leaves the website completely.

Here’s when your retargeting campaign kicks into gear. The behavioral data you gathered powers ads for organic mattresses wherever he browses online, constantly reminding him of your store.

Spoiler alert: He buys from you.

How behavioral marketing works

Behavioral marketing gathers behavioral patterns like search history, pages visited, click-through, sign-ups, downloads, scroll depth, cursor movement, time on page, and other metrics. Marketers can mine these insights from analytics software or first-party cookies.

The data may include demographics and geolocation. You can also target the day of the week or time of day of their action. You can even treat new site visitors and returning visitors differently.

Map these behavioral patterns to the customer journey to configure different marketing and messages based on the perceived buyer funnel stage.

Behavioral marketing triggers can be automatic, based on your marketing automation software, UTM codes, or dynamic links. Or enable self-segmentation options to launch behaviorally targeted outcomes.

Configure behavioral marketing for your brand in the following ways:

  • Marketing automation platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Adobe Marketo Engage
  • Email marketing applications
  • Conversion optimization options (e.g., OptinMonster and Privvy)
  • Personalization software such as Adobe Target, Insider, Dynamic Yield, and SAP Emarsys

After you collect behavioral data, combine it with audience segmentation to improve marketing campaigns. Then, A/B test your campaigns where possible, and optimize to improve performance.

Behavioral marketing ROI

According to some behavioral targeting statistics from McKinsey, brands that use customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth. On top of this, they achieve more than 25% better gross margin.

Behavioral marketing is so impactful because it’s a marketing strategy that puts the audience first.

85%

Brands that use customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth.

McKinsey

The consumer sees only content and ads that are relevant to them.

With this superior audience segmentation, the marketing they see always relates to the problem they need to solve and is relevant to their customer journey stage. Not only that, but your brand becomes top of mind thanks to remarketing.

Types of behavioral marketing

Behavioral marketing takes various forms, from dynamic website content to personalized recommendations. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common types of behavioral marketing.

Dynamic Website Content

Dynamic website content (aka adaptive content) automatically changes based on the behavioral triggers of who views it. The content is customized to appeal to individuals based on their prior digital behavior or expressed interests. 

For example, using UTM codes, you can display different messaging to different companies that respond to your email campaigns. The benefit of more targeted messaging is it delivers greater relevance, which in turn deepens engagement and drives action. 

Calls-to-Action

Conversion optimization software is a core function of digital marketing because it helps you turn your site visitors into leads and customers. With the software, you can configure a wide range of CTAs in your website to trigger the digital body language and actions of your site visitors. 

Brands often use the software to display a CTA based on the scroll-depth or time-on-page of the site visitor, as these behaviors typically reflect higher engagement and greater receptivity to related messaging.

Brands can configure CTAs in many other ways, as well, to re-engage, drive depth of focus, or retarget users. For example, you can show a CTA when a visitor has been inactive for a certain amount of time or bypassed an earlier CTA. 

Or, if they express interest in a topic, you can show options for deeper, related information. On the other hand, you can share very different CTAs with them if they leave your site altogether but return later.

Retargeting

Retargeting ads use data, like the products an individual viewed on your website, to show the person advertising related to that product (or topic on the page) as they spend more time online. Similarly, search retargeting displays ads to an individual online based on their search history. 

Social media retargeting is the process of displaying an ad in a person’s social media feed after they visited your website.

Common retargeting tools include AdRoll, ReTargerter, Criteo, Google, and Facebook (to name a few). They use behavioral data to display relevant ads to the target audience interested in that particular product, service, or topic.

For example, I briefly visited the ClickUp website, a project management platform, then I left after I tested the platform.

My action told ClickUp I’m at the bottom of the purchase funnel and might be ready to buy. When I visited LinkedIn shortly afterward, a ClickUp sponsored post appeared in my feed offering a limited-time, 15% discount for an annual subscription.

ClickUp Behavioral Marketing Example

Email marketing

Behaviorally segmented emails look at your consumer’s actions on your website and send them emails accordingly. For example, let’s say you manage an e-commerce site. What if a shopper adds a product to their shopping cart but doesn’t complete the transaction?

You can use this real-time information to immediately email them relevant content such as a discount code or reminder that they have items in their cart. The extra nudge is sometimes what a consumer needs to complete a purchase.

Another example of behavioral targeting in email marketing is sending an email based on page visits. Assess each customer journey stage with trigger pages like “Latest Trends” “Case Studies,” “Book a Demo,” or “Pricing.”

When a customer visits one of these pages, your marketing automation platform can trigger an appropriate email to follow up with them in a relevant and helpful way.

You can even use behavioral marketing to grow your email subscriber list! In this case, if a user viewed a product, you could offer them a discount code if they sign up for your email list. Then, you could remind them to use their code on the product they viewed.

Product recommendations

Amazon gets a gold star for product suggestions. They use their knowledge of consumer behavior and trends to suggest products that others have bought with the item you’ve added to your cart. 

For example, let’s say I just renovated my backyard and I want to add a bridge to my Amazon cart. The platform might then suggest a few other decorative items to complement the bridge.

Product recommendations increase shopping cart value and increase sales.

The recommendations also build customer loyalty. They accomplish this through a seamless customer experience in which the website appears to read the mind of the site visitor. The algorithm, behavioral patterns, and purchase behavior determine suggestions, so they are pretty darn accurate!

Amazon product recommendation image that uses behavioral marketing

Behavioral marketing segmentation

Marketing segmentation based on behavioral data is essential to deliver a personalized experience for customers. It also ensures customers see relevant content. Consequently, it helps to increase customer lifecycle retention and purchasing behavior.

But what personal data should you collect for accurate behavioral segmentation?

Visitor data

Monitor your visitor metrics and configure a scoring system.

  • Are they on a desktop or mobile device? 
  • Are they a new or returning visitor? 
  • Did they visit in the morning, during lunch hour, or in the evening? 
  • How often do they visit your website? Which products do they view? 
  • Do they visit pages indicative of purchase intent? 
  • Beyond product pages, what blog topics are they digging into?
  • What have they downloaded? 
  • How have they engaged with different elements of the site?

You get the idea.

Geolocation

Geolocation is a necessary customer segment for location-based businesses or in-person events.

For example, if you run marketing for a restaurant chain and use location to target ads, someone in their car searching for a place to eat on their phone would be served your ad when they’re within a geofence near one of your restaurants.

Geolocation is also helpful for retail.

If you are marketing for an outdoor apparel retailer, you can track location in order to serve ads based on the weather. When it’s raining in Vermont yet sunny in New Hampshire, you can run ads promoting waterproof socks and boots in Vermont while running ads for sunscreen in New Hampshire.

Buyer intent

Demographics and location metrics provide insight into your customers’ needs, but they don’t tell you how likely they are to make a purchase. Segment your audience by buyer intent, instead, to increase your conversion rate and sales.

Look at their search history, engagement level, or the specific pages they’ve visited. Have they used your virtual, interactive fitting room to try on your clothing? Did they go through your recommendation wizard? Or sign up for your online community? 

Or, on the B2B lead generation side, have they attended your webinars? Interacted with your online chat? Or registered for a demo?

Transactions

You already know selling more products to current customers costs less than acquiring new customers. This is why lifecycle marketing is so important. 

Score your site visitors based on the number of purchases, order value, or frequency of purchases, and you’ll be able to hone your marketing efforts accordingly. Send them emails, serve them content, and present them with custom offers based on their prior purchases to improve customer retention.

Engagement

When customers become fans, you’re in a good place. Engagement is a crucial metric for spotting your brand’s super fans. You can find them through social media interactions, email click-through rates, and website interactions. 

Engagement can take many forms. Look at past behaviors across multiple touchpoints that indicate interest or buyer intent. For example, number of pages viewed, visit duration, downloads, sign-ups, questions asked, social shares, return visits, etc.

Multi-channel behavioral marketing

Multi-channel behavioral marketing distributes your message across channels like your website, YouTube, email, mobile, social media, and third-party sites via ad networks. By leveraging more than one digital marketing channel, you increase the probability customers will see your marketing, return to your site, and convert.

Just make sure you configure your multi-touch attribution model correctly so you can track performance.

Plan holistically

When designing your multi-channel campaign, make sure it’s cohesive by planning holistically. Start with your marketing strategy, including the following components:

  • Goals and KPIs: What campaign goals define success? Whatever you choose, set up your tools to track the metrics accurately.
  • Channels: This is where the multi-channel part comes in. Where does your audience for this campaign spend time? Consider social media platforms, YouTube channels, podcasts, email, search engines, media websites, and other third-party websites.
  • Budget: How much did you budget? Will the budget be designated by channel, or shared as a portfolio? Consider the cost of your internal team, agencies, freelancers, and advertising costs. How much do you need to allocate to any tools?
  • Content plan: What content do you need to build for each channel? Do you know the content that would take your target audience members to the next level? What is the content that would guide them down the funnel?

Creative assets: What creative assets do you need for different channels? Consider creative assets such as microsites, landing pages, images, video, audio, infographics, email templates, online tools, ads, etc.

Take your campaign across channels

Next, use your customer data to target the customers that have already signaled their interest based on their behavior. Score and segment your contacts. Consider the following factors for taking your campaign across multiple channels:

  • What are all the channels your target audience uses?
  • How do they typically go from one channel to another?
  • In which channels are they more receptive to interacting with brands?
  • Is their channel usage equally distributed? Or do they tend to spend most of their time on one channel?
  • Do they use certain channels for information gathering, and other channels when they are closer to a purchase?
  • How about their preference for mobile vs. desktop?

Behavioral marketing examples

Too many businesses ignore behavioral marketing and miss a massive opportunity to connect with customers. Here are several examples to get you started.

NerdWallet example of behavioral marketing

If you visit the NerdWallet website, then you’ll be retargeted with digital advertising.

In my case, after visiting the site and selecting the Credit Cards category, I clicked on the “Best Credit Cards of May 2022” option. I clicked on a few options to see what would happen.

From there, if I visited other popular websites around the web such as CNN.com or USAToday.com. I encountered not just one NerdWallet retargeting ad, but an entire series.

The first NerdWallet ad I saw recommended a cash back credit card.

NerdWallet cash back credit cards retargeting ad

The second ad offered to show a list of the best credit cards of 2022. This would have taken me back to where I began.

NerdWallet 2022 best credit cards retargeting ad

The third ad encouraged me to look for cards because of my good credit score. (Strangely, I’ve never given NerdWallet my credit score in the past…).

NerdWallet excellent credit retargeting ad

Finally, another retargeting ad guided me to find a low-interest credit card.

NerdWallet low interest credit card retargeting ad

NerdWallet kept all its ads relevant based on my actions and inferred interests by repeatedly sharing credit card-related ads. They also changed the ad with each instance. This kept the messaging fresh and enabled NerdWallet to test which message would get me to click.

REI example of behavioral marketing

REI conducts multiple levels of behavioral marketing. 

First, if you view products on REI.com, then you’ll see related product recommendations. When you view a backpack page, for example, you also see a carousel with approximately 20 other backpacks or related products.

These appear under the heading of “People also viewed.” In addition, you see another carousel. The second carousel showcases products people ultimately bought when viewing the same backpack as you are. These are both examples of behavioral marketing in action.

REI people also viewed example of behavioral marketing

Then, let’s say you start visiting other sites around the web. What you’ll find is, similar to NerdWallet, retargeting ads. 

Only, with the REI ads, you’re presented with photos of six specific backpacks to entice you to return to the REI.com site. If you continue your journey around the web, you continue to see similar REI retargeting ads, but the ordering of the backpacks changes with each new view. This is most likely testing to determine the ordering of products that generates the highest click-through rates.

REI retargeting ad example of behavioral marketing
REI retargeting example 2

Terakeet example

Terakeet, as well, uses behavioral marketing. In our case, we display CTAs throughout our blog based on:

  1. The content on the page
  2. The digital body language of site visitors
  3. Past interactions

With more than 10 download offers on the site, we pinpoint the right CTA for the right page. But that’s not all.

We then configure the CTAs to display only if the site visitor shows sufficient interest. Our team automates this by configuring time on page and scroll depth triggers. If they don’t demonstrate such behavior, then the CTAs are not shown.

In addition to these behaviors, we can also show certain CTAs to folks who engaged with specific downloads or even categories of downloads. Even better, we can hide pop-ups from visitors who already downloaded the content to improve user experience.

Since we started to offer our value-add content downloads, site visitors have downloaded the white papers, research reports, and templates thousands of times.

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content playbook cover straight
beauty industry market report

Behavioral marketing strategies keep you connected with your audience.

Better data collection allows you to understand customer behavior so you can build more precise user profiles. As a result, your efforts will be more personalized which amplifies brand affinity.

When you provide consumers with non-disruptive, seamless ways to reconnect with your brand, you’ll earn their trust and their business.

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