Ask Me Anything: Why Segmentation is More Important than Ever in Pandemic Times

Jamie Alexander

Director, Strategy & Insights

Jamie helps cultural organizations understand the behaviors of their audiences and create data-driven strategies to continually engage them.
April 07, 2021

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How should we adjust our audience segmentation as we plan for in-person performances?


Segmentation of your audience, for targeted messaging tailored to an individual, will be more important than ever in the next year as we emerge from the pandemic. The pandemic has caused audiences to be all over the place in terms of their engagement with your organization. Gone are the days of simple ticket-buying segments like: “subscriber, multi-ticket buyer, single ticket buyer, lapsed buyer, prospect.” Now, you’ll likely have to layer pre-, during- , and post-COVID behavior on top of your typical audience segmentation to send effective, personalized messages.

Here are some basic examples of new segments to look out for:

    • Pre-COVID Loyalists: These are people who were your most loyal audiences (in terms of recency and frequency of attendance). Our research with recent clients suggests that this audience is likely to feel the safest return to in-person performances, because they know and trust you. Therefore, this segment should take top priority for reopening, not only because they are loyal but also because they may also have the highest response/action rate.You’ll also need to divide this segment into sub-segments of those who engaged with programming during the pandemic and those who didn’t. It will likely be easier to encourage return of those who did attend pandemic programming (since they still are in the habit of engaging with you), while those who didn’t engage may need additional incentive.
    • New COVID Audiences: These are people who found your organization during the pandemic and engaged with your pandemic programming, such as digital performances, outdoor events, or education programming. It will be fascinating to follow these folks as we resume in-person performances—who will attend in-person performances? Who will become loyal audience members?Demographic analysis will also be key to understand this new group of audience members. It will be important to learn if pandemic programs have allowed for access and inclusion of new audiences in a different way than in-person programs traditionally have.When engaging this group as in-person performances resume, make sure (at the very least) to further segment by geography to send relevant messaging. Far-away audiences, for example, will likely have more interest in attending digitally rather than in-person. No need to bombard them with incentives to attend in-person shows.
    • Post-COVID Adventurers: These are people who will be new to the organization once in-person performances resume (we’re saying “post-COVID,” for simplicity). We imagine that the first new audience members when in-person performances resume will be those starved for new experiences and looking for adventure. It will be critical to understand who these people are and how they behave similarly or different from pre-COVID audiences, so you can craft effective strategies for retaining them and target more potential new audience members like them.

The Segmentation Engine (for Tessitura users) makes it easy to segment people in your database according to their pre-, during-, and post-COVID behavior. If you are a Segmentation Engine user, simply use the “Classify Performances” tool to categorize performances according to these time frames (or whatever makes sense to your organization). Then, use the “Work with Performance Classification Variables” to output tags to complete further analysis on the segments in Tessitura Analytics or mailing build lists.

If you’re looking for a more nuanced audience segmentation that combines multiple behavior variables, contact us. We can talk about creating custom segmentations in Segmentation Engine bespoke for your organization for new post-pandemic times. And if you’re not on Segmentation Engine already, check it out!

Regardless of what tool you use to manage your segments, make sure you’re talking to people where they’re at. Now, more than ever, targeted messaging is needed to encourage a strong audience return upon reopening.