Email segmentation is one of the key tactics for delivering personalized messaging. According to Hubspot, almost a third of email marketers use segmentation.

Personalization is what makes email marketing effective. Mailchimp reported that segmented campaigns saw a 14.31% higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns.

In this article we’ll:

  • Cover the basics of email segmentation
  • Help you set up good foundations and a scalable workflow
  • Discuss the best practices and what you need to get started (spoiler: it’s good email list management)
  • Give you 13 ideas to get started with email segmentation beyond demographics and first name

Want to start segmenting but not sure if your data is good enough? We can check it for free. Get in touch for a free data quality report.

What is an email segment?

An email segment is, put simply, a chunk of your email contacts within your email marketing lists.

It’s called ‘segmentation’ because you use a qualifying process to break your list into segments depending on identifiers you choose based on your marketing strategy. These identifiers can be based on behavior (e.g. engagement) or qualities, (e.g. geographical location).

Email segmentation basics

Why segment your list?

Without segmentation, it’s difficult to provide relevant content to your audience. By picking up on specific interests and pain points, or differences in behavior, you can make your content much more captivating and feel more personal.

How to segment?

You’ll first need to ensure that you are capturing data and monitoring your contacts’ activity. You’ll also need an email marketing tool so that you can automate your personalized emails and track your contacts’ engagement with them.

Depending on the size and frequency of your email sends, you could be using a tool like Mailchimp, which collects basic data and email engagement metrics and is best for small businesses. 

If you need something more heavy-duty, consider a Marketing Platform like Hubspot that syncs with your CRM and can pull in data from across your website and other online channels. (Check out our guide on customer segmentation in CRM and how to leverage the data you already have)

When to segment?

There’s no bad time! However, this doesn’t mean every email send has to be segmented and personalized. Consider when a personalized approach will have the most impact.

Who should be segmented?

Any contact can be segmented, as long as you have enough data to draw them into a segment in the first place.

Without email segmentation, it’s difficult to provide relevant content to your audience. Here are 13 ways to segment your email list beyond demographics. #DataCleaning #EmailMarketing

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Email list segmentation best practices

Start with a clean list

Good data is crucial to effectively segmenting your lists. If your data is in bad shape, not only will you be wasting time sending to inactive users or unwanted contacts, but you may find your segments are patchy and low in numbers.

Data cleaning tools can make tidying and bulking out your contact lists a lot easier, depending on the size of your company. We’ve created a guide to choosing a data quality tool that’s right for your business and contact list size.

Write good content

It would be a shame to spend time segmenting your lists, only for the messaging to fall flat when it reaches the recipient. Examine what makes each segment different from the other. What messages will appeal to the pain points or behavior specific to each segment?

Keep it simple

Don’t let it become a complex procedure. The goal is to enable you to send more relevant content, and when you’re getting started, 2-3 segments is enough to achieve that. 

Track the results

Monitor your contacts’ response to your segmentation. Was it more successful than previous sends with no segmentation? There’s no silver bullet - so keep trying and testing until you find a solution that works for you.

Related post: 10 Essential Email Hygiene Best Practices For 2021

Email segmentation ideas

1. Use case

Not every contact will engage with your product or service in the same way. That means you shouldn’t talk to them in the same way either. 

Use what you know about how your contact uses what you offer, and tailor your messaging accordingly.

Here at tye, we segment our customers this way. We came to realize that our customers’ needs are diverse, but we can group their use cases into 4 categories:

  • Those that want to do more personalized email marketing and need better quality data to achieve that

  • Those that want to migrate to a new CRM/ERP system and want to clean up their data first

  • Those that want to merge many customer lists into one master list, and want to maintain list hygiene

  • Those that just need their data chaos cleaned up

Our product serves all 4 use cases, but in different ways. For this reason, we segment the lists and tailor our email marketing accordingly, in order to provide more valuable and relevant content.

Get your email list management systems right - get our ultimate bundle of checklists, workflows and swipe files

  • Email deliverability checklist
  • Lead management workflow
  • Email cleaning checklist to make the most of your list
  • A welcome email swipe file to engage your list from the start
  • And more!

2. Past purchase history

Every time a contact makes a purchase, you learn a bit more about them. By knowing what interests them and what they might want to see more of, you can provide very specific recommendations.

This doesn’t need to be specific to products though. Netflix does this really well.

They know when a user has been watching a particular show, encourages them to do it again, and makes reminders and recommendations based on what they know about them.

3. Browsing behavior

By tracking a contact’s journey through your website, you can find out what interests them and what they want to learn more about. Then, you can send them an email and provide them with exactly what they are looking for.

ActiveCampaign has a website tracking feature as part of their email marketing tool so that you can create segments based on a contact’s browsing behavior.

4. Gender

Segmenting by gender can be useful for Business to Consumer (B2C) brands, particularly in eCommerce, when their products may appeal to one gender over the other.

If your product range can be divided by ‘men’ or ‘women’ then you can make your email marketing much more streamlined and avoid the need to want to cover all bases when emailing about new products.

If you haven’t been collecting this data, there are tools to help you do that. At tye, we can enrich your data by figuring out a large part of your contacts’ genders with only their email address.

5. Seniority level

When creating Business to Business (B2B) email marketing campaigns, you can segment by how senior a person is within the company.

Seniority usually means more influence and buying power, but this isn’t to say that emailing someone with an entry-level position isn’t effective.

Focusing on the pain-points in each segment is what matters. The benefits that appeal to a junior may be too granular for a Head of Department that wants to understand how your product or service fits into their wider strategy.

6. Stage of the sales funnel

Your marketing content will probably have been created with the sales funnel in mind. Each piece of content answers a different question, and will be relevant to users based on where they are in the sales funnel.

For this reason, segmenting using the categories of the sales funnel can help you get the right content to the right people at the right time and make your funnel more effective.

7. Content interest/topic

By monitoring what content your contacts are downloading, or joining your subscriber list from, you can build a picture of what they are interested in, or what kind of questions they want answering.

By adding them into a related segment, you can use this information to provide even more insight and resources to them.

8. Job title

Job titles give clues about the kind of areas your contacts are interested in, and what their pain points might be. If we consider job titles within a marketing company, you may have ‘Head of Social Media’ and ‘Head of Video Content’.

Whileyour email campaign might be relevant to them both, their individual goals will be different. Use segmentation by job title to appeal to the nuances in their roles.

9. Free and paid users

When talking to free and paid customers, your objectives are different. One is conversion, the other is retention. While you still want to discuss the benefits of the product or service, the things you mention to keep someone interested will vary from the things you need to highlight to get someone over the line.

Separate the two when sending your email campaigns. For existing paid users, share examples and case studies of what others are doing, or mention the benefits they’ve seen from their account so far.

For free users, you want to upsell and convince them to pay for an account, so show them what they’re missing. Grammarly does a great job of showing users what they could achieve if they upgraded in this email:

10. Purchase frequency

Segmenting based on purchase frequency can be used in a number of ways.

Using the data you already have about their shopping habits, you might want to ‘get ahead’ of the customer, and send them special offers before you predict they might make another purchase, in order to boost their cart value.

You could send out emails when there has been a longer gap between purchases, reminding them of the products and services you offer, and enticing them to come back.

In the opposite way, if you can see that a contact has made multiple purchases from you recently, you can use segmentation to dial back the frequency of your email sends, so that you don’t overwhelm them with emails.

We created the ultimate email list management bundle for busy marketing leaders who want to make the most of their data

11. Engagement level

The kind of email content you would send to a contact who has attended a webinar and has been engaging with your emails should differ from the email content you send to someone who’s barely interacted with your marketing content.

A Mailchimp report showed that segmented email campaigns based on subscriber engagement saw a 15.69% higher click-through-rate than unsegmented campaigns.

Create segments based on how frequently your subscribers engage with your email marketing, or your website. Your less interested email subscribers might benefit from a re-engagement program, or you may want to segment them in order to stop sending emails altogether.

Consider how you segment new subscribers, too. Those in the ‘no engagement yet’ segment should be treated differently to those in the ‘consistently low engagement’ segment.

12. Shopping cart abandonment

According to ActiveCampaign, the average eCommerce email open rate is around 15%, however, abandoned cart emails have an almost 45% open rate, proving itself to be an effective tactic.

A report from SaleCycle showed that when a shopping cart abandonment email was sent within an hour of the person leaving the site, conversions go up by 6.33%. If you can act fast, and encourage a purchase while it’s still on someone’s mind, you’re more likely to see results.

Here’s an example from Asics:

Segment your emails based on when contacts add items to their cart, and then don’t check out within a certain timeframe.

13. Form abandonment

Similarly to cart abandonment, you can send out personalized emails when someone starts filling in a form but doesn’t finish.

This might be in order to access gated content, like a white paper download, or it could be to register for an event like a webinar. 

There are a number of reasons why someone might give up before they’ve submitted the form. A personalized email can be triggered to remind the person why they started filling it out in the first place, and try to get them to finish what they started.

How can I start segmenting my email list?

The first step is deciding how you want to segment subscribers. 

How you do this really depends on your data. Look at the information you have available to you, and consider how this could be used to provide more value to your target audience. On that note, don't miss our beginner's guide to better emails with data-driven marketing.

Working on your buyer personas can help with your segmentation strategy. By having a good understanding of how your contacts vary, and what matters to them, you can create content that has a real impact.

Once you’ve got your segments, write up a personalized email campaign, and see how it performs. Make sure you track engagement, as some segments and messaging will work better than others.

Want to start segmenting but not sure if your data is good enough? We can check it for free. Get in touch for a free data quality report.

Markus Beck

Markus Beck - August 12, 2020

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.