10 min read

All You Need to Know About Email Segmentation

Written by Andriy Boychuk
10 min read
Table of Contents

    From newsletters with company updates to promotional emails with coupon codes, our inboxes have become virtual battlegrounds, cluttered with thousands of unread emails we leave for later. 

    Yet, most of those emails never get read. With our inboxes getting flooded by an incessant stream of emails every single day, we have become more discerning when it comes to selecting which emails deserve our attention (and time). 

    The days of mindlessly blasting our mass generic email campaigns are long gone. We now seek relevance and personalization. That’s what we give our attention to, and savvy marketers know it. They understand that effective email segmentation is the key to success with email marketing. 

    In this guide, we’ll dive into the intricacies of email segmentation – from its benefits and best practices to ideas and examples. When you’re finished reading this article, you’ll be armed with everything you need to know to get started with email segmentation. 


    What is Email Segmentation?

    Email segmentation is the division of your customer database – or email list – into small groups (called segments) based on specific sets of criteria.

    Segmentation is a way to deliver relevant email marketing information that is personalized to each set of users based on factors such as their:

    • Purchase history
    • Geographic location
    • Interests
    • And many other criteria.

    List segmentation provides you with the capability to send more relevant content to your eCommerce clients.

    And the more relevant your email communications are, the more likely your target audience will open them, engage with your business, and convert.

    💡 Your email audience isn’t a monolithic clump of people waiting to hear from you. They are a multi-faceted, endlessly different collection of desires, attention spans, and needs. So splitting your customer database up into segments based on specific characteristics will help increase your message’s relevance to them.

    Importance of Email Marketing Segmentation

    Many businesses still believe that everyone on their subscriber list should get the same content that is generated from one big list with minimal effort from the marketing team. 

    But, as is often the case, a lack of effort will always be rewarded by a lack of results.

    If all you have to give your customers is some generic information, then they are not getting something that makes it worth their effort to respond to or act on your business’s call to action. 

    This is why email list segmentation is so important.

    Why list segmentation is important

    Everybody loves to feel the personal touch. By segmenting your customer database into useful lists, you can:

    • Send personalized messages to them
    • Address their individual needs
    • Respond to their queries and solve their purchase problems.

    Email segmentation enables you to say a friendly and personal hello to your customers then, hopefully, you won’t have to wave them goodbye.

    But personalization is not the only advantage of segmenting your email list. There are many other measurable benefits. 

    Segmentation increases open, click-through, and conversion rates

    For starters, segmentation leads to higher open, click-through, and conversion rates. 

    Think about it. Which emails are you more likely to open when your inbox gets flooded with dozens of promotions, newsletters, and company updates? Probably the ones that seem more catered and relevant to you (rather than the generic ones). 

    By segmenting your list, you can write more personalized subject lines, which grab your subscriber’s attention. 

    💡 A personalized subject line makes your subscribers curious to find out what’s inside. And if the content of the email is equally personalized, they’ll be more likely to act on your call to action. 

    Segmentation lowers unsubscribe rates & avoids spam filters

    Segmentation can help you avoid flooding your subscribers’ inboxes with emails they’ll never open or throw into the bin right away. If they deem your emails irrelevant, they’ll feel the urge to unsubscribe and unclutter their inbox. 

    What’s more, segmenting your list will help you avoid having your emails flagged as spam. If you send too many generic emails, your subscribers will likely unsubscribe or mark your emails are spam. 

    And if they don’t do it themselves, their ESP (email service provider) probably will. Spam reports are one of the main causes of decreased email deliverability

    How to Segment Email Lists – Email Segmentation Best Practices

    While segmenting your email list has a few intricacies you’ll need to learn, it isn’t rocket science. All you need to crack the code to successful email segmentation is to take a detailed and strategic approach – step by step. 

    Starting with the foundation of knowing your subscribers better than they know themselves and ending with constantly tracking and analyzing results, you’ll eventually win the email segmentation game. 

    Here are 5 best practices to get you started. 

    Email segmentation best practices

    Know your subscribers 

    Successful email segmentation starts with knowing your subscribers like the back of your hand. 

    To segment your list effectively and know what email campaigns will be relevant to each segment, you need to know everything you can about your subscribers: from basic data like their age and gender to more detailed information like their past purchase history and behavioral data. 

    That’s why it’s crucial to keep your customer data up-to-date at all times. 

    You can also simply ask them for their preferences and interests through surveys, polls, or interviews. This proactive approach will definitely provide you with the information you need to make your email segmentation as optimized as possible.  

    Define your goals 

    There are many ways to segment your email list. For example, you can segment by past purchase history, signup channels, or the stage of the buyer’s journey. Which one you choose will depend on the goals you set for your segmentation. 

    Segmenting your list based on buyer journey stages, for example, allows you to send emails that seamlessly guide your subscribers toward conversion. 

    Segmenting your list by their signup channels, on the other hand, you’ll know exactly what type of content they prefer. So, for example, if someone subscribes to your email list from a blog article about email segmentation, you’ll know they’re interested in more content around this topic.  

    Plan your segments ahead

    To get started on the right foot, you’ll need to choose the right email marketing tool that aligns with your segmentation needs. It’s crucial to automate the segmentation process as swiftly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll drown. 

    But before setting everything up within your email marketing software, take the time to lay out a clear path ahead of you. Map out your segmentation strategy: identify how you’ll segment your audience and define the characteristics of each segment. 

    Having a well-thought-out plan is a big part of the success of your segmentation. Plus, it will allow you to set everything up properly in your email marketing tool right from the start so you can avoid having to re-arrange everything later on.  

    Keep your email list organized 

    Keeping a good email list hygiene is a must when it comes to effective email segmentation. A cluttered, messy email list is harder to segment and can easily lead to missed opportunities and diluted messaging. 

    Clean your email list ahead of time to make your email segmentation process smoother. Get rid of inactive subscribers and remove invalid or inexistent email addresses. By doing this, you’ll improve your overall email deliverability and segmentation results. 

    Aside from giving your email list a good cleanse, it’s important to label your subscribers based on key attributes or behaviors. These labels, also known as tags or custom fields, help you organize your subscribers in a way that makes segmentation a breeze. 

    You can categorize them by demographics, purchase history, preference, or how engaged they are. These labels create a solid system that sets the stage for segmentation success and ensures your emails hit the mark. 

    Don’t forget to track the results 

    Successful email segmentation isn’t about guesswork. It requires knowing your audience on a profound level, having a clear plan, and a well-optimized email list. But most importantly, it requires tracking and analyzing your results so that you can tweak and fine-tune your strategy. 

    By tracking metrics like open and conversion rates and comparing the performance of different segments, you’ll be able to identify both positive and negative trends and patterns. This will help you double down on what’s working and fine-tune what isn’t.

    5 Email Segmentation Ideas + Examples

    As we already mentioned above, you can segment your list in several different ways – from your subscribers’ past purchase history to their native language. The best way for you will largely depend on your email marketing strategy and goals and who your subscribers are.

    To help illustrate how you can approach email segmentation, here are 5 segmentation ideas with specific campaign examples. 

    Email Segmentation Idea #1 — Past Purchase History

    Looking at past purchase history helps to properly segment emails for a particular user. Knowing what they have bought helps to isolate similar products they may purchase in the future.

    The more purchases a user makes, the more information you will have to build better-segmented emails in the future.

    An email list segmentation that works: recent purchases.

    Email Segmentation Idea #2 — Browsing Behavior

    You can also use a user’s browsing behavior to create email segmentation ideas.

    For example, someone may have created an account, looked at several items, and added something to their shopping cart — but they never finished their purchase.

    Targeting these users with segmented emails reminding them of their abandoned shopping cart or highlighting alternatives to items they expressed interest in is a great way to turn a potentially lost sale into a successful conversion.

    Example of email segmentation

    Email Segmentation Idea #3 — Family and Relationship Status

    A person’s family and relationship status contain important data about potential consumer behavior that you can use to segment emails.

    For example, a married individual with several children will have different consumer interests than a childless bachelor or bachelorette.

    So, when segmenting your email list, take into consideration specific details about your subscribers:

    • Their relationship status,
    • Their age,
    • The age of their children.

    You can now create engaging, relevant, and segmented email campaigns that target personalized shopping habits and lifestyle needs.

    An example of email segmentation with coffee preferences.

    Email Segmentation Idea #4 — Geolocation

    There are two primary situations where segmenting emails by geolocation is necessary:

    • When a retailer offers localized services or shipping, and
    • When a retailer offers different services or products to different locations.

    Oftentimes, it can be a combination of both. For example, a plumbing company in Dallas may offer drain cleanings and other services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

    Additionally, the company may own a wholesale warehouse from which they distribute plumbing supplies to retailers within Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

    Therefore, a segmented email campaign must consider the geolocation of these two target audiences.

    One way to do this is to create a segmented campaign for each audience while also creating a general monthly newsletter with company updates for all subscribers.

    Email Segmentation Idea #5 — Native Language

    For retailers with multilingual target markets, segmenting emails by a subscriber’s native language dramatically improves the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns.

    This is especially true when the retailer supplies products or services to multiple countries with distinct languages.

    Additionally, even in nations with one official language, many languages are often spoken.

    For example, in the United States, the official language is English, but there are many native speakers of:

    • Spanish,
    • Arabic,
    • Hindu,
    • Mandarin,
    • And other languages.

    Segmenting your emails for this multilingual market can ensure you reach everyone within your target audience.

    Another benefit of segmenting email newsletters by language is that it allows subscribers to choose the language of the emails they receive from a brand.

    This allows a high level of personalization and differentiation to your segmented email marketing strategy.


    FAQs about Email Segmentation

    What is the difference between email segmentation and personalization?

    Email segmentation and personalization go hand in hand, but the difference between the two is significant. Email segmentation refers to the process of dividing your email list into segments of subscribers based on shared criteria. Email personalization, on the other hand, refers to making the content of your email campaigns as personalized to the individual subscriber as possible. 

    What is a segmented email campaign? 

    A segmented email campaign is one that you send to a specific segment of your email list. Rather than a generic mass campaign blasted to everyone on your list, a segmented campaign is personalized to one particular segment’s preferences, interests, or needs. 

    Why does segmentation matter in email marketing?

    Segmentation is vital to success with email marketing. It allows you to craft email campaigns that are highly relevant to your subscribers and, thus, reduce unsubscribes, avoid spam filters, and increase engagement rates. 

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