12 min read

How to Segment an Email List

Written by Andriy Boychuk
12 min read
Table of Contents

    Whatever online business you are involved in, some things always stay the same. You have to be able to deliver the right message to the right people at exactly the right moment.

    So by learning how to segment an email list, you will be able to ensure you are doing just that…delivering the good stuff to your clients in ways that best suit them through email segmentation.

    How to Segment an Email List

    When it comes to email marketing, timing is everything. It’s really just like being able to tell a good joke: you need to read the audience, do the set-up in a clear and concise way, and then deliver the punchline with precision timing.

    Know your audience so you can know your timing

    In order to read your audience, and thus deliver your marketing messages with impeccable timing, you need to know lots of things about them.

    You must know their age and gender, their pet peeves and their favorite things, where they live, what time it is in their neck of the woods, when they got married, when they have their birthday, and what sort of coffee they like.

    And that is where email marketing segmentation comes in. Knowing how to segment an email list will give you the tools to send the right messages to the right people at the right time.

    Email Marketing Segmentation Techniques That Really Work

    List segmentation can be broken down into a set of four golden rules that can be applied to any email marketing strategy, for any company, selling any product, to any number of clients. These rules are:

    • Segmentation is no longer optional
    • Know your audience
    • Troublemakers are harmful to your email marketing
    • Plan your segmentation and your strategy.

    1. Segmentation is no longer optional

    Most eCommerce marketers these days understand the importance of email marketing. And even if your eCommerce business only sells one product, such as coffee, for instance, you are still going to be able to segment your customer database into lists that you can target differently.

    For instance, you could segment your customers by such things as:

    • Age, gender, and location
    • Type of coffee they prefer
    • What sort of blends they like
    • How often they make a purchase
    • The amount of coffee they buy weekly/monthly/yearly.

    So straight away you have a set of segments that you can target differently. How easy was that. You could come up with those segments in a café…while drinking coffee!

    An example of email segmentation with coffee preferences.

    And before we move on to rule two, let’s run over some fun facts from the team at Klaviyo. According to a study they undertook in 2016:

    • Companies with annual revenues under $100K had their customer lists divided up into an average of 13 segments
    • Companies with revenue between $100K and $1 million had an average of 29 segments
    • Companies in the $1 million to $10 million range had 43 segments in their customer databases
    • And companies that turned over more than $10 million per year had an average of 133 segments in their customer database.

    So the takeaway here is simple and obvious: More Segments = More Revenue.

    2. Know your audience

    To successfully leverage your customer data, you need to use metrics that make sense. It’s no use sending a daily reminder to a client that only purchases once a year.

    Let’s check out six types of customer segments that you and your marketing team can create.

    • The High Rollers. These are your best customers, your VIP crowd. This is the segment that you target with big-ticket retention campaigns, bulk discounts, perks, and loyalty incentives. They are the clients that you can rely on to sing your company’s praises and refer your brand to others.
    • The Potential High Rollers. This segment are still big spenders, but don’t purchase your product as frequently as the High Rollers. Your marketing strategy needs to target these clients with messages to increase the frequency that they purchase stuff, focus on items that might interest them, and tease them with offers of perks.
    • The Brand Enthusiasts. This is the segment that absolutely loves your product but doesn’t purchase from you as often as you’d like. This is the segment that you can target with special offers such as a “buy two bags of beans and get a third one for free” or something similar. But don’t overdo it. You don’t want this segment to figure out that by holding back from buying something they’ll get freebies. Give them just enough to keep them engaged.
    • The Potential Brand Enthusiasts. This can be a tricky segment to manage. These customers don’t purchase very often, so you need to encourage them with product information that appeals to them based on previous purchases. This is where your data analysis needs to be on point. They really want to be brand enthusiasts, but can’t quite take that final step and start buying lots of stuff off of you. So nudge them up the ladder with plenty of relevant, witty, and entertaining content.
    • The Just About-there Customers. This group is what marketers call the “waiting for wows” segment. But they may easily be turned off by the wrong messages. So engage them cautiously with ultra-relevant content that appeals to their specific needs.
    • The Give-em-a-shove Customers. Finally, we have the customer segment that you have to win back. To give them a reason to come back into the fold, you could offer them one-time-offer type of promotion.

    A winback email list segmentation.

    Troublemakers are harmful to your email marketing

    Customers that don’t respond to your email marketing strategy need to be sent packing. The reason for this is that customers who do nothing, do you harm.

    Not only does it cost money to send marketing emails, but emails that are constantly unopened or consigned to a spam folder damage your sender reputation with your email provider.

    Furthermore, spam also damages your brand’s reputation, so if certain segments of your customer database aren’t engaging, get rid of them.

    Plan your segmentation and your email strategies

    Things don’t always turn out the way you expect (Covid-19 has taught us that). So you need to have some clear plans that set out the way you want your marketing strategy to go, and what you’ll do if things change.

    Every three months or so, go over your customer lists, your email strategies, and your company’s future plans. Figure out which segments are performing well and which ones need more attention.

    Your customers will appreciate you for recognizing who they are and what they like, so take some time to plan out who you are sending your messages to and what they want to hear.

    Email Marketing Segmentation Strategies That Really Work

    Knowing how to segment an email list can really enhance your eCommerce business’s customer engagement and, best of all, boost your revenues.

    There are tons of different ways that you can approach segmentation. Here are a few easy examples.

    Abandoned cart emails

    This is an email segmentation must-have. There may be a simple reason why your customer didn’t complete their transaction (maybe they stopped for a coffee or got distracted by a cute kitten video), so sending them an email reminder is a perfect way to encourage them to complete it.

    Adidas, for example, use some nifty wording in their abandoned cart emails : “IS YOUR WIFI OK? Maybe your browser crashed when [you were] looking at the iconic Gazelle silhouette…”

    They go on to suggest some different product options, and also capitalize on the notion of FOMO by saying: “we don’t want you to miss out.”

    Segment an email list with abandoned cart emails.


    You can make your customer surveys fun by turning them into a quiz, with some quirky or funny questions thrown in.

    The answers will help you to identify clients that can be added to your Brand Enthusiast segment, and to find out things that they perhaps aren’t happy with.

    Recent subscribers

    When a client subscribes to your email list you need to make sure that they’re know that they are valued.

    The British sportswear retailer Lululemon, for example, gives customers the opportunity to sign up to “BE THE FIRST TO KNOW” when they land on the company’s homepage.

    Their welcome emails also link straight to their blog page which capitalizes on the customer’s interest right from the start.

    Purchase history and spend amount

    This segment is relatively easy to target because you already know what they like.

    For example, the American company Dollar Shave Club includes a cross-selling coupon with their order confirmation emails, based on what the customer has purchased.

    This offers some additional products that can be purchased and which will be sent without additional shipping charges. So the customer gets two sets of product deliveries but only pays for shipping on one of them.

    An email list segmentation that works: recent purchases.

    Make Segmentation Your Business’s New Best Friend

    By implementing some simple email marketing segmentation techniques, you can boost your company’s marketing ROI, improve your brand identity, get your loyal customers to love you and your products even more, and, best of all, send your revenue through the metaphorical roof.

    It really is that simple! All you need to do is look at your client database and start slicing and dicing it up into tasty segments that you can target more efficiently and effectively.

    Learn More

    The Best Email Segmentation Tools For Your Email Marketing Campaigns
    How to Use the Hubspot List Segmentation
    How to Use Email Segmentation with Mailchimp
    5 Email Segmentation Ideas — Build Better Email Campaigns for Your Brand

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