Digital Marketing Tips & Tricks: What Is Email Segmenting?

Melanie Balke
March 19, 2024

Email marketing may be one of the most effective digital marketing strategies, but you can’t charge in unprepared! Successful marketing takes time and planning. It requires analytical skills and strategic thinking.

Unfortunately, I can’t teach you the analytical know-how you’d need in a single blog post! You must hone those skills on your own. However, I can teach you some of the tricks and tools of the trade.

Email segmentation is chief among these “secret weapons.” It stands alongside email personalization as one of the most effective ways to amplify your email marketing campaigns. Modern email segmentation takes many forms, but they all strive for the same goal: sending the right message to the right audience.

The Basics of Email Marketing Segmentation

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Strip away the frills. Dissect the concept to its most basic form.

At its core, email marketing segmentation is the process of categorizing and organizing your mailing list.

Like most things in modern digital marketing, email marketing segmentation has many names. “List segmentation” is the most common alternative. You may also hear it called “marketing segmentation.” Regardless of the name, the goal and purpose are the same.

What Is the Goal of Email Segmentation?

That’s the definition. But that doesn’t explain why marketers are so keen on using this tool.

Email marketing already eats up a sizable chunk of time and budgeting. Successful email campaigns require a well-planned customer journey and fully realized customer personas. You must create content and monitor your results. And that’s just the beginning! Who handles the images and implementation?

Wait! Before you get yourself worked up, consider this: Most modern email marketing platforms include plug-and-play customer segments.

Yes, segmentation strategies are that important. Despite the apparent effort, email segmentation is an invaluable tool. Email marketing segmentation lays the groundwork for most automated email marketing campaigns. It’s a way to tell your email marketing platform that certain audiences have specific needs. And, by extension, those customer segments form the seeds of personalized emails.

Even the most advanced algorithms are still in their infancy; they can’t innately tell if someone is a new or returning customer. And how will a computer know the difference between your repeat online shoppers and your delightful brick-and-mortar customers? It won’t!

How Does Email Segmentation Work?

Functionally, segmentation strategies resemble a postage sorting machine.

Some segments work immediately. These out-of-the-box functions power your transactional emails and welcome flows. However, like a diligent postal mechanic, you must provide the details for further list segmentation.

Fortunately, it’s a simple process. You won’t need to disassemble anything! For most email marketing platforms, you only need to tell the program what parameters to use. The computer takes over from there.

The Different Types of Email Marketing Segmentation

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That being said, you can’t segment contacts based on a coin flip! Successful segmentation strategies target subscribers for specific reasons; doing otherwise wastes time and money.

Here is where many businesses fall apart. They look at all the data collected from customers and flounder.

I’ve often been asked, “Melanie, I have so much customer data. How can I possibly start segmenting customers?”

And I can’t downplay that concern. Modern marketing is a maze of seemingly disparate data points. There’s an omnipresent push to target customers, yet nobody seems to tell you how or when to do so. Business owners are constantly urged to monitor customer behavior, yet nobody tells them what interactions should be monitored.

Fortunately, I’m here! I’m dedicated to demystifying the art of email marketing.

Demographic Segmentation

I’ll begin with the most basic of segmentation strategies.

Demographic segmentation is what it promises to be. It groups customers by demographic criteria, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education
  • Profession

This is the granddaddy of segmentation.

It’s the perfect way to tackle large groups and segment your email list. It may not be the most advanced method, but demographic segmentation is the stepping stone to a better customer journey. Its wide reach encompasses every subscriber — from current customers to new subscribers — and eases the process of developing segmented campaigns.

In more illustrative terms, you can think of your audience as a bin of beach sand. Each segmentation strategy is a mesh sifter. Demographic data points are the largest possible mesh. It weeds out large debris (the customers you don’t want) and leaves you with a bin of potential treasures.

Geographic Segmentation

Your next sifter is geographic segmentation. (Although this isn’t a necessary addition, it’s a handy tool to have in an increasingly global marketplace.) As you probably guessed, this type of segmentation sorts the audience by their geographic location.

In most cases, you won’t get this data from your website forms. (It’s also a bit rude to ask people that question when you’re just starting the customer journey.) Instead, this information comes from intuitive guesses based on a user’s website activity and IP address.

On its face, sorting by geographic data may only seem applicable to brick-and-mortar customers. That’s not true, though! Geographic information influences email delivery times and helps create a more personalized experience. It provides valuable insights for e-commerce businesses, proving itself a valuable tool for website optimization. And, of course, it’s an invaluable resource when promoting in-person events.

Engagement-Based Segmentation

Another way to segment your email list uses behavioral data.

Think back to that bin of sand. In that analogy, behavioral segmentation is an even finer mesh. It weeds out large stones and leaves behind a nice mix of potential grains.

At its core, behavioral segmentation creates engaged (or, in some cases, disengaged) audiences. The most common examples of behavioral data segments are:

  • Customer Loyalty: Create email segments for your most loyal customers. On the surface, you’ll see automated coupon codes and discounts. However, with a bit of behind-the-scenes coding, you can create fully realized customer loyalty programs.
  • Engagement Rates: Engaged customers are the perfect crowd for your targeted campaigns. However, you can’t forget about those lapsed consumers.
  • Subscriber Behavior: In addition to engagement rates, you can create segments based on subscription age and behavior. Lead magnet delivery and welcome email flows are the most common examples of this subset of behavioral segmenting. You can also include a user’s email preferences in this category.
  • Website Behavior: Integrating your e-commerce platform with your email marketing program allows you to target specific audiences. While the most common example of this category is the abandoned cart email, you can also track page viewing times and on-page engagement.

Psychographic Segmentation

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Finally, I want to address the most advanced way to segment your email list.

Psychographic segmentation is a highly targeted mix of every category. It’s a bit like forming individualized customer personas, and it’s as labor-intensive as it sounds.

Now, I must preface this section with a word of caution: In most cases, this form of segmentation is reserved for high-level personalized emails. It’s the parlor trick of segmented campaigns. You know how to do it. You have the customer data and purchase history. You know your target audience and subscriber engagement metrics. None of that means you should be pulling quarters from behind everyone’s ears as the icebreaker for every party.

Much like that little magic trick, psychographic segmentation is a fun treat. It’s a fun spectacle that works for a very specific audience. This isn’t something you do when you first get a subscriber’s email address. In fact, you should reserve this for your most loyal customers. Otherwise, like a crazed magician pulling coins from some stranger’s ear, you come across as a creep.

With that in mind…

Psychographic list segmentation sorts the audience into highly targeted groups. These targeted campaigns may use one of countless email segments, and a business should determine criteria as needed. The specific audience depends upon a business’ goals, marketing strategies, needs, sales funnel, and target audience.

Examples of psychographic segments include hobbies, pet ownership data, and stylistic preferences.

3 Quick Tips to Help You Segment Your Email List

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Now, this may be intimidating. It was for me, too!

When I first started my email marketing journey, I had to teach myself the ins and outs of email segmentation. You don’t have to learn alone, though; I’m here to offer guidance!

I know this blog post is already long, but stick with it! I’m about to offer three tips to jumpstart and supercharge your email segmentation.

1. Monitor Those Metrics

Life is an ever-shifting experience.

You can collect data until your servers burn hot enough to destroy the warehouse, but you can’t write yourself out of irrelevant content. Most consumers will eventually migrate to different segments.

It’s your job to monitor those changes. Don’t let other businesses steal your hard-earned leads. Never drown your audience with the same message on repeat. Even the best sales grow boring. An effective email segmentation strategy accounts for a varied customer experience.

2. Stay Connected

In digital marketing, a drip campaign provides users with a steady stream of content. It’s a regular facet of any modern email marketing strategy. However, that ubiquity has led to a drop in creativity.

Those drip email campaigns are the perfect opportunity to re-engage and connect with your customers. Use them! Don’t be afraid to casually ask questions. Buff up that email engagement and keep your email segmentation on track.

3. Keep Them Updated

Finally, you can always create different segments.

For most e-commerce brands, restock notifications are some of the most lucrative forms of pre-emptive segmentation. These targeted emails already have a firm audience. So, keep them engaged. Remind them of upcoming restocking days and encourage them to check your shop.

Let the Professionals Handle Your Email Segmentation

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Of course, the easiest route is outsourcing.

And The Email Marketers isn’t your grandpa’s email marketing firm. My team of hand-picked pros understands the complex world of modern email marketing. We’ve mastered the art of email segmentation and strive to deliver the most relevant content to everyone on your mailing list. We won’t stop until your brand’s growth is skyrocketing!

Schedule a free strategy session to see how our experience can improve your customer experience.