Email Segmenting Tips and Tricks to Amplify Your Marketing

Melanie Balke
May 17, 2023

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen an older blog post about email segmentation. It’s a huge part of the industry, and it’s an essential element in many modern campaign strategies.

That’s why I’m taking the opportunity to write about it again!

Yes, this topic is important enough to warrant a second post.

So, buckle up and get ready to learn all about email segmentation! In addition to the basics, I’ll also be showing you some of the latest ideas and strategies, as technology has changed in the two years since I last wrote about the topic.

What Is Email Marketing Segmentation?

A sorting machine. Overlaid text reads, "The Basics: What Is Email Segmentation?"

Let’s start with the basics.

Email segmentation is a marketing strategy that uses data to sort and categorize a mailing list.

If you’ve been looking for a new email marketing platform, you’ve probably noticed that there are few options that don’t have some sort of segmenting tool. Seeing as it’s 2023, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that every platform has some segmentation capabilities. That’s because email segmentation is an essential part of modern email marketing.

This automated process is used to send targeted campaigns, the most prevalent of which are welcome email flows and unsubscribed. However, it also has applications in drip campaigns, sales announcements, sales funnel work, and more!

Email Segmentation Can Increase Your Engagement

Print of multiple people voting. Overlaid text reads, "Engagement: The right audience segments can boost your engagement rates."

One of the first perks of this marketing strategy is its power to engage users.

Think about it for a moment.

If you’re opening emails, are you more likely to open a general marketing campaign (perhaps something like, “Look! Another Sale!”), or are you drawn to a personalized experience? Emails that play into user behavior have been an effective trick for years, and a solid segmentation strategy is just part of that success.

When you segment your email list, you gain greater control over your audience. Even one or two audience segments can be the difference between milquetoast email campaigns and eye-popping revenue!

Increase Your Targeted Emails’ Open Rates

A pair of highly ornamented doors. "Open Rates: Increased relevance leads to higher open rates."

Naturally, higher engagement means more people are opening your email marketing campaigns!

This has multiple effects, the most obvious of which is a numerical spike in your metrics. But there’s more to open rates than numbers! A high open rate also decreases spam complaints and lowers your risk of being blacklisted.

More opens also means more eyes on your carefully crafted targeted emails. If your email campaigns are really remarkable, you may even see people forwarding your message to friends and family, giving you free word-of-mouth advertising.

It’s Flexible and Easy to Use

A person writing in a notebook. "Knowledge: Segments offer easy access to valuable insights."

Most modern email marketing tools come with easy-to-use segmentation strategies. At most, you’ll need to click around a few times to create segments. Once established, these audience segments become essential sources of customer data for you and your marketing team.

Thanks to this inherent simplicity, you can deliver relevant content with ease. In fact, it may take as little as ten minutes to create a basic set of email segments. For example, you can easily set your website forms to automatically assign a unique tag to users downloading your lead magnet. Likewise, it may take half an hour to create a proper setup for flagging inactive subscribers.

And! Once you create email segments, you have rapid access to their data.

Let’s examine those last two examples as references.

The first email segment tells you how many people have requested, received, and opened your lead magnet. That’s a lot of data for relatively little time and effort.

The second segment — comprised of inactive users — tells you how many subscribers have disengaged from your campaigns. Think of it as a built-in campaign monitor without extraneous information.

The Different Types of Email Segmentation

A woman in a book store. "Break It Down: The Different Types of Segments."

Now that we know what it is and why to use it, let’s look at how email marketing segmentation works.

Both email service providers and platforms share some information. In general, servers can see who has opened emails and if anything within an email (e.g., links or images) has been clicked. Third-party tools also let providers view stats on website activity (e.g., abandoned carts, email sign-up forms, and purchase history). When combined, all this information becomes the demographic and behavioral data that digital marketing loves.

Email segments make use of that information and translate it into smaller groups, creating little pockets of target audiences. Exactly how small those groups are is up to you, but there are four overarching “types” of segmentation strategies.

Behavioral Data Can Turn a Purchase History Into Revenue

Students in a study room. "Behavior: Send a targeted email based on a user's activity."

The first major type of segmentation is behavioral segmentation, which classifies users based on their activity. This may cover their inbox metrics alone, but it can also include user actions on your website.

Thanks to its simple setup, behavioral segmentation is particularly useful for targeting brand-new subscribers.

However, that’s not all it can do!

Behavioral segments are more common than you’d think, forming the basis for most abandoned cart campaigns and unsubscribe flows. They’re also linked to website sign-up forms to kick off the all-important welcome email flow!

Sometimes, you may hear this type of segmentation strategy called an “RFM segment,” short for recency, frequency, and monetary.

Common actions linked to behavioral segments include the following:

  • Abandoned carts
  • Engaging with both segmented and non-segmented campaigns
  • Engaging with special promotional emails
  • Progressing down the sales funnel
  • Purchasing an item
  • Using a special coupon code
  • Unsubscribes
  • Using a website sign-up form

Demographic Data Creates Basic Guidelines for Your Email Marketing

A woman in a library. "Demographics: Use demographic information to make unique content."

Of the major segmentation strategies, demographic segmentation is probably the most well-known option. As its name implies, demographic segmentation categorizes users by their individual demographic data.

Common ways to demographically segment your email list include sorting by:

  • Age group
  • Gender
  • Industry
  • Job title
  • Place of employment

Ideally, you should obtain this information voluntarily. Firstly, you want to target customers based on accurate and reliable information. However, failing to ask for such data upfront may pose legal problems in the future. To avoid such hassles, encourage users to share data with you!

It may be tempting to ask for this information on the email sign-up form, but longer questionnaires lead to poor outcomes. Instead, earn more loyal customers by spreading the questions out over time. This not only gives you better lead generation, but it also lets you analyze customer behavior and keep tabs on customer engagement.

Geographic Data Lets You Send Location-Specific Content

An aerial view of a city. "Location: Send email campaigns based on a user's geogrpahic location."

Another obvious segmentation category is geographic location. Like it says on the box, this tactic sorts subscribers based on their position on the map. And, like behavioral segmentation, geographic data is easy to obtain, making it another perfect contender for sorting your new subscribers.

Again, you’ll usually want to know this information by asking customers directly. However, most email services automatically track geolocational data.

Usually, geographic segments are used to send targeted emails within a user’s time zone preferences. After all, you’re probably not going to buy anything from the company that woke you up with their 2:00 AM email campaigns!

However, businesses with brick-and-mortar locations can also use geographic data to schedule future emails about special events! These segmented campaigns are frequently sent to promote convention appearances, expo information, and community involvement.

Keep in mind that this email segmentation strategy isn’t always viable. Some users may block geographic tracking, and plenty of consumers use VPNs for privacy. Consider asking email subscribers to confirm their time zone or general location to ensure you segment your email list properly.

Psychographic Segmentation Sorts Users by Preference

A compass. "Psychographic: Segment your email list by using your audience's preferences."

Finally, we have the most complex form of email marketing segmentation.

Psychographic segmentation sorts users by their individual preferences and personality. It’s a great way to craft a uniquely personalized experience, but it requires plenty of planning. Much like demographic segmentation, this option has many options; thus, you must know your target audience before creating these segments.

Some examples of this email segmentation strategy include grouping by:

  • Fashion preferences
  • Genre preferences
  • Hobbies
  • Ideal location spots
  • Sports played
  • Type of pets

You’ll want to gather this information through direct customer interaction. Don’t just assume this data; that’s a recipe for catastrophe! Instead, encourage subscribers to interact with your brand through your email marketing campaigns. Build up slowly, asking questions infrequently.

Putting Your Email Segmentation to Use

An old blueprint. "How It Works: Segmentation 101."

Once you’ve segmented your list, it’s time to make some email marketing campaigns!

But how do you use the information effectively?

Don’t just segment subscribers because I told you it’s a good idea! Make sure you have a clear goal and strategy in mind before you sort your loyal customers.

At the very least, be aware of some of the most common types of targeted emails that use segmentation strategies, such as:

  • Brand loyalty campaigns (e.g., loyalty rewards)
  • Constant contact drip campaigns
  • Post-purchase flows
  • Sales funnel emails
  • Welcome email flows
  • Win-backs and re-engagement emails

Ultimately, you’re doing more than sorting your email list. You’re forming an entire email segmentation strategy by crafting unique consumer groups for your targeted emails. Every segment — whether it’s based on demographic customer data or purchase history — is a stepping stone to sending the right message to your subscribers.

What Is Your Goal?

A woman hiking a winding mountain trail. Overlaid text reads, "1. The Goal. What is your goal? How will your email campaign help?"

When you send targeted emails, your first question should be about your goals.

What do you want this email to do, and how will it compel its specific audience to take action?

The answer to this inquiry guides your creative process.

You probably wouldn’t make a user-generated content campaign to collect more sign-ups. Likewise, you shouldn’t send your SMS audiences an alert about a new stock if you’re trying to gain more user-generated content.

Who Is Your Audience?

A large crowd. "2. Audience. What are your potential customers and how do you reach them?"

Next, you want to ask about your targets.

Who is this email going to, and how will that help me reach my goal?

Consider all the factors as you answer this question. In addition to demographics, you’ll want to consider activity levels. Sometimes, you want to target those hard-to-win inactive customers; at other times, you’re looking for existing consumers with a long purchase history.

When Will You Send It?

Overlapping leaves. "3. Planning. Find out when to send your email marketing campaign."

Finally, think about how you’ll distribute your campaign.

When will these emails go out, and have I been sending too many of the same emails?

As much as you want to promote things that sell, you must respect boundaries. Overloading consumers with sales announcements is poor form, and it’s likely to promote an unfortunate mindset of, “Why buy now? They’ll have another sale later!”

This question will also dictate what you’ll send.

Again, it’s all about sending the right message at the right time!

Wrapping Up With an Example

Varied script-like characters. Overlaid header text reads, "Practice: Let's Segment Together!"

Let’s make up an example to demonstrate. In this scenario, our fictional company, We Sell Shoes, is one of many ecommerce sites selling shoes. It has a middling average order value, but its email marketing is otherwise decent.

Its next campaign aims to increase sales of men’s sneakers.

So, how should it segment subscribers?

Overlapping leaves. The infographic relates the example scenario and asks readers to say how they would segment a list.

Let’s break this email marketing segmentation problem into bite-sized chunks! Using the above formula, we’ll need to answer the three questions:

  1. What is our goal?
  2. Who is our audience?
  3. When are we sending the campaign?

(If you want to play along, here’s a little bit of buffer text before the final answer. And here’s another bit of patter to keep up the suspense. Otherwise, keep scrolling to see the solution!)

While there are many solutions to this question, the answer below is what I had in mind. If you have a different one, that’s okay!

We Want to Sell Sneakers

As I said before, our goal is to sell sneakers.

We’re not here to convert flip-flop buyers into sandal fanatics. We don’t want to get people to submit their content. We just want to see subscribers click through to that purchase page and make an investment!

Let’s Target the Sneaker-Loving Guys

As a promotional email, this campaign can be for existing customers and new subscribers. However, there should be two commonalities between all recipients. Everyone should be male, and they should all have an interest in sneakers.

We aren’t looking to convert the staunch loafer-lovers into Puma fans!

So, use your behavioral and demographic data. Consider factoring previous purchase history into the segment! People who have bought more than one pair of sneakers are likely to buy more.

(Alternatively, if it’s nearing a holiday, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, we can try sending targeted emails to the ladies! In this case, we’d encourage them to buy shoes for their boo.)

Space Those Emails Out

We can send the emails as soon or as late as we want, as long as we align with our goals.

Maybe we send them near the holidays, encouraging subscribers to buy sneakers for someone special. Alternatively, we might focus on an upcoming competition to win a pair of sneakers with your next purchase! This part of the answer is up to you, so be creative!

In the real world, we’d likely have time constraints. Maybe we need to meet a quarterly goal or a sales period marker. In these scenarios, we’d obviously work the campaign into the existing calendar.

Too Complex? Get the Pros to Help!

Overlapping leaves. "Enlist the Pros and Let Us Worry About Segments."

If all of that was a bit too much for you, that’s fine! Marketing is a skill, and not everyone has the time or energy for it.

If you’re struggling with your email marketing segmentation, give me a call! We’ll schedule a free strategy session, and I’ll show you how a great segmentation strategy can amplify your brand’s revenue. I’ll also walk you through the perks of an email marketing agency like The Email Marketers.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check the rest of the blog for more amazing tips and tricks!