A Comprehensive Guide to Email Segmentation

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Emails are the modern, everyday conversations. But to be a good conversant, you must speak directly, sharing relevant information as if you are in the same room as your reader. This is why email marketing list segmentation is essential to any growth strategy.

According to Campaign Monitor, email list segmentation increased revenue for companies’  marketing campaigns by 760%. While it may sound daunting to comb through the data, many email marketing providers automate the data collection and simplify the process of separating and sorting your email subscribers. 

What Is A Segmented Email List?

First, what is a segmented email marketing list? In short, it is a marketing technique to categorize your customers into groups so you can personalize the content you send to them. 

Illustration of how email segmentation works

If done well, you will be like the local barista in a small town that remembers everyone’s drink orders as soon as they enter the cafe. You will be ready to recommend items they are most likely to enjoy. Your customers will be loyal because they love that you remember and know their preferences.

A good email list segmentation will mimic this same scenario, but virtually. 

Why Segment Emails?

Email marketing can generate $38 for every $1 spent. Additionally, many business leaders believe customers’ loyalty increases by 80% because of effective email marketing. These figures should have you excited because online marketing is never more important than now. 

Because of the global pandemic, people are spending more time online. In fact, marketers over the past 12 months have seen email engagement up by 78%.

While this is an advantage, it is also a disadvantage. Every company is investing more on email marketing and there is more competition than ever to get people’s attention, which is shrinking every year.

In 2015, Microsoft released a study that indicated people have an attention span of eight seconds, less than a goldfish. In our technologically advanced society where the average household has 11 connected devices, getting people’s attention is tough. 

By segmenting your email list, you can customize your content to your reader so that they will be more likely to engage. Think about the emails that are in your inbox. Which one do you read first? Which ones do you delete without opening? How do you decide? 

Relevance and good content go hand-in-hand as essential ingredients to a good email marketing strategy. You can only deliver good content if you segment your email list to ensure relevance.

10 Ways To Segment An Email List

There are a lot of ways you can segment an email list. It is common to separate your emails based on demographic data or behavioral data. 

Demographic data is often discovered when your customer first signs up for your email list. This type of data includes gender and age. The other type of data focuses on how your customer interacts with your organization, categorizing them based on behaviors such as purchasing preferences. 

Illustration of organizing an effective marketing campaign


Location is important demographic data for segmentation. For example, a brick-and-mortar store that does not offer delivery would not want to send emails about its products to people living in another state. 

Nowadays, email marketing platforms are sophisticated enough to give you zip code level data so you can segment your list based on your knowledge of a neighborhood. For instance, what is the average income in a zip code and level of education? This type of information can inform you of what type of content they will be most interested in.

Website Activity

What page your customer was visiting on your website can signal a lot as well. Suppose you are an ecommerce platform that sells a variety of products, and the customer was visiting your website for shoes before signing up for your emails. 

In that case, your first email to them should include information on your shoe sale. Website activity can signal your customers’ interest and is a really great way to segment your list.  

Engagement With Previous Emails

Your email marketing platform should provide you analytics if a reader engages with the content. This information compiled together can paint a picture of your reader and indicate their preferences. 

For instance, if the reader only opens or clicks on emails about children’s toys, this could indicate they are looking for a toy for a child. Consider sending them a listicle of the top 10 best toys for kids below 10 years old. 

Accessed Specific Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is an incentive. People do not always want to share their contact information, especially in our hyper-digitized and connected world. It often works better if marketers offer a discount or promotion that will entice buyers to sign up to receive emails. 

The type of lead magnet that inspired them to join your mailing list could signal the content that will likely get them to become loyal customers. 

Types Of Content They’re Interested In

If the analytics shows the readers spending a long time reading your email or visiting a certain webpage on your website, this is an important indicator of the type of content that enthralls them. Don’t ignore this golden nugget. Instead, turn it into email content that you share with them.

Illustration of how email marketing affects checkout sales

Purchasing Decisions

For any business, the best indicator of a customer’s preference is what they bought. What if you are a cleaning service that cleans cars, homes, and offices, but your customer only buys car cleaning services. This is a signal that they like to invest in their vehicle. Your email content to this individual should always mention car cleaning or related products and services. 

Buyer Persona

A great way to segment your email marketing list is to think about your audience as people. Develop different personas for your customers based on their preferences. By thinking about your segments as people rather than click-through rates, you’ll be more likely to personalize the content to all their different interests. 

After all, humans are multifaceted. John may have bought car cleaning services in the past, but he is also an athlete and may need his gym clothes clean next week.

Business Type

Another popular way to segment your list is based on the type of email you will send. Depending upon your company, you could have three different business type emails:

  • Informational email
  • Special offer or promotional email
  • Newsletter email

Some organizations may segment this further into categories such as product announcements and corporate news. 

By separating your list into the types of business content you’ll share, you’ll know that the content will be relevant.

Stage Within Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel is the map indicating when your customer was first introduced to your organization and how long have they been retained. There are different ways you can visualize the marketing funnel, but here are five stages to consider:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Conversion
  • Loyalty
  • Retention

For example, it is common for most companies to have a series of welcome emails for new email subscribers to raise their awareness level. You would not want to send a welcome message to a loyal customer for the past five years. Instead, you may like to share new products and services that they may be interested in. 

Shopping Cart Abandon

A powerful email marketing strategy is to capture when a customer abandons items in a cart. A few hours after they’ve left your website, you could automatically send them an email reminding them about the items still in their cart if they’d like to complete the order. 

Another technique is to remind them a week later about the things they were about to buy to see if they are still interested in them.

Illustration of a new email received

Best Segmentation Practices

These are 10 great ways to segment your email marketing lists. If you are a small company just starting your email marketing strategy, focusing on demographic data segmentation is an excellent first step. Once you grow and collect more data, moving toward a behavior segmentation will allow for further customizing your content.

However, rather you are a small or large company, you should develop a marketing strategy with your end goal in mind. If your business goal is to gross $1 million in revenue, you know you need more sophisticated email list segmentation than the basics. Think about the types of data you want to collect so you can build these processes into your workflow.

In addition to email list segmentation, using a good email marketing platform and developing a strong content strategy is important. 

201 Creative can help you select the right email marketing platform for your needs and manage the A/B testing and content development to personalize it for all your different email list segments

Why Segmentation Is Beneficial?

Email marketing list segmentation will ultimately benefit your bottom line. It is worth the time and resources to invest in segmentation because it will increase your revenue and allow you to be more targeted and strategic in your marketing strategy. 

Segmenting your list also helps make the automation process more manageable. For example, if your company has a global footprint and you segment your list by location, you can automate the emails to send at the best time in the customer’s time zone. 

List segmenting is beneficial to every marketing strategy, even small businesses. It allows you to treat each of your customers as individuals, which will build loyalty and drive sales.

How To Get Started With Email List Segmentation

Now that you understand how important and beneficial segmenting your email list is in order to drive sales, convert readers into customers and build a loyal clientele, how do you get started? 

Cleaning the data is the first step. Create a category for everything you want to track about your customers such as names, gender, and age. This guide suggested 10 high-level ways to segment your email list to maximize the impact of your email marketing strategy.

  1. Location
  2. Website Activity
  3. Engagement With Previous Emails
  4. Accessed Specific Lead Magnet
  5. Types Of Content They’re Interested In
  6. Purchasing Decisions
  7. Buyer Persona
  8. Business Type
  9. Stage Within Marketing Funnel
  10. Shopping Cart Abandon

The next step is sorting through your existing data and executing your emails. If you need help to reach your key performance indicators and optimizing your email marketing strategies, drop us a line!

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Jared Bauman

Jared Bauman is the Co-Founder of 201 Creative, and is a 20+ year entrepreneur who has started and sold several companies. He is the host of the popular Niche Pursuits podcast and a contributing author to Search Engine Land.