Email Segmentation Strategy: Your Key to Engaged Customers

Email Segmentation Strategy Cover with tangerine segments and an orange

We write a lot of articles on this blog with practical advice, and one thing we advise consistently is to segment your email lists properly. While it’s a part of email best practices, it’s also a great solution for a vast amount of issues you could be facing.

Struggling with open rates? Segment your lists.

Want more conversions? Segment your lists.

Creating an email campaign for the holidays? Segment your email lists.

But how exactly do you go about segmenting email lists? What’s the best way to do it? What are the most effective email segmentation strategies? Join us today as we explain how to build a segmentation strategy and list a few great examples for inspiration.

What Is Email Segmentation Strategy? 

An email segmentation strategy is a marketing technique that involves dividing your email list into distinct, closely targeted groups of subscribers based on specific criteria. The primary goal of email segmentation is to send more personalized and relevant content to different groups of subscribers, increasing the effectiveness of your email campaigns.

The Importance of a Good Email Segmentation Strategy

The best feature of email marketing, as compared to channels like social media or website ads, is that you can personalize your content for your clients. While you can’t create custom content for each of your subscribers, what you can do is strategically organize your subscribers into groups. Breaking up your massive email list into sub-groups helps you get a bird’s eye view on things; you can design much better campaigns with detailed information on your customers.

Focusing heavily on segmentation right from the beginning gives you an edge over most email marketers, as you will know more about your audience. Technology and times may have changed, but the oldest rule in sales still remains, “Know your customer.” 

And segmentation is how you do that.

Before You Begin: Position Your Customer In the Marketing Funnel

Before you begin your segmentation process, you need to have enough data on your customers to know where they are in your email marketing funnel. You could keep it simple by categorizing them into ToFu (top-of-funnel), MoFu (middle-of-funnel), and BoFu (bottom-of-funnel), but for super segmentation, try using the stages we’ve listed below.

  1. Awareness stage: At the top of the funnel, you should introduce potential customers to your brand, product, or service. They might have signed up for your email list, visited your website, or engaged with your content, but they haven’t made a purchase yet.
  2. Interest stage: For subscribers at this stage, your email marketing efforts should focus on nurturing leads and building their interest. This is where you share valuable content, offer product information, and encourage engagement. Use your convincing powers to get your leads interested in your offerings!
  3. Pre-conversion stage: At this point, your readers are seriously considering making a purchase but may need additional reassurance. Consider sending product comparisons, customer testimonials, case studies, or special offers.
  4. Conversion stage: The conversion stage is where leads become customers by conducting a transaction with your business. Email marketing can be pivotal in pushing prospects to take action through personalized offers, limited-time promotions, and clear calls-to-action (CTAs).
  5. Post-purchase stage: This is when your email marketing strategy shifts to post-purchase engagement. You can send order confirmations, shipping updates, and follow-up emails to ensure a positive customer experience. This stage is more suited for relationship-building, with a few soft sales pitches here and there.
  6. Re-engagement stage: Existing customers are valuable, and email marketing is used to retain them and encourage additional purchases. You can send loyalty rewards, product recommendations, and exclusive offers to keep customers coming back for more.
  7. Reactivation stage: This stage is for inactive customers. You can plan strategies to re-engage these customers with special offers or reminders of your value.

Throughout the customer journey within the email marketing funnel, you will have to maintain a consistent and relevant email communication strategy. This involves segmenting your email list to deliver personalized content. 

How to Set Up Email Segmentation

The very first step is to decide your segmentation criteria. Here are a few examples to get you started.

DemographicsAge, gender, location, designation, etc.
BehaviorPurchase history, website activity, email open/click history
PreferencesProduct interests, content preferences
EngagementInactive subscribers, frequent openers, recent subscribers
Segmenting your email list by demographic

Once you decide what criteria you want to use to plan your strategy, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up email segmentation:

  1. Collect data: Ensure you have a good email list with all the necessary data to segment it efficiently. This might involve gathering information through sign-up forms, surveys, and tracking user behavior on your website or through email interactions.
  2. Select an email platform: If you aren’t already using one, choose an email marketing platform that supports segmentation. At Campaign Refinery, we offer our clients powerful segmentation tools that give them excellent flexibility and control over email lists.
  3. Create segments: It’s time to create segments! The process may vary from one platform to another, but it usually involves setting up rules or filters. For example, you might create a segment for “Subscribers in New York” or “Inactive Subscribers.”
  4. Segmentation rules: Define the rules for each segment. For example, if you’re segmenting based on location, the rule might be “Location is New York.” If you’re segmenting based on engagement, it could be “Hasn’t opened an email in the last 1-2 months.” At Campaign Refinery, we built our clients a tag system, which allows them to easily build specific audiences from their main email lists.
  5. Custom content: Personalize the content of your emails to the specific segment. When creating your email campaigns, specify which segments to send them to. Most email platforms allow you to select one or more segments to distribute a campaign.
  6. Test and optimize: Continuously monitor the performance of your segmented email campaigns. Determine which strategies work best for each segment and adjust your approach accordingly.
  7. Automate segmentation: For more advanced segmentation, consider using marketing automation tools to trigger segment changes based on user behavior or time-based criteria.

Effective email segmentation can significantly improve your email marketing efforts by delivering more relevant content to your subscribers, leading to higher open rates, clickthrough rates, and conversion rates.

Now that you know how to segment your email lists, let’s examine a few of the most popular segmentation strategies used by email marketers.

Email Segmentation Basics: Break It Down By Demographics

Breaking down your email list by demographics can help you build a strategy around it.

Below are examples of basic information you can collect on your customers.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location (city, state, country)
  • Income level
  • Job title or industry
  • Education level
  • Marital status
  • Family size
  • Interests or hobbies

Using this data, fine-tune your email campaigns to target specific groups. 

For example:

  • If you have a segment of young subscribers, your content and imagery might be more modern and trend-focused. For example, a gaming or fashion-themed campaign will work better with youth as compared to older subscribers.
  • Modify content for subscribers in different geographic regions to address local interests or events. For example, suppose you want to promote a partnership with a local business that sells male grooming products. In that case, you can easily create a relevant email campaign targeting young male subscribers. 
  • Gender-specific product recommendations or messaging can be used to resonate with male and female subscribers.
  • Personalize email subject lines and CTAs to appeal to each demographic segment. For example, you can use language and offers that align with their interests and needs.

And remember to keep your demographic data up to date. Encourage your subscribers to update their information periodically and regularly clean your list to remove outdated or inaccurate information.

Use an Onboarding Email Sequence to Segment Users

Onboarding email sequences are an excellent opportunity to collect valuable data on your email subscribers while also introducing them to your brand and nurturing the relationship.

Here’s how you can use an onboarding sequence to collect data effectively:

  1. Welcome email: Start with a warm welcome email. In this initial email, thank subscribers for joining your list and provide a brief introduction to your brand. Encourage subscribers to update their preferences or profile information. Make it clear that by updating this information, they’ll receive more relevant content from you. Collect data on their interests, location, and communication preferences (frequency and type of content).
  2. Progressive profiling: Instead of asking for too much information at once, gradually collect data as you execute your email sequence. For example, in the first email, ask for their name and email preferences, and in the second email, request information like location and interests.
  3. Engagement: Use onboarding emails to encourage subscribers to engage with your content or take specific actions. For instance, ask them to click on links related to product categories, download a resource, or sign up for a webinar. These interactions can provide behavioral data that helps you understand their interests.
  4. Collect feedback: Send an email with a survey or feedback request. Ask subscribers about their preferences, interests, and what they’d like to receive from your emails. You can also inquire about their pain points or challenges related to your products or services.
  5. Incentivize data collection: Offer rewards to your subscribers in exchange for data. For example, provide a discount, access to exclusive content, or a chance to enter a giveaway for completing a survey or updating their preferences.
  6. Personalization: Now that you have collected data, use it to personalize subsequent emails in the onboarding sequence. Send content and recommendations that align with the information subscribers have provided, showcasing the value of sharing their data.

By strategically integrating data collection into your onboarding email sequences, you can build a more detailed subscriber profile. With more data, you can segment better; this allows you to send personalized content and improve your email marketing effectiveness.

Abandoned Carts: A Conversion Goldmine

Segmenting your email list based on abandoned carts is a valuable strategy for recovering potentially lost sales and re-engaging with interested customers. Here’s how you can effectively achieve conversions from this segment.

Firstly, use a tool that helps you identify subscribers who have added items to their shopping carts but have not completed the purchase. You can track this as an “abandoned cart” event. Now, create a segment for these subscribers and set up specific rules or filters to automatically categorize such subscribers.

The next step is to create compelling abandoned cart recovery emails. Ensure these are highly personalized. These emails should include details about the abandoned items, a reminder of the value they offer, and a clear CTA to complete the purchase. And you don’t have to stop at one reminder — here is a short series of emails you can use:

Email #1ReminderSend an initial email within a few hours to remind them about the items left in their cart.
Email #2IncentiveFollow up with a second email, offering an incentive like a discount or free shipping to encourage them to complete the purchase.
Email #3UrgencySend a third email with a sense of urgency, letting them know the items may be gone soon or the offer is expiring.
Email #4FeedbackIf they still haven’t converted, send a final email asking for feedback on why they didn’t complete the purchase. This information can be valuable to improve your checkout process.
Email sequence for abandoned cart subscribers

You can also suggest related product recommendations in your follow-up emails. Also, remember that the timing of your abandoned cart emails matters — while the first email should be sent fairly soon after abandonment, the subsequent emails can be scheduled strategically. Test different intervals to find the best timing for your audience. Also, A/B-test your follow-up emails to see which ones are the most effective.

You can also create sub-segments within your abandoned cart segment based on the value of items left in the cart. You can offer bigger discounts or use different follow-up strategies for higher-value cart abandonments.

Segmenting your email list by abandoned carts and implementing a well-structured email recovery strategy can help you recapture potentially lost revenue and reestablish connections with interested customers.

Engaged Users Are Your Bread and Butter

Segmenting your email list by engaged users is a powerful strategy to ensure you’re sending the right content to the right people. Engaged users are those who regularly interact with your emails, which can include opening, clicking, and taking other desired actions. 

Firstly, break up the list by their engagement levels. 

  1. Subscribers who have opened an email in the last 30 or 60 days.
  2. Subscribers who have clicked on links in your emails.
  3. Subscribers who have made a purchase in the last three months.

You can then tailor specific campaigns to rekindle the interest of users based on engagement. For instance, if you send an email about an upcoming sale and someone clicks through, you can add them to your “interested” list and subsequently run a targeted campaign to encourage them to purchase the sale.

Engaged users are also the best group of people to let you know if your new campaign is hitting the sweet spot. Sending test emails to your engaged users is a great way of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Engaged customers are also useful for your sender reputation. If you want better engagement numbers or if you want to warm up a domain or IP, send emails to your most engaged users. The high engagement rates from such campaigns signal to ESPs that you’re a worthy sender.

Email Segmentation Strategy: Location Matters!

Using the geographic location of your subscribers to create an email segmentation strategy is useful for times when you want to send targeted content that’s relevant to their specific area

Step 1 would be to collect geographic data from your subscribers. You can do this by different means — through the sign-up process, preference centers, or by analyzing location data from past interactions (for example, IP addresses).

Once you have this data, you can organize your lists using the geographic location. Below are a few suggestions:

  1. By country: Segment your list by the subscriber’s country. This is useful for tailoring content to different regions.
  2. By state or province: If your business serves different states or provinces, segment subscribers based on their specific location.
  3. By city or metro area: Segment by city or metro area to cater to localized promotions or events.
  4. By zip code: In some cases, segmenting by zip code or postal code can be useful for hyper-local targeting.

Here are a few ways to use email lists segmented by location:

  • Promote events or sales in a particular city or region.
  • Mention local news, weather, or community events.
  • Include references to regional holidays or cultural factors.
  • Offer location-specific discounts or promotions to subscribers in a particular area. You can offer free shipping for specific zip codes. 
  • If you’re running promos at your stores in their area, you can inform readers based on their location data.

You can also customize email subject lines to reference a subscriber’s region, making the email feel more personalized and relevant. Another great way to use location data is to segment it into different time zones — this way, you can send emails at the most convenient times for recipients.

Browsing Patterns: Know What Your Customers Want

How many times have you seen an ad for a product that you checked on an e-commerce site a short while after you browsed it? This happens because many e-commerce sites track your browsing patterns.

You, too, should consider using an email segmentation strategy to re-engage with subscribers who are interested in your products.

But how can you tell they’re interested? The best way to do this is to track your customers’ browsing patterns on your website. This allows you to create a more targeted and personalized strategy. By understanding what pages they visit, the products they view, and their behavior on your site, you can send emails that match their needs. 

You can use website tracking tools, such as Google Analytics, to monitor and record visitor behavior on your website. This includes tracking page views, product views, time spent on specific pages, and other interactions. Once you identify key browsing patterns, look for trends such as product categories that visitors frequently explore, the content they engage with, and the frequency of their visits.

You now have enough data to create your segmentation strategy.

Below are three simple criteria to organize it, but you can make it much more complex if you like.

Product interestSegment visitors based on the product categories or specific products subscribers view.
Content engagementSegment based on the type of content subscribers engage with, such as blog posts, videos, or guides.
Frequency of visitsSegment based on the frequency of visits, distinguishing between occasional visitors and frequent users.
How to segment subscribers by their web browsing patterns

You can now produce email content that suits the interests and behaviors of each segment. For example: If a segment shows a strong interest in a specific product category, you can feature related products or offer discounts. To the subscribers who engage with educational content on your website, send informative articles or resources. 

As for those highly engaged visitors who frequently return to your site, share product-specific information or customer testimonials to push them toward conversion. Additionally, you can set up behavior-triggered email campaigns, such as sending a follow-up email when a visitor views a particular product but doesn’t make a purchase.

Using browsing patterns to inform your email segmentation strategy allows you to deliver content that is highly relevant to each subscriber’s interests and actions, increasing the likelihood of both engagement and conversions.

Inactive Subscribers: Potential Prospects?

Re-engaging inactive subscribers is a valuable strategy to revitalize your email list and potentially convert leads into active customers. 

Identifying inactive subscribers is the first thing you have to do, so decide on a time frame to classify a subscriber as inactive. Typically, six months is a safe range to mark someone as inactive. This can vary from industry to industry and also depends on your brand and product type. Once you decide on a range, create a segment for inactive subscribers.

The next step is to make contact with inactive subs. Send a re-introduction email in which you acknowledge their inactivity, express your interest in re-engaging with them, and remind them of the value of your emails. Include a clear CTA to confirm their interest in staying subscribed.

If subscribers respond positively to the re-introduction email, encourage them to update their preferences on your site. This could include choosing the types of content they are interested in or the frequency of emails they prefer. You can also follow up with an email that provides exclusive offers or incentives to re-engage with your brand. You can use discounts, free resources, or access to limited-time promotions to reel them back into the fold.

Based on the interactions with the re-introduction mails, continue to segment your list. Subdivide the inactive segment by categorizing subscribers who open, click, or take action as “partially re-engaged.”

You can also use this opportunity to collect feedback from inactive subs. This data can help improve your email strategy.

Campaign Refinery: Powerful Email Segmentation Features

At Campaign Refinery, our segmentation tools allow you to precisely tailor your lists to the unique preferences and behaviors of your subscribers. With our advanced tag system, you can effortlessly categorize your audience based on a variety of criteria — this includes demographics, engagement, and browsing patterns, among others.

Our platform offers all the flexibility you would need to send highly personalized and relevant content to different segments, resulting in increased open rates, click-through rates, and ultimately, improved conversions. 

And as we wrap up our topic, we have one final segmentation-related strategy to recommend. It is to build a list of subscribers interested in your promotions.

A smart lead magnet strategy can create extraordinary engagement; it can attract a keen group of people to your brand, and such a segment is a rich pool of prospects you can pitch to. 

And if you want to learn the art of sending lead magnets, that’s where our Lead Magnet Multiplier course comes in. It will teach you how to use lead magnets to see engagement rates like you’ve only dreamt of. We’re talking 8x the number of opens and clicks as compared to any lead magnet you’ve sent before!

And it’s 100% free. Our only condition is that you finish the 4 mini-courses in 7 days if you want to retain access for good.

Go ahead and unlock the secrets of the Lead Magnet Multiplier program today.

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