Connecting With Customers: Segmentation vs Personalization

segmentation vs personalization cover image with a tangerine satsuma segment

Email marketing is constantly evolving — technological advancements have now made it possible for marketers to heavily personalize the emails they send their subscribers. Thanks to email segmentation and personalization, you can now send relevant content and time your messages perfectly to guide prospects toward conversion.

People use the terms “segmentation” and “personalization” interchangeably, but there’s a world of difference between the two. One could say email personalization is an evolved form of segmentation, but that would be an oversimplification. 

Let’s examine these two pillars of email marketing and study how you can apply them to your benefit!


Table of Contents


What is Segmentation?

Email segmentation refers to the practice of dividing an email list into smaller, more targeted groups based on specific criteria or characteristics. This is important because it allows you to deliver the right offer at the right time to people who are the most likely to care.

Instead of sending a generic message to your entire email list, segmentation allows you to tailor your emails for specific segments of your audience, improving the overall effectiveness of your various email campaigns.

By sending targeted and relevant content to specific segments, you are more likely to capture the attention of your audience and encourage them to take the desired actions, such as making a purchase or clicking a link to your website. 


Email List Segmentation Factors

To segment on a basic level, you need customer details like:

  1. Age,
  2. Gender,
  3. Location,
  4. Income level,
  5. Designation at a company.

With additional data, you can segment your list based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Online behavior: Segmenting based on how subscribers interact with your emails, website, or products. For example, you can create segments for frequent purchasers, inactive subscribers, or those who have clicked on specific links.
  • Purchase history: Segmenting based on past buying behavior or the types of products or services customers have previously purchased.
  • Engagement: This involves segmenting subscribers based on their level of engagement with your emails. For instance, you might have segments for highly engaged subscribers, occasional openers, or those who haven’t opened an email in a long time.
  • Preferences: Segmenting based on subscribers’ preferences, such as content type (like blog updates or product announcements) or communication frequency.

Segmentation is a key strategy in optimizing your email marketing campaigns and achieving better conversion rates.


What is Personalization?

Email personalization means customizing your content for individual recipients or specific segments of your audience based on their behavior. It involves using any data you have about a subscriber to make your messages feel directed at them and their specific situation

The goal of personalization is to create a more relevant experience for each recipient; this increases engagement and builds a stronger connection between you and your customer. You can apply personalization to various elements within an email, including the subject line, greeting, content, or CTAs.

Here are common ways to use personalization in your emails:

  1. Instead of using a generic greeting like “Dear Customer,” you can address recipients by their first name. This simple touch can make the email feel more individualized.
  2. Merge variables let you insert contact-specific information, such as names, email addresses, or any other data. At Campaign Refinery, you can easily use this feature by selecting a merge variable from a drop-down list.
  3. Use dynamic content blocks within your emails to display different content based on the recipient’s preferences, behavior, or other characteristics. For example, you can show product recommendations based on their past purchases or browsing history. 
  4. Set up automated email campaigns triggered by specific user actions, such as abandoned cart emails or follow-up messages after a purchase. This ensures your emails are timely and relevant to the recipient’s recent behavior.
  5. Provide personalized product recommendations based on the recipient’s past purchases or browsing history. This can be an effective strategy for e-commerce businesses looking to upsell or cross-sell products.
  6. Customize content based on the recipient’s location. This can include local promotions, events, or store information relevant to their geographical area.
  7. Craft subject lines that resonate with the recipient by incorporating their name, location, or other personalized elements. This can increase the likelihood of the recipient opening the email.

The key to successful personalization is leveraging data and insights about your audience to deliver messages that are not only customized but also meaningful to the individual recipient. It demonstrates you understand your customers and value their unique preferences, ultimately contributing to improved engagement and customer loyalty.


Email Segmentation vs Email Personalization

Email segmentation and personalization evolved as marketing strategies as they help us communicate more effectively with subscribers. Emails, at one point in time, were sent with no knowledge of the recipients — as marketers understood the importance of sending relevant emails, segmentation entered the picture. With improvements to technology and customer tracking methods, the next bit of innovation was personalization, which quickly became a powerful feature in email marketing.

While segmentation helps you become a superior marketer by understanding your audience better, personalization is a strategy you use to appeal to the human side of your audience. In short, segmentation is a good way to keep content relevant for your recipients and personalization helps speak to them on an individual level.

Let’s look at the key differences between segmentation and personalization in this table:

FeatureEmail SegmentationEmail Personalization
DescriptionDividing the email list into smaller segments based on specific criteria or characteristics.Tailoring email content to individual recipients based on preferences, behavior, or demographics.
GoalImprove targeting and relevance of email campaigns.Enhanced individualized experiences, which increases engagement and builds stronger connections with your recipients.
RelevanceAims to make campaigns more relevant to a group of subscribers with similar characteristics.Aims to make each email highly relevant to the specific preferences and characteristics of individual recipients.
Role in sales funnelVery early in a customer’s funnel journeyComes in use much later in the sales funnel as you aim to close the deal.
Use in campaignsCan be applied to both one-time campaigns and automated campaigns.Often used in triggered campaigns that respond to specific user actions ensuring timely and contextually relevant communications.
ExamplesTailoring content for specific geographic locations.Content for specific genders.Addressing recipients by name in the greeting.Offering product recommendations based on past behavior.
Differences between segmentation and personalization

Using segmentation and personalization as part of your email marketing arsenal can bring you a range of benefits, which we explore in the next section.


Benefits of Email Segmentation and Personalization

Segmentation and personalization offer several benefits that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns. Let’s look at the benefits of each.


Email Segmentation

Implementing segmentation to your email list can bring you these benefits:

  1. Email segmentation allows you to send relevant content to specific groups of subscribers based on their characteristics or behavior.
  2. Subscribers are more likely to engage with emails that are tailored to their interests, resulting in higher open and click-through rates.
  3. By understanding and addressing the unique needs of different segments, you can build stronger relationships with customers and improve loyalty.
  4. Segmentation enables you to analyze the performance of different segments separately, helping you refine and optimize your overall email marketing strategy.
  5. Targeted messages lead to better conversion rates as these messages align better with the preferences and needs of your subscribers.
  6. Email segmentation can also teach you about the general preferences of your customers and help shape your focus as a company.

Clearly, segmentation has its benefits. Does email personalization bring as much to the table? 


Email Personalization

Here are the top benefits of implementing personalization in your email marketing efforts:

  1. Personalized emails create a more engaging and positive experience for subscribers, enhancing their perception of your brand.
  2. Personalized subject lines and content increase the likelihood that recipients will open and interact with your emails.
  3. Fine-tuning individual preferences and needs through personalization contributes to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Email personalization allows you to set up automated campaigns triggered by specific customer behaviors, such as abandoned carts or recent purchases.
  5. Relevant and personalized recommendations can lead to better ROI, as customers are more likely to convert if they see offers tailored to their interests.
  6. Personalization enables the use of dynamic content that adapts to individual preferences, creating a more dynamic and engaging email experience. You can even extend this experience to your website, using dynamic web pages.

“Know your customer” is the number 1 rule in sales — and email personalization makes that possible. Without it, your emails would just be a lot of guesswork! 


Good Customer Data: Vital for Both Segmentation and Personalization

If the earlier sections have you excited to get started on email segmentation and personalization, you should know both of these strategies require you to collect the best customer data you can.

Lead generation is a crucial aspect of email marketing — it involves attracting potential customers and capturing their information to build a targeted email list

Here are several effective methods of lead generation you can use:

  1. Design dedicated landing pages with clear CTAs to encourage visitors to subscribe to your email list. Make sure the landing page content resonates with your audience.
  2. Create valuable content like blog posts, video tutorials, ebooks, and webinars to appeal to your target audience. Offer this content as gated resources, requiring users to provide their email addresses to access the material.
  3. Run contests or giveaways on social media or your website. Require participants to submit their email addresses to enter the contest or receive updates.
  4. Place opt-in forms strategically all over your website. Clearly communicate the value of subscribing to encourage signups.
  5. Run lead-generation ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and wherever possible, include a lead form that users can fill out directly on the platform.
  6. Create quizzes, puzzles, or interactive tools on your website. Require users to enter their email addresses to receive personalized results or insights.
  7. Offer a free email course that provides valuable information over several days. These work remarkably well, and you should use them to collect email addresses at the start of the course and continue to nurture these leads with an email drip campaign.
  8. Use surveys or feedback forms on your website to collect user opinions. Include an option for participants to provide their email addresses for additional information.

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So now you have the best customer data — let’s put it to good use!


Email Segmentation: How Do I Do it?

Nobody likes irrelevant emails — recipients expect to receive targeted and valuable messages, or they will immediately mark your mail as spam. Segmentation is a solution for this problem, as you will understand your email list better and know what content to send to which groups.

Here is a table explaining how you could use different types of segmentation data:

Customer dataSegmentation strategy
DemographicHelps you categorize customers based on quantifiable traits, providing a foundation for broad list segmentation.
Psychographic dataGives you insight into the opinions, interests, motivations, and values of your customers, allowing for more nuanced list segmentation based on personal characteristics.
Position in the sales funnelDepending on where the customers are in their buying process, you can send targeted and relevant content for each stage.
Communication preferencesHelps you send your marketing messages to customers through their preferred channels.
Customer feedbackHelps you identify loyal customers while also understanding areas for improvement.
Other industry-specific dataRelevant to your specific goals — this data helps create segments aligned with the unique characteristics of your business.
Social and cultural Useful if you operate in international markets, allowing for segmentation based on cultural influences and social affiliations.
Types of segmentation data in use

Now that you know about the different ways to use email list segmentation methods, let’s look at how to actually do it.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on using segmentation on your email lists:

  1. Define segmentation criteria: Identify the criteria you will use for segmentation. 
  2. Create segments: Based on your defined criteria, create different segments within your email list. For example, you might create segments for new subscribers, like leads that attended a certain webinar, high-value prospects, location-specific leads, or inactive subscribers.
  3. Use segmentation tools: Email marketing platforms and CRMs provide segmentation tools or features. Use these to segment your list based on various criteria. You may have to create rules or conditions that automatically place subscribers into specific segments.
  4. Personalized emails: You can also add personalization steps to your segmentation process. Tailor your email content to each segment to create different versions of your emails or dynamically insert content based on the segment.
  5. Automated campaigns: Implement automated campaigns triggered by specific events or actions. Like welcome emails for new subscribers or abandoned cart emails for users who leave your website before completing a purchase.

Remember to regularly monitor the performance of your segmented campaigns to understand the effectiveness of your segmentation. With the help of this awesome feature, you can send more targeted emails, improving the relevance of your messages and increasing engagement with your audience.


How to Personalize Emails

Once you have your email segmentation strategy in place, it’s time to focus on personalization. Mastering it involves a combination of strategic planning, data analysis, and continuous optimization. 

Here are steps to nail email personalization:

  • Clearly outline your objectives for personalization. Whether it’s increasing open rates, improving click-through rates, boosting conversions, or enhancing customer loyalty, having specific goals will guide your personalization efforts.
  • Segment your email list into smaller, targeted groups before you think about personalization. This allows you to tailor content to the unique characteristics of each segment.
  • Write personalized subject lines to grab your reader’s attention. Address the recipient by name or use their location, or incorporate any other relevant information to make the email feel more individualized.
  • Use dynamic content in your emails to automatically change certain elements based on the recipient’s data. A good example would be an offer or discount that is specific to their location.
  • Map out the customer journey and identify points where personalized interactions can enhance the overall experience. This includes pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages.
  • You can set up automated email campaigns triggered by specific user actions. A good example would be emailing a customer with a product recommendation or special discount a day after they spend some time browsing that product’s page on your website.
  • Implement real-time personalization where possible. For example, dynamically update the content of your emails based on the latest interactions a subscriber has had with your website or app.

Below is a table explaining different email personalization strategies:

Customer dataUse in email personalization
Purchase historyOffer personalized discounts on frequently bought items.
Product preferencesTailor product recommendations and promotions based on customers’ preferred categories or brands.
Browsing behaviorPersonalize website content, such as suggested products or content, based on pages visited and time spent on specific sections.
Interaction historyPersonalize communication by referencing past interactions like customer service inquiries or feedback.
Feedback responsesUse feedback to improve products and services, and tailor future interactions based on expressed preferences.
Customers in loyalty programsRecognize and reward loyal customers with personalized offers, exclusive discounts, or early access to new products.
Social media engagementCustomers are often more vocal on social media. Leverage this to send customized content.
Sales funnel stageYou can use personalization to rapidly move customers through the sales funnel by using behavioral data, especially in the later stages.
Email personalization strategies

It’s also important to stay up-to-date with innovations and trends in personalization and monitor your competitors to track the different tactics and strategies they use. Attend industry events and read relevant publications to stay connected with the evolving landscape.


Email Segmentation and Personalization: Why You Need Both

Email segmentation is a must and so is email personalization. Impersonal emails can be a turn-off, but more importantly, using segmentation and personalization methods effectively can clock many more conversions for your business. The better you know your customer, the better your pitch will be. 

In an age where users only skim through your email for a few seconds, keeping it relevant can make all the difference. While segmentation lets you cast a wide net, personalization lets you reel them in. 

One might assume email personalization is more important than email segmentation, but that’s not true. Segmentation gives you an overview of your customer pool and helps you focus on the kind of customers you want to sell to. Personalization is where you zoom in and use specific details to guide customers toward conversion. 

Both strategies have their appropriate time and context. Utilizing them in tandem enhances the overall effectiveness of your email marketing strategy.


Email Segmentation Best Practices

Email segmentation is a powerful tool in email marketing, and implementing best practices can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns. 

Here are several list segmentation best practices to consider:

  • Conduct thorough market research and analyze your existing customer data to understand the characteristics, preferences, and behaviors of your audience.
  • Clearly define the criteria for segmenting your audience. This may include demographic information, behavioral data, location, purchase history, or engagement level.
  • You can also combine different criteria for a more nuanced list segmentation. For example, you might create segments based on both demographics and behavior to target a specific group of high-value customers.
  • Good email list management dictates you keep your segments up-to-date by regularly refreshing the data. 
  • Use automation tools to dynamically update segments in real time based on user interactions, ensuring your campaigns are always targeting the most relevant audience.
  • Consider creating segments that align with the different stages of the customer lifecycle. This could include new subscribers, active customers, lapsed customers, and loyal customers.
  • Regularly test the effectiveness of your segments by comparing the performance of segmented campaigns against non-segmented ones. Use A/B testing to fine-tune your list segmentation strategy.
  • Allow subscribers to manage their preferences and opt out of certain segments if they choose. Respect user choices to maintain a positive relationship.

While segmentation is a powerful tool, avoid creating too many segments. Over-segmentation can lead to smaller, less impactful groups and make managing campaigns more complex.


Email Personalization: Use it Like a Pro

Email personalization, used effectively, could set you apart from your competitors in a big way. 

Here are the best practices to implement so you execute personalization successfully:

  • Be diligent about data collection. The effort you put into collecting accurate data will pay off in the long run.
  • Start off slow. If you’re new to email personalization, start with basic elements such as addressing recipients by name in the email and using personalized subject lines. As you gain confidence, gradually introduce more sophisticated personalization techniques.
  • Don’t over-use personalization. Set your objectives clearly — whether it’s improving open rates, increasing click-through rates, or driving specific actions, having clear objectives will guide your personalization strategy.
  • Test your triggered campaigns so you can understand your customer’s mindset better. Conduct A/B testing to optimize email personalization elements such as subject lines, content variations, and CTAs. Use data-driven insights to refine your personalization strategy continually.
  • Obtain explicit permission from users before collecting and using their data for personalization. Be transparent about how you use their information and allow them to manage their preferences. This is not only important for compliance, but your customers will appreciate you for it.

By incorporating these personalization best practices into your email marketing strategy, you can create more targeted, engaging, and relevant experiences for your subscribers, leading to increased customer satisfaction and better campaign performance.


Segmentation and Personalization at Campaign Refinery: Piece of Cake!

At Campaign Refinery, we understand the importance of both email segmentation and personalization.

We aim to empower our clients to execute the most successful email campaigns they can, and list segmentation and email personalization play a critical role in making this possible. That is why we offer the best list management tools along with automation flows that let you plan the most complex campaigns with ease.

Take a look at our search page, for instance. You can easily pull up a group of subscribers with certain characteristics and create a segment so you can target them with specific email campaigns. 

Campaign Refinery Contacts Search
Campaign Refinery Contacts Search

With your list segmentation in place, you can use merge variables next, to ensure your content appeals to them on a personal level. Observe how easy it is to include merge variables in your email on our simple user interface.

Campaign Refinery Personalization Options
Campaign Refinery Personalization Options

With segmentation and personalization locked and loaded, wouldn’t you love to see a massive boost to your open rates? 

Hey, we’ve taken care of that too! Campaign Refinery offers a Gamification feature that will send your engagement levels to the moon; we’re talking open rates of 76.37% and a 72.76% click rate

We also built a tag-based system into our platform that lets you monitor each customer’s sales journey on a microscopic level. No matter what your personalization strategy is — you can find a way to make it come alive at Campaign Refinery. 

Sounds interesting? Sign up to join Campaign Refinery today!

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