No one wants to log into their email and find their inbox full of irrelevant messages. When the email’s contents don’t relate to the recipient, they’re likely to leave it unopened or worse — mark it as spam.

Marketers don’t want their messages to suffer that fate, so many have made email list segmentation a part of their strategies. This powerful tool helps keep your content relevant to recipients while increasing email opens, link clicks, and conversions. It works, and the statistics back it up. According to Constant Contact’s email marketing research and statistics, personalized emails — like those geared toward certain groups, or segments, of people on your mailing list — generate an average of $36 dollars for every dollar spent on targeted email campaigns.

The numbers don’t lie: email segmentation is a marketing tool you can’t afford to skip out on. The benefits of email segmentation are too significant to ignore. 

What is email list segmentation?

Email list segmentation is the practice of splitting your email recipients into smaller, targeted groups. You can organize these segments based on multiple factors, including location, industry, and language. 

The point of email segmentation is to get the right messages to the right people, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your email marketing campaign. Say you’re running a marketing campaign for an outdoor clothing company. You need to promote a new line of women’s hiking boots with free delivery on orders over $50 CAD. You could use segmented email list to spread the word to your female subscribers based in Canada. They’ll gladly take this information, while others on your mailing list — a man in London, for example — will be spared the annoyance of opening, reading, and ultimately deleting a message that doesn’t pertain to them. 

Segmenting your email list

Choosing how to segment an email list depends on your business type and the people you’re trying to sell to. You might organize your segments according to things like:

  • Geography: Knowing where your contacts are based and what currency they use for purchases is particularly helpful for e-commerce businesses. 
  • Gender: Depending on your industry, different genders may require different messages from a company. This data might be helpful for a clothing store, but marketers in other industries — software, for instance — probably wouldn’t need it.
  • Language: Speaking to contacts in their preferred languages goes a long way. If you have the resources, segment your email lists by language. Be careful not to assume a person’s language based on where they’re logging in from. Gather this information from the data shared by their web browser instead. 
  • Business type: Use web forms to determine the industries of email recipients. Then, use that info to send them messages about products and services most relevant to their fields. 
  • Website activity: Page-level targeting helps marketers understand how visitors interact with a website. That data can be a valuable tool for figuring out what kinds of email blasts those people would most relate to. 
  • Lead magnet interaction: The lead magnets, like ebooks and other downloadables, your contacts interact with provide information you can use to segment them. If you’re using pop-up forms, pay attention to how email recipients interact through opt-ins, downloads, and self-segmenting behaviors. 
  • Marketing funnel stage: New leads require different messages than sales-ready leads at the bottom of the marketing funnel. Segment contacts based on their funnel stages to keep messaging relevant and valuable. 
  • Engagement: Some marketers create segments of their most highly engaged contacts based on their open rates, click rates, and what they click on, including blog articles, product updates, event invitations, etc. Then, they take it a step further and build inactivity segments for unengaged contacts. This paints a clear picture of who might benefit from getting re-engagement campaigns. 
  • Purchase history: Consult your email recipients’ purchase histories and use the list of the products or services they’ve purchased from you to build segments. Then, you can send them relevant emails in the form of product recommendations and exclusive discounts based on items they bought. 
  • Email preferences: Some subscribers have no issues receiving emails from businesses daily or weekly. However, others only want to receive messages every once in a while. Marketers can have subscribers specify their email frequency preferences and create email list segments accordingly. 
  • Lifecycle stage: Each email subscriber is in a different phase of the customer lifecycle. Some are new leads or first-time buyers, while others have been loyal customers for years. Segmenting contacts based on their customer lifecycle stages helps you nurture leads appropriately and strengthen relationships with existing customers. 
  • Abandoned carts: Marketers for e-commerce companies can create segments for email subscribers who have abandoned their shopping carts. When someone leaves the site without completing a purchase, they’ll receive a reminder or incentive to do so. 

The best email segmentation practices for marketers

One component of email list segmentation is deciding what kind of groups to break contacts into. Adopting good list segmentation practices is another. 

Splitting your contacts into groups and hoping for the best isn’t enough. Effective segmentation strategies require a more nuanced approach. Instead, split your contact list, then use these tips to make your segmentation efforts worthwhile. 

Choose the right tool 

The first — and arguably most important — piece of advice for successful email segmentation is to find the right segmenting tool. 

Plenty of companies sell software to help you divide and conquer your contact list. Find one like Constant Contact that easily creates segments based on criteria like contact activity (e.g., email clicks and opens), list membership, and e-commerce behaviors. 

Start small

As you begin the process of segmenting your list, start small. Create two or three segments that will make the biggest impact. Look at your target audience and identify key differences — including their industries, locations, goals, etc. Then, use that information to create the first of your segments. 

Remember user preferences

Once you’ve sorted your contacts into segments, the next item on your to-do list is to use the data you collected wisely. Now that you have key information about your email recipients — location, gender, industry, etc., use it to deliver the kind of email content they can relate to. 

This tip is especially helpful for segments based on something like preferred email frequency. Your contacts told you exactly how often they want to see your name in their inbox, so set up your email marketing automation software accordingly. 

Analyze and refresh your data

If the data you collected to create segments isn’t up-to-date, it isn’t doing you much good. You might be creating content based on information you gathered years ago, only to discover that the customers you surveyed no longer open your emails. In that instance, you’re catering to a customer base that doesn’t exist. Stay organized with simple and documented processes and carry out quarterly data clean-ups for good measure. 

Pair email list segmentation with automation

When both list segmentation and email marketing automation software are in your toolkit, you can send the most relevant messages at just the right time. After you familiarize yourself with the best practices for email marketing list segmentation, set up automated emails to send newsletters, drip campaign content, and activity-based emails at the times your readers are most likely to open and interact with them. 

Create adequately-sized segments

You might want to hone in on your target recipients by creating ultra-niche list segments. However, getting overly specific can result in segments that aren’t large enough to warrant separate campaigns. 

Likewise, segments that are too large will prove ineffective at engaging your subscribers with relevant content, so you’ll need to resize them accordingly. Take two or three similar groups and test them for variable content. Then, you can use those variations to segment them further.

Track results (and keep an eye on unsubscribes!)

Email marketing segmentation isn’t something you can just set and forget. You’ll need to set aside time to track performance and make adjustments regularly. Once your segments are up and running, you can probably get by with less frequent check-ins. However, for newer segments, it’s probably a good idea to look in on things often. 

During these check-ins, take stock of what’s going well, like which segments get the most opens and clicks. Alternatively, study the other end of the spectrum. What isn’t working with your segments? Are there any groups with a lot of different emails left unopened or unsubscribes? Those could be signs that a segment isn’t well-configured and needs re-evaluating or that a particular group of people isn’t part of your business’s target audience. 

How to Tell If Email Segmentation is Working For You

Email list segmentation: the gateway to getting clicks

Adding email segmentation to your marketing strategies has two primary benefits: 

  1. Getting your message into the hands of the right people
  2. Keeping your messages out of the inboxes of the wrong people

It’s easy to send one mass email blast to everyone on your contact list. But if you’re doing this, you’re missing out on results. Rather than sending all your emails to every member on one long master list, group your recipients based on some of the factors listed above, like gender, location, or website activity. Remember that you can start small with two or three segments to begin your personalization journey. Use these segments to give your contacts all the information they want and none of the stuff that isn’t valuable.