Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
by Irek Klimczak last updated on 0

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List

It turns out that only 6.6% of email marketers use layered targeting to send relevant, personalized messages to their audience (Email Marketing & Beyond: Global Industry Benchmarks 2017). As you can see, there’s a huge opportunity for your business here. That’s why today I want to show you how to start segmenting your email list.

Start with data

Segmentation starts with a proper set of data. If you want to send relevant emails, you need to be able to collect relevant information about your subscribers.

If you run an online business, you know the golden rule – the less form fields, the higher the conversion rate. That’s exactly the reason why most ecommerce businesses ask only for the email address. You’re probably wondering: how can I segment my list when the email address is the only thing I’ve got? It’s OK. You can start with the email address and collect other data later throughout the subscription process.

Asking for small amounts of data over time rather than throwing a long web form at people who want to sign up is called progressive profiling. You can visit our resources and download a free guide: How To Generate Leads Through Progressive Profiling, if you want to learn more.

What do you really need to know about your subscribers?

Decide what information you’re after. Start with the following question: “What do I need to know about my subscribers in order to send them relevant emails?” It’s a simple yet powerful question. Depending on the business you might need different set of data to segment your list successfully, e.g.:

Fashion ecommerce

  • Sex (male/female/kids)
  • Product size
  • Preferred style
  • Favorite brands
  • Price sensitivity

Brick-and-mortar retail store

  • Address
  • Purchase preferences
  • Loyalty


  • Name (the use of the subscriber’s name might personalize the message and influence their decisions)
  • Interests
  • Average donation
  • Behavioral data (e.g. the kind of content subscribers interacted with)

To learn how you can collect such information, consider reading my article on going beyond demographics – how to collect valuable subscriber data.

Plan your email marketing workflow

Marketing automation forces you to think in terms of longer communication patterns. And that’s great because it makes planning emails for progressive profiling and segmentation much easier.

Look at the emails in your workflow and match them with the information you want to collect. This way you’ll create a step-by-step segmentation plan and clear template design guidelines, e.g.:

  • Subscription form – name, email address, date of birth (optional – for those who want to receive something special on that day)
  • Welcome email – promo code for the first purchase (you can tag those who purchased using the promo code)
  • First product email – 2 CTAs: for him/ for her (name and behavioral data collected based on the CTA will allow you to segment based on the sex)
  • Content email – 5 gift ideas for Star Wars fans (see who clicked the most – any die hard fans on your list?)
  • “Refer a friend” email – identify the most engaged subscribers and turn them into brand ambassadors

As you can see, each email in the workflow provides you with some information. It’s up to you if and how you collect, analyze, and make use of it.

Read more: How to hack progressive profiling with GetResponse

Get inspired by other email marketers

Let me show you a few real-life examples from my inbox and maybe inspire you with examples of email marketers who are on top of their game.

Also remember to check out how you can start segmenting your list and use marketing automation features like scoring and tagging, web event tracking, and automation segmentation.

1. Demographics

Demographic data refers to a subscriber’s profile characteristics like sex, age, geography, income, etc. Among the commonly-used demographics in B2B are industry, budget, position in the company, etc.

Demographics allow you to validate your assumptions about your target audience and create mental pictures of the personas.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
The 2 CTAs (shop girls/shop boys) point subscribers to their preferred product category. Based on their activity, you can capture useful behavioral data.

2. Product preferences

Product preference plays a huge role in ecommerce. If you want to know what your subscribers look for, track the links clicked in your emails and on the website.

Try to go beyond the obvious and come up with creative ways of asking subscribers to choose their favorite products. If you’re looking for inspiration, TEAVANA is one of the brands that know how to engage their subscribers.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
A fragment of an email from TEAVANA asking people to vote for their favorite blend of tea. A clever way to test products and collect information on product preferences.

3. Interests

You can use different types of content to figure out what your subscribers want to know. Whether it’s fashion, literature, or construction – it’s always good to know your target audience’s information needs.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
STANLEY sends out different how-to content based on their subscribers’ skill level. A great example of valuable content providing great subscriber insights.
Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
An email form UncommonGoods with Father’s day gift ideas. Such a nice way to help out your subscribers and segment your email list at the same time.


4. Engagement

Find and reward your most engaged subscribers. Turn them into brand ambassadors who will help you increase brand awareness, build your email list, and bring in new customers.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
A thank you email from American Giant send to those who spread the word about the brand.

5. Geography

If you run a brick-and-mortar business, geography has major importance. Use online marketing channels to find potential customers in your area. Segment your list based on location and drive traffic to your physical locations.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
A fragment of an email form American Eagle with an offline promotional campaign and a CTA urging the subscriber to find the nearest store.

6. Website activity

Marketing automation allows you to see what subscribers do on your website. You can collect the data and send them a personalized email based on their activity when the moment is right.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
An email with products based on my previous website activity.

7. Purchase frequency

Did you know that you could use marketing automation data to identify frequent buyers, one-time customers, or deal hunters among your subscribers? Now you do. It’s a good idea to track subscribers purchase history and create segments for those who are ready to buy your product without a discount, and those who’d rather wait for the perfect moment with their purchase.

If you’re thinking of running a loyalty program and searching for inspiration, take a look at the airline industry.

Here’s How You Can Start Segmenting Your List
A fragment of an email form Virgin America offering a trip you can pay for in USD or loyalty-program points.

Start segmenting your list

You know why segmentation is important. You know what marketing automation features will help you collect meaningful information about your subscribers and group them in a meaningful way. You’ve seen some great email examples. So what are you waiting for? Start small and gradually become a segmentation expert. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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