8 tips to better segment your campaigns

8 Ways to Segment Your Email List to Maximize ROI


This post was updated on October 24, 2019. It was originally published in January, 2015.

Is email list segmentation important? Exceedingly. Segmentation is the difference between speaking vaguely and uninterestingly at a huge group of people vs. engaging with specific groups at a precise time for a distinct reason using intentional messaging.

More of a visual learner? Check out our handy infographic breaking down these eight segmentation tips before we dig into the nitty-gritty below.

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Why Segment an Email List?

You’re getting subscribers to opt-in to your list, hooray! But wait… don’t celebrate just yet. If you are going to successfully convert new prospective customers from your emails, sending them impersonal and generic content isn’t going to get you very far. So how can you send out emails that speak to an individual and not a crowd? It’s all about list segmentation, people!

This marketing strategy is ever-effective yet often ignored. If you are someone that has put this strategy on the back burner for past emails, now is the time to prioritize it. Let’s break down some basic stats regarding the impact of segmenting your email list.

Lyris found that 39% of marketers who segment email lists experience higher open rates, 28% experience lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experience better deliverability and greater revenue. If you check out the graph below, you will see that there are TONS more reasons to leverage this tactic.

benefits of email list segmentation

With the proper analytics and reporting in place, you can segment your list by simple things like gender to more granular characteristics like geolocation, subscriber-level reporting, the devices they are using to read email and so much more.

These are eight email list segmentation tips to boost your bottom line!


The complexity and degree to which a marketer can segment a list vary greatly. For the beginners out there, don’t overcomplicate your segmenting strategy. Start small by pulling the basic demographics that you collected when they opted-in, such as age, gender, location, job title, etc. While this type of information seems trivial at first glance, simply knowing the age range of your different target markets could take your email conversions to the next level.

In the example below, Fit for Me was offering a promotion and knew their audience varied in age. Instead of creating separate campaigns for each age group, they simply swapped out the header image in the email. This simple switcheroo allowed the image to resonate with the different age groups that make up their email list.

an email segmented by age range

Never underestimate how a slight change, like the one above, could impact your ROI.

Survey Results

When it comes to crafting an opt-in box, less is more. If you create too many “required” fields, your prospect will bounce right off that page. So how do you gather all that meaty information about your subscribers so you can effectively segment based on their interests, emotions and needs? Make an email campaign with a survey, baby!

When creating your quiz, ensure your questions are thoughtful and will elicit answers that will be helpful to your overall strategy. Also keep in mind, you probably want to offer an incentive. The more you give, the more you get. When we sent out our last survey, we let our audience know that if they filled out our questions, their name would be entered in the running to win a free iPad. Needless to say, we got lots and lots of submissions!

Another way to get survey feedback is by not calling it a “survey”! A “survey” sounds boring and time-consuming. Put a better ring to it like Tailor Brands did. Their survey aimed at learning customers’ preferences, which can always be used for segmentation. Instead of calling it a survey, they simply said ‘feedback’. Plus, giving a nod to how short the survey is can really go far in your completion and response rate.

an email with a casual survey

By surveying your audience, you can tap into what motivates them or analyze their psychographic makeup and segment from there.

Sending Frequency

It’s tough trying to find the perfect sending frequency for your audience. Why is it so tough? Because there is no “perfect” frequency that will apply to every subscriber on your list. Some people might love seeing your name in their inbox every time while others breeze right over it.

One way to make sure you are sending at the right frequency is to let them self-segment. In your opt-in form or preference center, allow subscribers to choose how often they want to hear from you. This is one of the easiest email list segmentation tactics that keeps readers engaged.

Below is an awesome example of running a re-engagement campaign AND allowing the reader to choose when they want AutoTrader to drop them a line.

AutoTrader's re-engagement/preference center email combo

There isn’t a perfect number of emails one should send each week/month, so let your reader chose their own Goldilocks zone: the sending pattern that is just right.


Knowing where your contacts live can be seriously beneficial. Gathering this nugget of information is as easy as adding a zip code to your purchase or opt-in form. A great way to enhance an email with geographic location is to localize subject lines.

Target made good use of this tactic when they tested localization in promotional emails. They did this by identifying which Target stores were close to recipients’ listed addresses. The email from Target featured the name of the subscriber’s local store in the subject line, as well as that store’s telephone number and store-specific links in the body.

Another great example of using geolocation to personalize email copy was seen from S-Digital in an email campaign for the Open Golf Championship. The example below uses geolocation and routing services to create dedicated travel directions (to the Championships) for each and every recipient of the campaign!

a geolocation email with personalized content

As a result of the email, online traffic increased by 250% with over 500 leads.

Did you know you can also target by geolocation based on weather patterns? While that may sound a bit over the top, it can be incredibly useful in motivating conversions. For example, if a company has rain jackets to promote, what better time than to send an email than when it’s raining for your subscribers?

A company called Skymosity tracks weather patterns and triggers emails based on them. Brooks, an athletic shoe company, made fantastic use of this data by creating multiple campaigns with weather and temperature triggers using  Skymosity’s logic. In the example below, the email was perfectly crafted for the weather conditions of the reader.

a weather-triggered email by Brooks

Purchase Cycle and Page Views

Where someone is in the sales funnel is critical in determining how and what you’re messaging them. To make a laser-focused segmentation strategy for your prospect, you need to see how far they are in the buying journey.

To track where someone is in the purchase cycle, you have to look at their digital behavior. You can track digital behavior, for example, by seeing which pages they visited, how long they were on your website for and how they got on your list. Did they sign up so they could download content from you or did they enter their email to start the buying process? In the instance that someone gave you their email by downloading content, a nurturing drip campaign is a great way to market to them. Send them an introductory email and then more valuable content over the next few days. After those educational emails, THEN you can make your sales pitch.

If someone entered their email address because they began the checkout process but left, you can send them an email offering a discount or a free trial to help persuade them. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is approximately 70%. Try triggering a cart abandonment email 24 hours after they left and see if you notice a difference, or adjusting the time delay.

Below is a great example from Rudy’s incentivizing their prospect to return with an offer of free shipping.

Rudy's abandoned cart email

Nearly half of all abandoned cart emails are opened and over a third of clicks lead to purchases. It is well worth your time to segment and target by these criteria.

Past Purchases

Amazon does an epic job of using your past purchases to target buyers with other products that may be of interest with their “you might like this” upsell. You can use previous purchase behavior to target emails that cater to their interests. This will lead to more purchases and a longer lifetime value (LTV).

One killer upselling tactic is to ask customers to pay more at just the right time. One way you can ask someone to spend more AND save them money in the long run is to offer an annual payment when their monthly bill is coming up. Evernote made great use of this tactic in their email below.

Evernote's upsell email

In another example of a successful upsell campaign, a retail e-commerce store offered subscribers a discount for certain items on their wish lists, thereby optimizing conversions. You already know they want that product, so just give them the extra nudge with a targeted offer they can’t refuse.

Email Activity

Tracking and then segmenting based on an individual’s email activity can uncover who is engaged, who isn’t, what content they enjoy consuming the most, and that’s just to name a few! Email on Acid’s Advanced Analytics generates subscriber-level reporting so you can see subscribers’ opens, engagement levels, email clients, environments, mobile devices and browsers, geographic locations and more.

Use this data to create a segment of subscribers that haven’t opened an email from you in months. Then send them a reactivation campaign or an incentive offering to reel em’ back in. Check out Blue Apron’s short, simple and sweet re-engagement email below.

Blue Apron's re-engagement email

Subscriber-level reporting allows you to pinpoint certain audience members even further. Other ideas for list segmentation and targeting include dividing up your list based on the email environment your subscribers are opening email on (web, desktop or mobile) or offering a rewards program to your most engaged readers. The possibilities are endless when granular information for individual subscribers is at your fingertips!

Are You Successfully Using Segmentation?

Do you have the right tracking and reporting in place to successfully optimize and convert your list through segmentation? Try our Advanced Analytics free for seven days to get to know a bit more about your subscribers’ email habits and target them with relevant content.

Boost ROI with Accessible Emails!

People all over the world live with visual impairments. How many of them are on your list? Can they read and act on your email campaigns? Email Accessibility is about more than just improving your reach. It shows empathy for every subscriber. Use Email on Acid to check accessibility before you hit send.

Try Campaign Precheck Free

Author: Alex Ilhan

Hailing all the way from England, Alex brings his email development expertise along with an endless stream of cups of tea and British cynicism. Follow him on Twitter: @omgitsonlyalex.

Author: Alex Ilhan

Hailing all the way from England, Alex brings his email development expertise along with an endless stream of cups of tea and British cynicism. Follow him on Twitter: @omgitsonlyalex.

1 thought on “8 Ways to Segment Your Email List to Maximize ROI”

  1. Email segmentation can radically improve the viability of your email marketing campaigns.

    Email list segmentation is a method that email advertisers use to send profoundly focused on messages by splitting their rundown into more modest gatherings, or “segments.”

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