Email Segmentation Best Practices And Strategies

By AdStation | February 17th, 2017 | Categories: Email Marketing

Email segmentation best practices and strategies start with observing, analyzing and knowing your customers. Your Customers vary. Your email messaging and offers must also vary to speak to these differing customer needs. The solution is to utilize email segmentation with your email list to group your customers in relevant ways. Sending the right message, to the right group of customers, at the right time – is the goal of your email segmentation strategy.

Email Segmentation Best Practices & Objectives

This article will give you a wealth of information, ideas and best practices for creating your own successful email segmentation strategies.

Email segmentation is crucial because all your customers aren’t the same. There is no one-size-fits-all way of sending one email message that will fit every subscriber every time. No way José.

Your subscribers will have different interests; have different needs; live in widely different locations; have different levels of experience and knowledge; will have discovered your products or services through different avenues.

The only way to address all these variations is by employing a well-designed email segmentation strategy tailored toward your particular business and its needs.

As we covered in our previous article on how to create email segmentation and succeed, at its most basic: the simplest grouping of segments is to group your subscribers into buyers and non-buyers.

In this article, we are going to go beyond the basics into the advanced and look at several different strategies for segmenting your subscribers.

You do not have to use all of these email segmentation factors. These are simply ideas to help you figure out which types of subscriber segmentation groupings will work best for you when it comes to segmenting your email subscribers.

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Segment by Demographics

One of the most common email segment groupings that are used is demographics. Common categories of demographic segmentation are:

  • Gender: if your products differ for males and females, you should create this segment.
  • Age: if your products and services vary for customers of different ages, you may want to segment by age.
  • Income Level: if a person’s income makes them more likely to purchase certain products, you may want to create this segment.
  • Occupation: if your products and services vary for customers of different occupations, you may want to segment by occupation.
  • Marital Status: if interest in certain products are affected by marital status, or if you notice a difference in the number of purchases between married or unmarried persons, you may want to create this segment.
  • Parental Status: if some of your products and services are more helpful to parents, you may want to create this segment to be able to market to them differently than subscribers without children.
  • Race: if the appeal of certain products or services differs between races, you may want to create this segment.
  • Education: if you notice a person’s education level creates different interests or buying patterns, you may want to create this segment.

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Customer Personas

A “persona” is a word used to describe the characteristics of a certain customer type. Another word for a persona is a customer profile. In most cases, it represents a combination of demographics, interests and needs that resemble a specific type of typical customer. Most businesses will have several types of personas that match their different customer types.

Will your customer personas be 100% accurate? No, they won’t. They don’t need to be either. Remember, the goal is to represent your typical or average types of customers. Your personas won’t be a 100% match, but they should be pretty darn close to the majority of the customers they represent.

Creating Personas or Customer Profiles

Creating customer profiles allows you to group subscribers by certain types of shared characteristics. For example, let’s say in your business, you might have one customer persona that represents the following:

  • Occupation: College student
  • Age: 18-24
  • Gender: Male

You may know by these three pieces of demographic information, that any subscriber who fits this persona is more likely to be interested in a certain type of product or service you offer.

Conversely, a female that also meets the first two demographics, will be interested in a different type of product or service you offer.

Therefore, you can construct two distinctly different sequences of email marketing messages that appeal directly to those two separate types of subscriber personas. The result is each type of user receives the messages relevant to them and is more satisfied.

The takeaway for personas is: you need to look at your users and figure out what appeals to different types of subscribers who are interested in your products or services. Create customer profiles that match these types and group your subscribers into the appropriate segment.

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Geographic Segmentation

Grouping segments by geographic location is another commonly employed method. Typical categories of geographic segmentation are:

  • Country: subscribers may have different interests in different locales.
  • State: different states may have different buying habits due to factors such as environment and weather. State segmentation is also useful if you operate physical locations. For example, different states have different tax rates and some states offer tax-free weekends at certain times of the year for particular types of goods.
  • City: especially useful if you operate physical locations.
  • Radius in miles or kilometers: this is especially useful if you have physical locations, as customers in nearer proximities may be more likely to visit those locations.
  • Language: if you sell international or multi-language products, you can divide your subscribers by the language they speak.

Geographic segmentation in action

For example, let’s say you sell a variety of sporting goods. People in regions that border oceans will have an interest in products they can use at the beach. People who live in the central states are not likely to be interested in these products. You would need to send them offers of products that are appropriate for their regional area.

In another example, if you have physical stores, you would want to send offers to customers who are within a reasonable driving (and/or walking) distance to a nearby location.

Further, geography may play a role depending on your products and services. You may consider factors such as:

  • Seasons and demand according to them.
  • Local retailers: the popularity and demand of certain products in those geographic areas.
  • Food interests in a particular locality. (Mexican food in the Southwest, grits and deep-fried pickles in the South)

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Segment by Interests and Needs

You can also segment your user's subscribers by their individual interests and needs.


You can figure your interests out by analyzing the following:

  • Information they’ve included in their customer profiles on your website (if you have such a feature).
  • Any surveys they’ve completed.
  • Which emails they’ve opened and the subject or content of that email.
  • Specific free offers they downloaded from your website.
  • The number of free offers they opt in to receive.
  • Recent purchases.
  • Past purchases.


You can segment needs by considering the following:

  • Awareness level: segment your prospects by where they are on the buyer’s journey. Divide into segments based on: awareness, consideration, or decision stage to receive information targeted to their level.
  • Buying cycle: separate prospects into segments aimed at where they are in the sales cycle: awareness, interest, desire, or action.

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Behavioral-based Segments

Behavioral segmentation looks at the activities and interactions of your users. Understanding the behaviors of your users requires that you use tracking and analytics to discover what these behaviors are.

Based on your analytics, you might segment your users based on these factors:

  • Number or percentage of email opens. This will help you divide subscribers by activity level. Most importantly, it will help you separate in active subscribers whose lack of activity may negatively impact your sender’s reputation score.
  • Number or percentage of email clicks. This will help you determine a subscriber’s interest level, as well as, may indicate those more likely to make a purchase.
  • Interests: if you sell multiple products, it may be possible that one type of product you sell would not be of interest to another. Therefore, segment your subscribers by products likely to be of interest to them. You can get an idea of customer interest by the emails they open or interact with.
  • Length of inactivity: you might group these by activity in the past 30 days, 90 days, etc.
  • Decrease in activity: you might look at a certain period of time (30, 60, 90 days) and segment accordingly.
  • Increase in activity: an increase in activity might indicate a subscriber is ready to make a purchase or is looking for additional information. This would be the time to send them appropriate information or discount offers to prompt them to make a purchase.
  • Activity level: separate into segments based on how active they have been at opening and/or clicking through in your emails. Segments containing less active subscribers should receive emails that offer them rewards or other incentives to become active again.
  • Hyper-Activity (these are your best subscribers). These are subscribers you might want to offer rewards, discounts or loyalty programs to. Rewarding their activity often turns these types of customers into your best brand advocates.
  • Email Segmentation Best Practices: Segment by Customer Journeys
  • Specific free offers they downloaded from your website. These will help you determine their interests and needs.
  • The number of free offers they opt in to receive. These will help you determine their interests and needs.
  • Recent purchases: knowledge of recent purchases helps you decide what products or accessories this customer needs.
  • Past purchases: helps you determine the interests and future needs of this customer. Depending on your business, a purchase of one type of your products may inherently lead to another. This could be add-on, accessories, etc. Segment your list according to what a purchaser may need next.
  • Frequency of purchases: helps you determine the likelihood of future purchases. More than that, subscribers who frequently make purchases from you, may be worthy of their own segment simply because they are your best customers. You might reward these subscribers with loyalty rewards, turning them into brand advocates and leading to increased sales.
  • Shopping cart abandonment: create segments that send users who leave items in their cart emails to encourage them to complete their purchase. Consider offering discounts as incentives for them to complete a purchase.
  • Non-Buyers: subscribers who have not made a purchase. These subscribers would require informational, educational, trust building and other offers to move them towards the purchase stage
  • Recent visits to your website: this may indicate a move to the decision or purchase stage. This might be used as a trigger to send targeted emails to encourage purchase and/or offer discounts for a purchase.
  • Interests: if you sell multiple products, it may be possible that one type of product you sell would not be of interest to another. Therefore, segment your subscribers by products likely to be of interest to them.
  • Inactive: these are subscribers who have not opened your emails in a significant amount of time. These types of subscribers are problematic for your email list. We will discuss these types of subscribers in the next section.

There are many more factors that may be important to your particular business or products.

Email Segmentation Best Practices: Segment Inactive Subscribers

Inactive subscribers are those who have not opened an email for a significant amount of time. Keeping these subscribers within your main email mailing segments can be damaging to your overall email marketing efforts.

The main thing you need to know is… Inactive subscribers need to be separated into their own segments.

Continually sending emails to subscribers who do not open them will affect your reputation score with the various email providers (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.). The outcome of this is that it makes it more difficult to deliver emails to all of your subscribers.

To get a full understanding, read these vital email list maintenance tips.

Creating segments for unopened emails and undeliverable email addresses

Separate subscribers into “user activity” groups. You may have users who have not opened an email in 30 days. You may have others that have not opened an email in 90 days. You would want to separate these users into their own segments and email them separately so that your main segments they belong to, will not be affected or penalized by having a significant amount of your sent emails sent go unopened.

Undeliverable email addresses

Emails that are not deliverable, those that “bounce,” are the most harmful to your email list. There are two types of non-deliverable emails. Temporary and permanent.

Temporary non-deliverable emails: this might occur when an email server is temporarily offline or another technical glitch. You might successfully deliver these on the next attempt. However, if they fail again on the second attempt it is best to remove these addresses from your email list.

Permanent non-deliverable emails: these email addresses will not be deliverable and should be removed from your email list.

Main Takeaways for Email Segmentation Best Practices:

The main reason to segment your email list is to group like-minded users together to be able to send each group the most relevant message.

☑ Email segmentation helps to ensure subscribers will receive the types of email messages they want.

☑ Email segmentation can help reduce unsubscribed.

☑ Email segmentation can increase sales by sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

☑ There are a variety of ways you can segment your subscribers into meaningful groupings.

☑ There are many more possible segment groupings than those listed in this article.

☑ There are no exact rules for the specific or exact number of segments you should have.

☑ Which segments are necessary and appropriate will vary depending on the type of subscribers and business you operate.

☑ Use analytics to discover the habits of your subscribers and use this information to create appropriate segments.

☑ Bulk email marketing service providers offer tools and templates to help automate and make the process of segmenting your email list much easier.

☑ Inactive subscribers are harmful to your overall email marketing efforts. The subscribers should be placed in their own segments.