Megan from MailerLite

Megan13 min readTips & ResourcesMay 1, 2019

How to use automation to segment your subscribers by behavior

How to use automation to segment your subscribers by behavior

Email automation and segmentation – we told you in our 2019 email trend forecast that these two are a match made in heaven. (And they’re about to get even cozier this year.)

By combining the two, you'll be able to send tailored messages that make each individual reader feel like you're talking directly to them. While in reality, you only have to set up your campaign once and email automation will do the rest.

As a reminder, email automation lets you automatically deliver a relevant email at the perfect time. It’s the “happy to have you here” welcome email that’s sent minutes after a website visitor signs up for your newsletter. And that’s just one example.

Email segmentation is where you get up close and personal with your new subscribers. Segmenting your contacts into targeted groups makes it a whole lot easier to send personalized email campaigns that get you those #winning results.

So, how can you use email automation to segment your subscribers and deliver personalized, meaningful messages?

Let’s dive in!

We’ll show you how to use email automation based on behavioral segmentation (and pop in inspirational, fictional examples while we’re at it).


Email segmentation used to be “let’s collect all contacts with the gender female in one group.” Surely this helps you craft a more relevant email (or at least makes sure you don’t advertise men’s razors in your newsletter), but email segmentation options have gotten more exciting over time.

Nowadays, email segmentation can be based on many different online behaviors, such as when your subscribers click certain links, visit certain web pages or make a specific purchase.

behavioral segmentation

When you segment your subscribers by these types of behaviors, you gain insight into what they like. Your emails can speak directly to their interests, which will skyrocket engagement.

To determine which behaviors to segment, you need to put on your detective hat. Think about what you want to achieve and then analyze your subscribers’ actions to figure out what will help you target them better.

The smaller the behavioral segments that you create, the better you're able to send tailored messages.

Behavioral Segmentation Example

Let’s say you run a sneaker boutique. It would make a lot of sense to send your female readers emails that promote sneakers for women. But wouldn’t it be even better if you grouped all women that bought Nike sneakers into one segment and automatically sent them an email once a Nike sneaker for women is released? Imagine how perfect the relevancy and timing of that email would be (and sure enough, the conversation rate).

With the use of automation, segmenting contacts becomes a dynamic process. Contacts are added and moved to different groups as you collect more information about them.

Though there are countless ways you can segment based on behavior, we’ll focus on these  4 behavioral marketing segments

  1. Interest
  2. Engagement
  3. Purchase (like the sneaker example above)
  4. Customer feedback

As you read along, you will learn how to use automation to create each segment.


This type of behavioral segmentation uses your audience’s interests to create personal, engaging emails. Big players like Spotify and Netflix use this method all the time to send out automated emails.

Have you ever received Spotify's yearly roundup email that includes your most played songs and favorite genres of that year? Spotify smartly uses this information to automatically introduce you to similar music or update you about new releases.

You don’t have to be a huge company like Spotify to benefit from behavioral segmentation.

What do you know about your customer’s interests? And how can you use this information to tighten the customer relationship, add value, sell other/more products or increase product usage?

Let’s use a fictional example to see what this automation flow looks like...

Let’s say you’re a travel agency. Last night, Sally from Chicago signed up for your email list through a landing page promoting an Art Basel Miami special. She was automatically added to a subscriber group called “Art Basel Miami Signups.” This interest can later be used to send Sally automated messages about this event and similar events.

Your new workflow might be set up like this.

Workflow Art Basel Miami

1. The signup form on the landing page automatically adds new subscriber to a group named "Art Basel Miami Signups"

2. The automation workflow is triggered when subscriber joins the group.

3. The first message is a personalized welcome email that includes 2 promotional offers. The first includes a flight, a 3-day stay at Wynwood hotel and an entry ticket. The second is just for the flight and entry ticket.

automated segmentation workflow

You can take advantage of behavioral targeting by interest with automated emails based on where your subscribers visit and engage. Let’s say your subscribers read your blog. You can segment them based on which blogs they read by using link triggers (we’ll discuss link triggers below).


For one reason or another, some of your subscribers are more active in opening your emails than others.

You can automatically segment a group of subscribers based on their engagement with your campaigns.

Let’s head back to Sally. How does her email engagement influence the workflow?

Remember Sally? After step 3, you can set up another condition based on whether Sally opened the email or not. Which leaves it up to her engagement how the workflow continues.

If she opens, Sally will be added to a group named “Engaged.” If she didn’t, a reminder email is sent 2 days later.

engagement workflow

When you have a segment of “Engaged” subscribers, you can target specific emails to them with special offers or other forms of appreciation for being loyal.


When using segmentation based on purchases, you can go about it in several different ways.

You can use previous purchases to predict the future purchases the customer will make. Or, you can observe how to customer behaves in different phases of the customer journey to estimate how likely the person is to complete an order.

Did the person click the CTA in the email and put a product in their basket? This shows that the chance of a sale is very likely. If the customer doesn’t end up buying, then an automated reminder email can help complete the order.

ecommerce checkout

Let’s look at this type of segmentation in Sally’s story.

Let’s say Sally opened the email and got carried away by the thought of exchanging Chicago coldness for Miami sunshine. She clicked on the CTA in the email to potentially book the flight, hotel, and entry ticket package.

But then, she didn’t complete the order...

No worries. Another automated email campaign can seal the deal. Add an abandoned cart email to your workflow that kindly reminds Sally that she should hurry and confirm her trip before the promotion ends. This can be done using the “Updated field” trigger.

If she books the trip, you can celebrate another conversion (hooray!). If she doesn’t, you can send out a “now or never” email a couple of days later.

For our fictional example, let’s give this story a cha-ching ending. Welcome to Miami...Bienvenido a Miami!


The easiest way to gather more information about your customers is to ask them. In-email surveys are the perfect way to do this.

A simple implementation is a survey where the customer is asked about their satisfaction. A thumbs up or thumbs down rating at the end of a newsletter can help you discover if the email was valuable for the reader.

In our Sally example, the feedback is used to nurture the relationship and collect reviews.

The last thing we knew about Sally is that she headed to Miami, but what happens next?

Well, you can implement a survey block in a new email and ask the art aficionado what she thought of the trip.

If Sally only gives her experience a sad face, you can automatically group her with other subscribers that need some TLC. In a new automated workflow, a voucher for a next booking can be sent out once a subscriber is added to this group.

On the contrary, happy campers that gave 8-10 shiny stars can also be segmented into a group. This workflow can, for example, automatically send out an email motivating the client to write a public review in exchange for a discount.


Now you’ve gotten a taste of how behavioral segmentation works together with email automation. Your audience, their interests, purchases, and engagement can all be used for future automated email segmentation opportunities. But there’s more!

You can use customer segmentation also based on:

What segmentation can tell you about your customers

The list goes on and on. This doesn’t mean that each segment makes sense for your business. Have a look at your personal data and see what segment groups make sense for your strategy.

​Keeping your automated segments up to date

Where demographic data has no expiration date (birthdays will happen each year, as much as we’d like to stay young), preferences can change. If we look at Sally, she might just want to visit Art Basel and have no interest in any other artsy adventures.

Therefore, make sure to set up an automated trigger that no longer bothers readers when they show inactivity.

Or, run a win-back email campaign that asks inactive subscribers if they still want to receive your newsletter (and if so, what kind of content she’d like to receive).

And how about Sally?

With the information about her purchase, you can add Sally to a new subscriber group called “Art Basel all-in package” and send tips, artist information, city guides, and reminders ahead of her trip (all automated, of course).


As we talked about earlier, the shopping behavior of your customers is a perfect base for automated emails. By connecting your MailerLite account to your e-commerce platform using an integration, you will have all the purchase information available.

Then it’s up to you how to use that information. For example, cross-selling can be done easily with the use of email automation. One cross-selling method is to filter customers that have bought a specific product (let’s say a MacBook). You can then find products that are also relevant or interesting and create a product newsletter with your recommendations (things like a mouse pad, antivirus software or laptop case).

Your automated sequence then works like this: When a customer purchases XYZ product(s), wait 7 days and then automatically send the cross-sell email.

cross sell newsletter

What would this look like in Sally’s situation?

For Sally, this would mean you could send her updates about other art fairs in America. In another segmented automated email, you can tell her about package deals for upcoming music festivals and fashion week happenings. Based on whether Sally clicks on any links, you will discover what other interests she has. We call this self-segmentation.

Want to set up your own link trigger construction? Read on…


Link triggers let you tag subscribers and add them automatically to an interest group based on behavior. If the reader clicks on a link anywhere in the newsletter, a customer field is updated. This custom field can then be used to start a new workflow.

In MailerLite, this works as follows:

  1. First, you create a new workflow.
  2. Then you select “When a subscriber clicks a link” as the trigger and insert the link.
  3. Next, you can create the workflow. You decide what happens when the subscriber clicks the link – maybe they automatically receive an email or are added to a group.
  4. After activating the workflow, the workflow will automatically start when the link from step 2 is clicked on. (This counts for every email that has this link.)

Our video maestro Marcin gives you the rundown on how to set up link triggers in this video.

The possibilities of how you can use link trigger segmentation are endless! The workflow can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. From just adding people to a group to activating a series of emails.

For example, you can start talking about a subject in your newsletter and then add a CTA with the text “Want to know more? Click here”. Your workflow would then automatically add everyone that clicks on the link into one group and send targeted follow-up emails on that specific topic.


Why segmentation and automation will work wonders for you too

The beautiful thing about segmented email automation is that it will not only send the right emails to Sally but also to Alex, Brandy and all your other subscribers.

We love combining segmentation and automation because we see the results.

At first, it might seem daunting to prepare campaigns for the customer journey and think of ways to engage with your customers even after their purchase. You will have to get to know your contacts and set up the segments. Then you'll bring it all together using automated campaigns. This might take you a day or two and a whole lot of coffee, but trust us, the results will be more than worth it!

Once you set up the workflows, our software will quietly sort and assign the right people to the right subscriber groups. It will automatically send targeted messages, collect useful user data and drive sales all while you’re busy going about your day.

How amazing is that?


Let us know in the comments below which automated email segmentation workflow you need help with!

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