What is Email List Segmentation and Why You Need it

Email list segmentation divides your subscribers into smaller groups based on a set of characteristics that will help you deliver more targeted emails.

Every company in the world from Google to your local bakery want the same thing when it comes to marketing — to have the ability to send the right message to the right person at the right time.

Your subscribers have different interests, habits, and needs. Sending out mass messages to everyone will never meet those needs. Segmentation allows you to create smaller groups so that you can send messages that only they care about. 

Once you increase relevance in your email marketing, your open rates and click-throughs will go through the roof.

In fact, companies that actively segment have reported huge open rate increases, better deliverability and less unsubscribes. Why?

Smart segmentation leads to personalization, which helps you build trust and loyalty with your subscribers.

How to start segmenting your email list

The hardest part of email list segmentation is getting started. What are the right characteristics to use? How do you know which subscribers need what? What if you don't have any data?

Don't worry about finding the perfect segments right away. Segmentation is not a quick fix, but a long journey of experimenting and learning.

People subscribed to your list for different reasons. The best way to uncover these differences within your list is to start with a basic segmentation like geography or signup source.

Your goal is to build more detailed profiles of each subscriber as times goes by. You will learn more about what your subscribers need as you interact with them.

Refining your segments is always a work in progress. As your segments evolve into even smaller groups, your messages will increase in value. 

First, you'll want to get started by defining your segmentation goals.

What are segmentation goals?

Segmentation goals start with your overarching email marketing goals. 

  • What are you trying to achieve through email? 
  • How will segmenting your list help you achieve those goals?

Let's say your goal is to convert more subscribers into customers. You can then look at your current product mix to determine which customers buy each type of product. 

For example, you know that people in cold climates buy jackets and people in warm climates buy swimsuits. You can easily segment those customers by geography. This example might be an oversimplification of segmentation, but keeping it simple is a good way to start. 

Another piece of advice: limit your segments to 3 characteristics.

If you over segment your audience, you will find yourself with hundreds of unique groups that will be tough to manage.

For example, women, under 30 who like to ski is a good starting point. Women under 30 who are divorced, living in California with 2 cats and like to ski is way too specific. Keep it simple at first. Your segments will naturally evolve from there.

4 easy ways to segment your email list

You can segment your email list based on all kinds of characteristics, including geographic (where you live), demographics (age, gender, income), psychographics (interests and personality), and by subscriber behaviors (purchase history, customer journey or online engagement.)

With so many possible data points to choose from, segmenting can quickly feel overwhelming. 

MailerLite makes it easy to set up and test all kinds of segments based on geography, demographics, psychographics or behaviors.

1. Segment by geography

If you are selling swimsuits, would you send a promotional email in March to your entire list or just the people who live in warm areas?

Geographic segmentation divides your subscribers by where they live. Segmenting based on geography is an easy way to send targeted emails based on regional factors like weather, local customs or events.

You can create geographical segments of your subscribers based on the location data that is collected from their' IP address when they subscribe. 

Did you know? With MailerLite, you already have geographic data on your subscribers if they signed up with a MailerLite form.

2. Segment by demographics

Demographic segmentation divides your list by quantifiable characteristics of people groups. Examples of demographics include age, gender, income, and ethnicity. 

These are the basic characteristics that help define general populations. Though they might seem broad, you can still improve your email metrics by tailoring messages by demographics.

Let's say you are an insurance company that offers different plans based on age. Instead of sending a long, generic email listing each plan for each group, you can segment the list and create shorter, more relevant emails targeted at each age group.

Demographics is a good first step to segmentation, but you can go deeper by adding psychographics to the mix.

Psychographics is just a fancy word for trying to understand things like a subscriber's personality, values, attitudes, and interests. Marketers articulate audience psychographics by creating personas.

3. Segment by customer personas (psychographics)

When you combine demographics with psychographics, you can create customer personas to get a more well-rounded view of the types of people that you are targeting.

Building customer personas is a way to personify your target audiences.

Personas make it easier for everyone in your organization to visualize the people they are serving. But even more importantly, it gives marketers a richer set of data points to help segment their email list.

Personas are fictional, generalized descriptions of a person. Sometimes it helps to give the persona a name and photo to help them feel real. That said, creating the right personas requires discipline, market research and talking to your current customers. 

Try not to make up characteristics based on what you think a person should be like. Find hard evidence to back up your assumptions.

Here are some questions that will get you started.

  • What demographic info do you already know?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they want to accomplish with your product?
  • What does their daily life look like?

One way to separate your subscribers into different buyer personas is by looking at how they engage with you. 

  • Do they use social media? 
  • Are they part of your community? 
  • Do they contact customer support?

When your subscribers interact with you, you can set triggers that automatically create new segments. This is called behavioral segmentation.

4. Segment by behavior

What is behavioral segmentation? When a subscriber visits your website, your blog or social media sites, you can place a trigger that automatically puts their email address in a group based on where they visit.

Let's say you have a segment of subscribers who read your blog. You can set a trigger to capture more subscribers who visit your blog. When a new subscriber clicks on the link to your blog, their email address is automatically placed into your blog segment. 

You can now send new blogs or related content to the subscribers that you know read your blog.

This type of behavioral segmentation can be powerful because the subscriber is activating the segmentation based a real action.

Here are a few more ways to segment based on behavior:

Website engagement

Create a list of subscribers that frequent certain areas of your website. For example, if you know that there are a lot of people who love watching videos on your help page, that's a great opportunity to start a new segment.

Email engagement

Look at your email metrics to separate the less active subscribers from those who engage often. This way you can create a segment of highly-engaged readers and offer them different incentives or encourage them to share content.

Social influencers

Do you have subscribers that are also active on social media? These are the people you want to connect with and cultivate a stronger relationship. They can share your content and provide a much-needed boost.

Customer journey

If you have insight into how people become customers, segmenting your list based on your purchase funnel can be powerful. Let's say a subscriber read a blog post, then went to your product page but didn't buy. A trigger can put that person in a specific segment where you send them a targeted email to nudge them towards a purchase.

Leveraging subscriber behavior though automation is extremely powerful, and it's not as complicated as you might think. MailerLite's automation and subscriber management tools are designed for non-technical professionals.

MailerLite makes it easy to create email segments

Our subscriber management feature provides all the tools that you need to organize your lists and to manage your segments. MailerLite allows you to set your rules and automate the process.

Here's a video tutorial to get you started:

Automation + Segmentation = Personalization

Segmenting your email is one of the most important things you can do to improve your email marketing campaigns. As your content becomes more relevant, opens and clicks will improve and you will stay away from the spam folder.

Remember to check what types of devices your subscribers are using. Segmenting users based on their device can make a huge difference. The user experience is completely different on each device, which can help you change out the content to enhance the experience for everyone.

Whichever type of segmentation you use, there is one thing you HAVE to remember — customize your content to match the segments.

Our Ultimate Guide has now covered automation and segmentation. In the next chapter, we'll dive deeper into personalization!