This article was co-authored by Emily Collins and Keri Brooks.
Email segmentation is one of the most important steps you can take toward improving the performance of your email marketing program.
Personalizing your emails based on segments not only shows that you understand and care about your customers — but they also lead to higher engagement rates, conversions, and revenue from your email campaigns.
Here are four email segmentations that will make your emails and marketing campaigns more personalized and engaging.
Passing a contact’s sign-up source into your ESP allows you to segment contacts based on where or how they came to sign up for your emails.
Subscribers who sign up for emails via Facebook Lead Ads might need more education about your brand in an email welcome series than a contact who signed up on site. Knowing the channel in which a contact signed up and the creative or incentive that motivated them to do so gives you implicit data that can inform future communication.
“Analyzing the engagement and conversion data of your email audience by source can give your team valuable insights to help inform marketing strategies across channels. You might be seeing similar ROAS across paid channels, but how do those contacts convert over time?”
— Mandi Moshay, Director of CRM & Email at Tinuiti
“Understanding the lifetime value of subscribers based on source will allow you to better optimize spend across paid campaigns to acquire higher value and more loyal customers.”
Depending on which ESP and email sign-up overlay provider you utilize, setting up source code is a relatively simple process. In most cases, UTM parameters can be parsed and passed into source fields for easy segmentation.
If you do not have a dedicated technical team, reach out to your ESP or overlay provider for help or documentation.
How to segment emails by contact source
You can use source information to determine the content of onboarding emails.
Another use case would be if someone subscribes via your website footer rather than a pop-up that offers 20% off a first purchase.
Someone who took the time to seek out a sign-up opportunity in the footer is likely of higher intent and can be served a welcome email without a discount, leading to a higher margin for your brand on the first purchase.
Segmenting by email engagement activity is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase ROI, making it a must for those dipping their toes into email personalization.
Collecting email engagement activity is especially easy because most ESPs do it automatically, meaning there’s no extra work for you, the marketer.
Basic engagement data includes the emails that a user:
- Or converted from
But more robust segmentation opportunities open up when you dig deeper:
- What links did contacts click in a particular email?
- How many emails has a user received but neglected to open?
- What time of day or day of week are subscribers opening, clicking, or converting most often?
The insights you’ll glean through an analysis of engagement data can inform subject lines, email content, landing page links, promotional strategy, send time and day, mailing cadence, and more.
How to segment emails by engagement activity
Consider the following use cases for engagement data in your own program:
Determine your active audience
Set a threshold for opened or clicked within a certain number of emails/period of time to inform which contacts you’ll mail to regularly.
Identify unengaged contacts for reactivation
Set a threshold for contacts that haven’t opened or clicked within a certain number of emails/period of time to run through re-engagement efforts or remove from your list for hygiene purposes.
Use click data for segmentation
Use link clicks to determine contact interests or product affinity and use that information for better targeting. Example: Retarget contacts who clicked on sale/clearance links within your emails and follow-up with additional items that have been added to the sale section of your site.
Find the best time to send
Analyze open, click, and purchase data across mailings to determine when users are most likely to engage or convert. Pro tip: the times they are most likely to open an email might not always line up with the times they are most likely to make a purchase.
To take things a step further, you can move forward with A/B testing to better understand your audience’s email engagement preferences.
As with engagement data, most ESPs make it simple to collect and segment on purchase data.
Details of a customer’s order should pass right into the ESP in real-time, allowing you to trigger post-purchase messaging and leverage additional details from their past purchase behavior to tailor future communication.
Depending on the platform you’re using, additional tracking code may be required to pass conversion data into the ESP, so reach out to your platform’s customer service team for documentation and set-up instructions.
How to segment emails by purchase data
Once order data is flowing into the ESP, you can quickly and easily set up valuable segments for retargeting.
Here’s just a few key examples:
Identify your active shoppers
Set a threshold for ‘placed order within a certain number of emails/period of time’ to understand the make-up of your marketing list. Contacts who have both engaged with emails and placed a recent order are ripe for retargeting. Prime this audience for a subsequent order by reminding them what they loved about their first purchase and encouraging them to try something new.
Segment your non-purchasers for ongoing nurturing
Create a segment of contacts who are engaged with emails but have not converted and consider taking a more aggressive approach with your mailing cadence or promotional strategy, or communicate guarantees like free returns to remove anxiety from the purchase process.
Find common attributes amongst repeat purchasers
Analyze the products and promotions that compel most buyers to come back, again and again, to inform email merchandising and discounting. This type of data can also help you formulate the building blocks of a loyalty program.
Create cross-sell or upsell triggers
Cross-sell products by creating a segment of contacts that purchased X product, sending them an email with a complementary product. This can be set up as an automated flow in most ESPs.
“Every product your brand sells contains metadata: its size and dimensions, color and material, make and model, and countless other data points that might be specific to your business.”
— Alyssa Jarrett, Director of Brand & Content Marketing at Iterable
“This metadata is essential for advanced personalization without a large engineering lift, so make sure your ESP has the capability to store it as a catalog for individualized recommendations.”
If your products or promotions aren’t 100% gender-neutral, consider segmenting recipients based on gender to craft a more personal message.
Email campaigns make more of an impact if the copy and imagery are reflective of the person receiving your message.
There are a few different ways to determine a contact’s gender, but the most common is by explicitly asking the user what gendered category they’re most interested in at sign-up, or by using the category of products purchased as an implicit signal of the gender they identify with.
How to segment by gender
- Use the email hero image to represent the target gender (or include both male and female imagery for those contacts whose gender is unknown). Catering the hero image and products within an email to a specific gender can increase clicks as much as 30%.
- Test whether gender-specific copy increases engagement, using gendered pronouns or a more masculine or feminine tone.
While gender segmentation can be a powerful tool, be sure to tread lightly so as not to offend users with traditional gender roles or stereotypes. And keep in mind, when targeting based on gender, don’t be exclusive. Include products geared towards both genders.
“If you’re a brand that focuses on a particular gender, look for ways to be inclusive. Think of those that buy gifts for the opposite gender and are on your mailing list. Just because your brand only offers products geared toward a particular gender doesn’t mean your emails have to speak to that audience exclusively.”
— Keri Brooks, CRM & Email Strategist at Tinuiti
Email Segmentation Means Smarter, More Personalized Emails
If you haven’t already, now is the time to dig into your data and apply basic email segmentation for smarter email personalization.
Once you have built out these email segmentations, you’ll find more granular insights down the road that you can use to understand your audience behaviors to develop smarter email campaigns.
While these four segmentations are basic fundamentals, you should always be on the lookout for more creative ways to segment your email audience for more personalized email marketing.
Want to learn more ways you can personalize your emails?