Email Segmentation: How To Target the Right Audience for Maximum Impact

Email segmentation and personalization in digital email newsletter

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If you’re investing in email marketing but you’re not using email segmentation strategies, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The reality is that while email is still one of the best ways to reach, engage, and nurture your audience, it works best when you have the right strategy. 

Even in a world of instant messaging and social media, 99% of people still check their email inboxes every day. Unfortunately, those inboxes are often filled with too many messages for consumers to manage. That means if your email doesn’t make an impact, it’s just going to be ignored. 

Email segmentation is the ultimate way to ensure you not only capture your customer’s attention but also convince them to interact with your brand. In fact, HubSpot’s research revealed subscriber segmentation is the most effective way to improve the ROI of your email campaigns.

So, where do you get started? Here’s your complete guide to email segmentation.

What is Email Segmentation? The Basics

Lead Generation Digital Email Marketing concept

Email segmentation or “list segmentation” is the practice of breaking your email contact list down into smaller, targeted groups based on specific factors. It’s how you ensure you’re sending the right messages at the right time to each segment of your target audience.

The way you “segment” your email list can vary depending on various factors. Some companies create relatively broad, basic segments, such as segments for male and female customers or segments of customers for each geographic location they serve. Others are a lot more granular. For instance, you might create segments based on the most recent actions a customer took on your website.

Some of the most common “types” of segmentation for email marketing strategies include:

Demographic Email Segmentation

One of the most common ways to segment your email list is by specific “demographic data.” Demographic data is all of the personal characteristics that help define your customers, such as their gender or gender identity, location, age, job title, salary, and so on. 

Which demographics you should prioritize depends on the products and services you offer. For instance, if you run a clothing store, it makes sense to focus on people’s age and gender so you can recommend products that are relevant to them in your emails. If you’re a B2B company, segmenting based on salary and job title can help you drive better conversions

Behavioral segmentation

Behavioral segmentation is a little more complex. It involves taking a close look at your customer’s journey and how they interact with your brand. For instance, you might divide your customers into segments based on the types of products they buy or add to their cart. If you’re running a home décor store, you may have different groups of people who often buy rugs or art deco accessories. 

You can also build your behavioral segments around things like how your customers subscribed to your newsletter (did they attend a webinar, respond to a lead magnet, or just sign up to hear about your latest news?), what pages they visit on your website, and how they engage with your brand.

Psychographic segmentation

Psychographic segmentation is a lot like behavioral segmentation. However, instead of focusing on what your customers do, you think more about what drives your behaviors. This requires a more comprehensive email segmentation strategy that focuses on learning about your customers and their priorities. For instance, you might ask your customers to share information about themselves, such as what kind of topics and content they’re interested in, when they sign up for your newsletter.

You can also gain insights into certain psychographic behaviors by looking at how customers interact with your newsletter. For instance, some of your customers might constantly open emails about your latest products but ignore emails related to blog posts and industry news.

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The Benefits of Email Segmentation

One of the things that makes email marketing so unique, compared to other promotional strategies, is that it’s very easy to personalize the experience. You’re not just posting content online for anyone to view. Instead, you can send highly targeted messages to people based on unique factors. 

Although this does take a little more time and effort than simply sending the same generic emails to all of your subscribers, email segmentation does pay off. By personalizing your email marketing strategy to each “group” of customers you serve, you can:

  • Increase open rates: Studies show that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. If you have the right segments, you can ensure your subject lines actually speak to the interests, pain points, and expectations of your audience. 
  • Boost click-through rates: After a customer clicks on your email, if they find content specifically tailored to their needs, they’ll be more likely to interact with it, clicking on links and visiting your website. Personalized emails can achieve up to 139% higher click-through rates compared to generic alternatives. 
  • Improve conversion rates: Customers who receive emails relevant to their specific needs and interests aren’t just more likely to click on them; they’re also more likely to convert. With a targeted email segmentation approach, you can ensure you’re sending the right messages to customers at the right times, boosting your chances of conversions.
  • Reduce unsubscribes: People don’t want to be overwhelmed with irrelevant clutter in their inbox. If you’re constantly sending the wrong content to customers, your unsubscribe rates will skyrocket. Alternatively, segmented campaigns have unsubscribe rates that are up to 9.4% lower, ensuring you can retain your list for longer. 
  • Increase deliverability: If someone doesn’t delete your email, ignore it, or unsubscribe from your message, they could mark it as spam. The more your emails are marked as spam, the more your deliverability rates suffer. 
Detail of businesspeople hands working on Email Marketing schema

X Email Segmentation Strategies to Try in 2024

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to approach email segmentation. There are tons of different strategies you can use to ensure you’re sending more relevant messages to your audience. The key to success is finding out which strategy works best for your business. 

Based on our experience building email marketing campaigns, here are some of the most effective segmentation strategies you can try for yourself. 

1. Create Welcome Emails for New Customers

One of the most effective ways to master email segmentation is to create a segment specifically for new customers interacting with your brand. Welcome emails are excellent for capturing your customer’s attention, strengthening their relationship with your brand, and boosting conversions. 

Studies show that more than 8 out of 10 people will open a welcome email (4 times more than any other email type). They give you a fantastic opportunity to “onboard” new contacts and start building lucrative relationships. You can use your welcome emails to introduce your customers to your company, sharing valuable tutorials, articles, and content, like Squarespace does here:

Email asking the writer to upgrade their Squarespace account

You could also use your welcome emails to gather more insights from your target audience. For instance, you might ask them to create an account on your website, where they can control how often they receive emails and choose the content they’re most interested in. This gives you even more in-depth information for future email segmentation techniques.

Some companies even create entire “drip campaigns” of welcome emails, with a series of messages that include introductions to the brand, offers for new subscribers, and links to popular products.

2. Segment Customers Based on Purchasing Behavior

Another excellent way to boost your marketing ROI with email segmentation is to send messages to customers based on the things they’ve purchased in the past. This is usually much easier to do if you only sell a handful of products or sell items in specific “categories.” 

For instance, the ILIA company segments customers based on the types of products they buy (such as sustainable or eco-friendly cosmetics). You could also

Email by Ilia targeting the new customer segment

If you’re struggling to segment your list based on specific purchases, you can try segmenting by:

  • Purchase value: Separate your customers into groups based on the average amount they spend with your company during each purchase. You might have one group for big spenders and one for more budget-conscious shoppers. 
  • Purchase frequency: Create a list of people who tend to buy from your company once a month, once a week, once a quarter, or once a year. This can help you to determine when to send offers and discounts to different consumers. 
  • Purchase category: If you sell different types of products, such as clothing for men, women, and children, or shoes and accessories, place people in different groups based on the “category” they spend the most money in. 

All of these strategies will make it much easier to create promotional campaigns that highlight the products your consumers are most likely to buy. 

3. Create Segments for Each Funnel Stage

We’ve already mentioned one way you can use email segmentation to target customers at the beginning of the sales funnel. However, you don’t have to stop there. If you’re using a CRM tool or analytics that allows you to track information about your customers and their buyer journey, you can create segments based on where your lead is at any given moment. 

For instance, after your customers receive their welcome email, they’ll probably still be in the “early” stages of the funnel, when they’re interested in learning more about your company, the benefits of your products and service, and the value you offer. Move these customers into a “top of the funnel” segment and send them content designed to earn their trust.

Email by Avocode targeting warm leads

After your customer makes their first purchase, they might not need to learn as much about your brand, but they may be interested in hearing about the latest news related to your company, new product launches, or recent blog posts. 

If your customer has been buying from your business for a while, then you can push them into the “advocacy and nurturing” funnel, where you share more content related to helping them use their products more effectively, accessing exclusive deals, or using loyalty programs. 

4. Build an Exclusive Segment for Your VIPs

While all customers are valuable to your brand, some are a lot more lucrative than others. The customers who constantly click on your emails, buy from your business, interact with you on digital channels, and even promote your company for you deserve an extra level of attention. 

Rather than focusing all of your efforts on connecting with customers at the beginning of their lifecycle with your business, look for ways to reward and retain your best customers. Find out which customers are most valuable to your brand, and let them know how much you value them:

  • Special occasion emails: Send your VIP customers emails on their birthday with special offers attached, or give them a great deal for every year they spend on your subscriber list. This will convince them to stick with your brand for longer. 
  • Unique opportunities: Give your most valuable customers a chance to earn more rewards with loyalty programs or referral strategies. You could even ask customers to become advocates for your brand. 
  • Exclusive offers: Every so often, give your VIP customers a reward for their repeat purchases. Provide them with an exclusive discount or a freebie to let them know how much you value their repeated custom.
9 Customer Appreciation Email Examples To Boost Customer Loyalty

5. Segment Based on Email Engagement 

Most email automation tools will allow you to track important engagement metrics to help you understand your subscribers’ preferences. 

Using your analytical tools, you might be able to find out which customers are happy to receive and open emails every day and which only read your emails once or twice a month. This can help you split your customers into segments based on email cadence so you don’t overwhelm the wrong customers. You could also learn that some customers open certain types of email more than others.

For instance, some of your customers might love opening emails that show them all of your latest news stories and blog posts, while others might just want emails that tell them about offers. 

You can make more granular decisions about which emails to send by asking customers to choose for themselves which emails they want. For instance, Spotify allows customers to choose exactly what they want to hear about by signing into their account:

7 Really Good Unsubscribe Pages + Preference Centers | by Kait Creamer |  Really Good Emails

Segmenting based on levels of engagement ensures you can more effectively send the right content to your customers at the right time while reducing your unsubscribe rates. 

6. Use Email Segmentation to Re-engage Lost Customers

Another great way to use email segmentation alongside “engagement” insights is to find out which of your customers are no longer interacting with your messages as often as they once were. You should be able to use your email analytics to spot customers who haven’t opened your emails for a while or have started opening messages a lot less than they once did. 

Create a specific segment for “disengaged” subscribers, and send them emails designed to reignite their passion for and interest in your brand. For instance, you could send a message simply reminding customers why they signed up with your brand in the first place, as Duolingo does here:

Email from Duolingo sending a sad owl to users who didn't complete their practice in a week or so

Alternatively, you could send messages to your customers encouraging them to buy your products and services with a discount or exclusive offer. You could even use these “re-engagement” emails to request information from your customers about why they’re not interacting with you.

Ask them to fill out a simple survey or let you know if you’re sending emails too frequently, sharing the wrong content, or doing something else to damage your relationship. 

7. Segment based on Website Behavior

Basing your email segmentation strategy around the ways your customers interact with your emails can be a fantastic way to boost your marketing ROI. However, it’s also worth looking at how you might be able to segment based on other behaviors, too – like what customers do on your website. 

One of the most obvious and popular ways to segment customers based on “website” behavior is to create a list of customers who add items to their cart but leave your website without buying anything. If your customers already have an account on your website, you should be able to track when they’re “abandoning” their carts so you can send them emails automatically. 

You can even dynamically showcase the products they’ve considered purchasing in your emails to remind them what they are looking at.

Email asking the reader if they are interested in Hive trail mix

Abandoned cart emails are often extremely effective and can convert up to three times more than other forms of automated email. Another way to segment based on website behavior is to allow your customers to request notifications about specific out-of-stock products they might be interested in.

Just add a button to your product pages that allows customers to request notifications when a product comes back in stock. This will ensure you don’t miss out on potential conversions just because a product wasn’t available when a customer arrived on your site. 

8. Tailor Emails to Different Device Preferences

Around 1.7 billion people open emails on their mobile phones. That means regardless of what kind of business you’re running, you should probably ensure your emails load well on mobile devices. However, if your campaign reporting shows you that some customers send messages on their phones more often than others, you could segment your list based on this information.

For instance, if you know that some customers are more likely to open emails on a desktop, you can send them longer messages that feature more content, videos, and dynamic elements that are easy to access on a larger screen. For your customers who open emails on a mobile device, create a version of your message that’s easier to navigate on a smaller screen.


The mobile-focused emails could feature:

  • Less text
  • Fewer images
  • Videos that don’t play automatically
  • Buttons instead of text hyperlinks
  • Single column layouts

Notably, since the number of mobile email users is constantly growing, it’s worth constantly paying attention to your stats to ensure you’re serving the right version of your email to all customers.

9. Segment Based on Company or Job Title

Email marketing isn’t just a strategy for B2C companies. It’s important for B2B businesses, too. However, how you segment your B2B customers can differ. For instance, rather than focusing on things like age and gender, you’re more likely to get results by looking at things like your customer’s industry, job title, or salary. 

For instance, the size of a company will influence their needs, budget, and what kind of products they’re looking for from your brand. A person’s title will also determine what sort of content they’re interested in. For instance, a CFO might want to hear more about the financial benefits of your product, while a CEO might look at the overall impact your solution will have on revenue, productivity, and other factors. 

The best way to ensure you can use this email segmentation method effectively is to ask some basic questions on your email sign-up form. Ask for the first name of your customer, their company name, the industry they work in, or the number of employees they have. You can also ask for things like “job title” if that’s relevant to your business. 

Keep in mind that the more fields you have on your email sign-up form, the harder it will be to get conversions, so if you’re going to be asking a lot of questions, make sure you’re offering something valuable in return (like an exclusive discount or lead magnet).

B2B Email Marketing Guide: Tips, Best Practices & Examples

10. Segment by Signup Channel

While asking your customers to share more information about themselves or telling you what they want to see in emails can help with your email segmentation efforts, there is a downside. Many customers will avoid signing up for a newsletter if they have to share too much information. 

Fortunately, there are other ways you can guess what your customers are interested in. For instance, creating slightly different forms for different “sign-up channels” can provide insights into a subscriber’s interests. For instance, you might have one form for customers who sign up for your newsletter after reading articles on the “sales” part of your blog and another for people who read “marketing” based content. 

If a customer decides to sign up for your newsletter after reading a lot of sales-based content, then you know they’re likely to be interested in hearing about similar things in the future. Tools like “MailerLite” allow you to create groups and segments based specifically on “signup source.”

Subscriber management dashboard showing a segment by signup source - MailerLite

Bonus: Combine Multiple Segmentation Techniques

All of the ten strategies for email segmentation above can deliver excellent results for a range of different businesses. However, it’s worth remembering that you don’t have to use just one method. Depending on the email marketing tools you use, you can combine various tags and filters to create even more granular and specific groups. 

For instance, you might have a list of subscribers who have shown interest in a specific product category and spent more than $100 in the last month. Or you might combine things like a person’s location, age, and gender to send them more specific product recommendations. 

It’s worth experimenting with the email segmentation tools available on your email marketing software to see which strategies work best for your business. Some solutions will even allow you to run A/B tests to learn more about the impact of various segmentation methods.

20 Best Email Marketing Tools To Improve Open Rate In 2023 - Rock Content

How to Get Started with Email Segmentation in 3 Steps

Now you have an idea of some of the strategies you can use for email segmentation; you might be wondering how you can get started. The good news is that segmenting your email strategies is usually relatively simple, provided you have the right software and data. Here’s how you can dive in:

Step 1: Define your Data Points

You can’t build effective email segmentation strategies without data. The more data you have, the more advanced your strategy can be. Before you try splitting your customers into different groups, ask yourself these questions:

  • What data are you already collecting? What do you already know about your target audience based on website analytics and other factors?
  • What data can you start collecting? Can you gather additional information about your customers using forms, surveys, or your email marketing tools?
  • How will we collect this data? How are you going to gather the information you need to make the right decisions with your email segmentation strategy?

Step 2: Start experimenting

Once you have your data and you have an idea of how you can split your customers into different groups based on that information, it’s time to start experimenting. Use your email automation software to create groups based on things like demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data. 

Your email marketing software should make it relatively simple to automate both segmentation and delivery. For instance, you can tell your app to filter recipients into different groups based on how long they’ve been subscribed to your newsletter and how often they make a purchase. 

Pay attention to how effective different email segmentation strategies are at generating clicks, conversions, and customer loyalty. 

Step 3: Measure, Evolve and Adapt

Finally, once you’ve started implementing your email segmentation strategies, it’s important to keep a close eye on the results. Measure how people interact with your emails, and adjust your segments based on the engagement metrics and preferences you uncover. 

You can sometimes speed up the learning process with A/B testing. This could involve sending the same emails to slightly different groups to see which group responds best. Or it might mean sending slightly different emails to the same group and tracking the results there. 

The more you learn about your customers and your marketing campaigns, the more you can update your segments to unlock better results in the future. 

Ready to Invest in Email Segmentation?

Email Marketing Automation with reliable email-tracking metrics

Email segmentation is crucial to the success of any email marketing strategy. Nobody wants to receive endless generic or irrelevant emails. Every consumer wants to know you understand their interests, priorities, and expectations. With the right segmentation strategy, you can improve your revenue and conversions, increase customer loyalty, and reduce unsubscribe rates.

If you’re struggling to get started with email segmentation, or you need help ensuring you’re using the right strategies, why not get some expert support? Reach out to Growth Collective to be paired with an email marketing expert specializing in segmentation.


What is the difference between email lists and segments?

Lists are typically used for storing and organizing all of the contact information you collect as a business. Segments are used for splitting the contacts you have into different groups so you can send more targeted and personalized messages to your customers. 

What are examples of categories you can use to segment your email subscribers?

You can segment email subscribers using a range of categories, from past purchase history to browsing behavior, location, gender, content interest, or stage of the sales funnel. You can also segment customers based on previous purchases or engagement levels.

How do I create an email segment?

Look at your current data and ask yourself how you can distinguish between different groups of subscribers. You might create segments based on demographic data, like a person’s location, age, or gender. Or you could focus on behavioral elements, like purchasing history. 

Rebekah Carter
Former company
About Author
Rebekah is a dedicated writer with years of experience producing exceptional content for brands around the globe. Her commitment to producing the best possible content means she’s constantly developing new skills and experience.
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