How to Segment Your Email List

by | Last updated Mar 19, 2024 | Digital Marketing

Email segmentation groups your email subscribers based on set criteria, allowing you to send relevant, personalized content to the right people at the right time. If done effectively, targeted email marketing campaigns can improve customer retention, boost click-through rates, increase ROI, and more. Below is the best way to segment your email list.

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Identify Email Segmentation Goals

Having focused customer segmentation goals and a clear email marketing plan to execute those objectives will help you create more successful email campaigns. Follow these three steps to help set your brand’s email segmentation strategy.

Define Your Campaign Objective

Every email campaign needs at least one specific, measurable, and achievable goal. You may want to grow your email list, boost open rates, increase conversions, or something else. Your desired outcome will help determine which criteria you need to target in your email list segmentation.

Understand Your Target Audience

Next, break down the characteristics of your target audience (or buyer’s personas). Start with the basics, like:

  • Demographics (age, gender, location, marital status, income/profession, and education)
  • Interests
  • Needs and pain points

For example, a company that sells outdoor adventure gear and equipment might have two buyer personas, “Adventure Alex” and “Family Fae.”

  • Adventure Alex is a college-educated 25-to-35-year-old man living a nomadic life in Europe. He enjoys extreme sports like rock climbing and backcountry skiing and feels comfortable traveling both alone and with friends. He’s looking for high-performance gear that’s durable and customizable for his intense adventures.
  • Family Fae is a 30-to-45-year-old wife with children living in suburban or rural parts of the U.S. She loves camping and going on educational nature walks with her family. She prioritizes safety and kid-friendly features in both gear and experiences.

Align Your Objective & Audience

Now, compare your campaign objective to your buyer persona(s). Which characteristics (AKA segments) could help you achieve your goal if successfully marketed to?

Let’s look at Adventure Alex and Family Fae again. If the outdoor adventure company’s goal is to sell more cold-weather gear in December, location should be the main customer segment to focus on.

Since Family Fae lives in the Northern hemisphere, she’ll likely have a bigger need for cold-weather gear at this time than Adventure Alex, who might not respond well to promotional emails about snow equipment in the middle of his summer.

Choose Email Segmentation Criteria

There are many ways to segment your audience, and sorting them is especially important when your bulk email lists fit multiple buyer personas. A few commonly used segments for personalized email marketing include:

  • Behavioral segmentation: Based on purchase history, email engagement, website activity, click-through rate, or position in the sales funnel.
  • Demographic segmentation: Based on age, gender, geographic location, income, job title, or marital status.
  • Preferences and interests segmentation: Based on email preferences, survey/quiz results, or interests on user profiles.
  • Psychographic segmentation: Based on hobbies, lifestyle, or values.

Gather Data for Email Segmentation

A data-driven approach to email marketing will help you better improve your campaign’s messaging and performance. Consider these three aspects of customer data.

Leverage Website Analytics & User Tracking

Web analytics and user tracking software are used to examine visitor behavior, including which pages were looked at, how much time was spent there, and how the visitor was routed to your site. There are also services that provide real-time notifications when a user opens an email, deletes an email, or clicks on a link. Using this data can help you measure your email campaign’s success and improve segmentation by understanding your audience’s actions.

Utilize Existing Customer Data

You likely already acquired valuable customer data—like names, zip codes, and email preferences—from your email sign-up form, and that’s really all you need to get started with email list segmentation. You probably also have access to customers’ website activity, including their past purchases, products they’ve considered, and those they’ve abandoned in their shopping carts.

Collect Additional Customer Data

For advanced insights on customer behavior and preferences, you’ll likely want to collect more customer data through surveys, feedback forms, user profiles, and lead magnets.

One popular email lead generation tactic is downloadable content (such as ebooks, templates, or PDFs), which trades customer details for valuable, free information.

If you’re hoping for more demographic or psychographic data, user profiles are a convenient place to find out about trends in self-reported interests, hobbies, and preferences.

Apply Segmentation to Your Email Campaigns

After collecting data on your audience, you’ll need to decide how to apply this information to your email list. Follow these six best practices for email list segmentation.

Create Separate Email Lists

Create your separate email lists based on your chosen segments. Separating your audience based on their wants and behaviors will allow you to get your message to the correct people and generate better leads than a generic email sent to all your subscribers.

With the outdoor adventure gear company, these might be the different email lists they use:

  • New subscriber list: Include subscribers who recently signed up for the company’s newsletter/updates. Ssend welcome emails, introductory offers, and general brand information to nurture the new relationship and encourage their first purchase.
  • Product category list: Segment based on hobbies, like hiking gear, rock climbing equipment, and cycling products. Only send product recommendations, discounts, and content that match the subscriber’s unique interest. You might further segment this list based on product features, like kid-friendly (for Family Fae) vs customizable (for Adventure Alex).
  • Location list: As explained above, segment based on geographical location. Send information about nearby outdoor events, store openings, or in-season product promotions relevant to each group’s time of year.
  • Purchase history and loyalty lists: Segment based on past purchase behavior and loyalty level (e.g., frequent buyer, occasional shopper, first-time buyer). Provide personalized product recommendation, loyalty program offers, and exclusive discounts to encourage repeat business and brand loyalty.

Personalize Email Content

Tailor your email content to each email segment by analyzing the preferences, behaviors, and interests of your recipients. Make sure to personalize both the subject line and body copy to capture your audience’s attention. Some common ways to add personalized content include using your subscriber’s name, giving them location-specific deals, providing helpful information for their career field, and more.

Compare these two email examples for the same outdoor backpack.

Email Example 1

Subject Line: Gear Up for Your Next Adventure with Our High-Performance Backpack

Body Copy: Hey Alex,

Ready to catch your next adrenaline rush? Whether it’s scaling mountain peaks or setting out on your epic backcountry ski trip, our High-Performance Outdoor Backpack never slows you down.

Key Features for Adventure Enthusiasts Like You:

  • Durable, tear-resistant materials to withstand rugged terrains
  • Multiple compartments and easy access pockets for your gear
  • Ergonomic design for comfort during long treks
  • Hydration system compatibility to keep you going

Take your adventures to the next level with an exclusive 15% discount on this backpack, using code ADVENTURE15 at checkout. Adventure awaits, Alex. Gear up and conquer the wild!

[Explore Now]

Email Example 2

Subject Line: Enjoy More Quality Family Time Outdoors with Our Kid-Friendly Outdoor Backpack

Body Copy: Hi Olivia,

There’s nothing better than building memories with your kids in the great outdoors. The Kid-Friendly Outdoor Backpack is designed with families like yours in mind!

Key Features for Family-Friendly Adventures:

  • Spacious compartments and easy-access pockets for snacks, water bottles, and essentials
  • Adjustable straps to fit both parents and children comfortably
  • Fun, vibrant designs that kids will love
  • Built-in safety features for worry-free outings

Here’s the best part: Use code ADVENTURE15 at checkout for an exclusive 15% discount on the Kid-Friendly Outdoor Backpack. Get your family on the trails today!

[Explore Now]

Not only do these personalized emails use the subscriber’s name, but they also focus on different features and position the copy to target each buyer persona’s unique interests and values.

Use Dynamic Content & Automation Tools

Dynamic content is used to customize your subscriber’s experience based on data like user behavior and position in the sales funnel, giving your readers more engaging and personalized experiences. Email automation tools like Mailchimp, Omnisend, or Constant Contact can help you organize your segments and send targeted email campaigns on a set schedule, hopefully leading to better engagement, customer loyalty, and conversions.

Ensure Compliance with Data Protection Regulations

Follow these data protection regulations when sending segmented emails to your subscribers:

  • Use a reliable email service provider
  • Get user consent when collecting personal data
  • Let users opt out
  • Audit your email list regularly
  • Write a privacy note in your email to inform users about what data you will use or share

If you don’t respect your customers’ preferences when it comes to receiving your emails, it could negatively affect your business’ reputation.

Analyze Segmentation Strategies Regularly

Continue to collect customer data and analyze your segmentation strategies by auditing your email marketing campaign often. During your audit, you’ll want to research bounce rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and content freshness. Keeping an eye on what is and isn’t performing well in your emails will help you understand what to change or keep in future email messages.

Keep It Simple

Starting with two or three segments and building from there will help you learn to identify which are working for your campaign and adjust your strategies accordingly. Once you feel confident about creating and editing your strategies, you can add additional segments.

Test & Measure Email Marketing Results

When trying a new strategy or targeting a new segment, it’s important to review the results and adjust your emails according to the data.

Conduct A/B Tests

A/B testing, or split testing, is an email marketing tactic that compares two variations of content to help optimize your email campaigns. When completing A/B testing, it’s important to only change one variable, such as a subject line or the format of the email. By analyzing audience responses to slightly different emails, you can identify which version performs better and use those strategies in future content.

For example, the outdoor gear company could test two promotional emails for their outdoor backpack with the same buyer persona. They might want to test if having the discount in the subject line improves open rates. So, one subject line could be the original “Gear Up for Your Next Adventure with Our High-Performance Backpack,” while the other is changed to something like “Thrill-Seekers Take an Extra 15% Off on the High-Performance Backpack.”

The body copy and format would stay the same for both emails, and the company would then track the resulting engagement data between the two emails to determine which approach yields better results.

Track KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurable numerical data points which, when analyzed, can help you assess the success of your marketing campaign and the progress towards your goals.

Always track data relevant to your email marketing goals—for example, if you’re hoping to increase sales, you’ll want to watch where different segments are in the sales funnel, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, open rates, and more.

Refine Segmentation Strategies

Use the results of your feedback, data, and tests to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in your email segmentation strategies. Identify areas for improvement or new segments to capitalize on and adjust your marketing tactics accordingly.

For instance, if one segment has a significant conversion rate while another segment starts unsubscribing, you’ll want to focus on your receptive audience, edit content to better appeal to the less receptive audience, or both.

Need help segmenting your email list? Hurrdat Marketing can help you create buyer personas, set realistic segmentation goals, perform email segmentation across your mass email list, and monitor success. Learn more about our email marketing services or get started today!

Megan Schneider


Megan is a Content Strategist at Hurrdat, where she helps write content for local and national clients. Projects Megan has worked on include paid landing pages, website copy, optimized pillar pages, and blog work. Through her work, Megan conducts competitive analyses, title tag and meta data optimization, and search-engine-optimized keyword research. Megan began her writing career as an Online Reporter at the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s student newspaper, The Gateway.

Megan lives in Omaha, NE, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a major in Journalism, and enjoys creating content for her fashion blog, spending time with family, and watching reality TV shows.

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