How To Effectively Segment Your Email List

There are a number of ways to effectively segment your email list to optimize your email marketing campaign.  Email marketing, like many other types of online marketing, requires continuous testing and optimization to get things right.  Before you can start to segment your email list, you need to build a solid foundation of loyal subscribers and large quantities of user data.

First and foremost, you need to stay in compliance with regulations involving sending out mass emails.  Subscribers must give you consent to be part of your subscriber base.  In other words, you cannot send out mass emails from contacts you have collected over the years.  In addition, segmenting your email list before you have a chance to meaningfully link subscribers to individual user behavior might be too much too soon. With a full-service email marketing program in place, you have the potential to unlock valuable user data that is often hidden in plain sight. Ready to get started?

Launch an initial “beta” email marketing campaign

Before you can segment your email, it is important to get the basics down for all of your subscribers.  Know the type of content that your subscribers would find engaging and useful.  Also, use this time to experiment with a few different types of email marketing campaigns.  If you have three good directions for an email marketing campaign, you can assign subscribers to one of the three segments at random to see which approach works best.  The purpose behind launching a “beta” email marketing campaign is two-fold.  First, you can get a chance to further build your subscriber base and gather data on user behavior.  Second, you can find out what approach for your email marketing campaign works best for your demographic.  There is no “right” answer as to how many emails you should send per week or what kind of content you should use.  Instead of trying to find the right answer, find the best solution and run with it.

Related: Email Marketers: Say Goodbye to Images not Displaying

List growth and segmentation

After first launching your email campaign and figuring out what nuances of it best drive sales overall (e.g. number of emails, length of emails, time intervals between emails, time of day sent, and most effective content), you can effectively start to segment your email list.  Again, there is no right way to segment an email list based on user behavior data.  Instead, you want to choose the best way to segment your list for your subscriber base.  First, break down user behavior based on meaningful user data including:

  • Purchase history from different customers
  • Abandoned shopping carts
  • VIP customers that continually make large purchases or actively participate in meaningful brand advocacy

What content you should send to each of your segmented lists again requires testing a working hypothesis.  Some might argue that VIP customers should be on a segmented list where they are rewarded for their brand loyalty in the form of monetary incentives such as discounts or free items.  A counter argument might be that VIP customers will continue to place repeat orders and participate in brand advocacy without being prompted.  In other words, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.  Instead, monetary incentives might be better used for customers that place orders sporadically or subscribers that have abandoned shopping carts.  Perhaps VIP customers would have more value as active participants of brand advocacy within an exclusive context of the brand, such as being featured on the website’s blog.  Again, effective segmenting should be periodically reevaluated to find ways for subscribers to further drive sales.

Related:  Your email open rate may not mean what you think.

Different methods of subscriber-driven sales

The most obvious method of subscriber-driven sales is when a subscriber from your email list buys something directly from your website.  However, there are less obvious ways that subscribers can boost your sales.  For instance, think about the leverage an influential VIP customer could hold over your target demographic.  VIP customers could be more effective brand advocates both on and offline when given the right tools.  VIP customers that believe in your brand can drive sales when given a more personal incentive and a few extra resources.  For instance, VIP customers might love the chance to test your brand’s newest software before it is released to the public and rave about it to friends and anyone online who reads their reviews.


Effectively segmenting an email list is not as simple as assigning email addresses to user behavior.  It involves extensive thought and meaningful reassessment for optimal results.

About Dorian Travers

Dorian Travers is the Internal Marketing Strategist at digital marketing firm, Wpromote and has always had a particular interest in content marketing and coming up with creative ways to help businesses grow.