It’s no secret.

Email marketing is, and always will be, an effective marketing channel.

But there are right and wrong ways to do it. Email segmentation is one of the most foundational elements of effective email marketing.

Why is segmentation important? According to MailChimp, segmented emails enjoy an open rate increase of 14.32%. Furthermore, click-through rates are 100.95% higher, too.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to segment your email list by different customer groups
  • How to use customer insight for email personalization
  • How the best in the business do it, complete with killer examples across several industries

What is Email Segmentation?

Let’s start with a simple definition:

Email segmentation is the division of email subscribers (or customers and users) into smaller groups based on a series of variables. These variables can include demographics, customer type, level of engagement, and user behavior.

The main aim of email segmentation is personalization. Therefore, you’ll often hear “email segmentation” and “email personalization” used interchangeably. Segments help marketers cater to specific customer groups with messaging tailored to their interests and needs.

In other words, you’re using laser-precise targeting to reach your customers, demonstrating you truly “get them.”

So, you know what email segmentation is. But why should you pay attention?

Why Bother Segmenting Your Email List?

Without proper email segmentation, you risk alienating a large subset of your customers. Indeed, your audience is made up of different customer groups, each with their own needs and desires.

Think of it this way: without segmentation, it’s like inviting 10 of your closest friends to dinner by broadcasting it to every acquaintance you’ve ever met.

 

The question is, what are the benefits? According to research conducted by MailChimp, there are plenty. They compared the results of 2,000 users who sent 11,000 segmented campaigns to over 9M subscribers against those with no segmentation. Here’s what they found:

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Not only did critical metrics (i.e., opens and clicks) increase, but abuse reports and unsubscribes decreased as a result.

The numbers speak for themselves. By tailoring your message to specific customer segments, you’re more likely to increase the ROI from your email marketing.

So, how do you do it?

Segment Groups for Your Email Subscribers

Before you begin segmenting your email subscribers and customers, you must know which groups they sit within.

Here, I’ll outline four categories you can use to get started with email segmentation quickly. You’ll find links to further reading at the bottom of each segment.

Want to learn more about the ins-and-outs of customer segmentation? Check out our full guide here.

Demographics

As we’ve previously defined it, demographic segmentation is “a method of defining segments of your audience by variables such as age, gender, household income, education, location and many other identifying factors.”

The data is easy to acquire thanks to tools like Google Analytics, census data, as well as our own SpotRight platform, which is, of course, the best. 🙂

Here are four variables you can use to segment your email list easily:

  1. Location: It’s important to know where your users are – whether that be domestic regions or countries around the world. This way, you can time your message (see below) and tailor it to different cultures and languages.
  2. Time Zone: It’s likely your customers are opening your emails at a certain time over others. Adjusting your campaigns with this feedback can be wise. Segment your list by time zone to ensure your emails land in the right inboxes at the right time.
  3. Gender/age: Men may interpret messages differently than women, while age range will also impact lifecycle and, therefore, the products and services customers are interested in.
  4. Occupation: Collecting data on job roles and industry can provide insights on how your customers use your products, as well as the price-points they’re willing to consider.

For a complete look at demographic segmentation, check out our full guide here.

Customer Stage

As well as the demographic makeup of your customers, you must track where in the sales funnel they are. Put another way: how well do they know you and your brand?

  1. New subscriber: Begin the relationship with a good impression. Get new subscribers to take the actions that will extend their relationship with you. Welcome emails are a great way of doing this.
  2. Frequent buyer: Those who regularly open your emails and buy from you should be considered VIPs. As such, provide special offers, survey them to get a better understanding of their interests (plus other psychographic variables), and make it clear you value them as a loyal customer.
  3. Non-buyers: These are subscribers, trial users, and customers who have not taken commercial action with your brand. They won’t always convert, but you can learn more about them using surveys.

Engagement

Not only can you segment customers by their relationship with your brand, but by how they already interact with your emails. Indeed, those who respond favorably to your email marketing should be treated differently to those who don’t open at all.

  • Engaged subscribers: Your CRM should provide you with data and analytics on your most engaged subscribers. Create a new segment and test different content formats before rolling out to your entire list.
  • Level of interest: Go one level deeper and segment subscribers based on their level of engagement. For example, is there a group who almost always clicks-through on the links in your emails? Put these users in a separate segment.
  • Inactive subscribers: There will be subscribers who once engaged with your messages and then stopped. Send reactivation campaigns to get them interested again. If they still don’t budge, it’s best to remove them for the health of your overall email list.

Activity

Level of activity isn’t limited to email engagement. The way customers interact with your website should also be a factor in deciding which emails they receive.

  • Last purchase: Depending on the sophistication of your ERP, you should consider automatically segmenting users based on their most recent purchase. Use behavioral emails to offer complementary products and services.
  • Web activity: As well as purchases, you may also segment subscribers based on the content and pages they view on your website. This works at all stages of the funnel. For example, offers eBooks to those who have read certain blog posts. Or discounts on products that they’ve browsed.

Want to learn more about behavioral emails? Check out our complete guide to behavioral segmentation here.

Getting Started with Personalization

Of course, all this segmentation is fruitless without putting it to good use.

Which is where email personalization comes in.

Historically, personalization meant inserting variables into email copy. For example, “Hi Steve” using a first name tag, or inserting the name of the company you were trying to sell into.

This is no longer good enough. Consumers and business folk alike have normalized to this approach and often see through it as a trick to convince them to take action.

But real personalization, when done right, still works. In fact, 94% of companies say it’s imperative to marketing success.

Here are four simple yet sophisticated techniques you can apply to your email segments today:

#1: Get your Personas in Order

Creating segments based on demographics and behavior is one thing. But if you truly wish to boost results, you must create and constantly update your customer personas.

As defined in our customer segmentation guide, buyer personas are documents that include detailed insights on each key segment of your market. They help you take demographic and psychographic data and practically apply them.

Using this insight, you can fine-tune and personalize your email message to each persona. Take Spotify for example. They have a plethora of data on their users and segment them based on their tastes. With this insight, they send tailored messages on behalf of artists:

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Use personas to document the language and buzzwords your audience uses. Include these in your personalized emails when sending messages that cater to their needs.

#2: Automated Email Triggers

Remember earlier when we talked about segmenting your subscribers by activity? Go one step further with automated behavioral emails.

These emails are triggered based on actions your customers take. For example, if a customer begins the checkout process but doesn’t complete it, you can send cart abandonment emails to entice them back.

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You can also use them to up-sell, cross-sell, or welcome new customers to your business. Using the right tool, such as Vero or Intercom, you can get set up and automate these emails quickly.

#3: Time & Location

When it comes to email marketing, timing is one of those factors that takes some trial and error. Get it right, and you can consistently boost your open and click-through-rates.

Some customers may respond best to your emails at 9:00 AM, while others engage heavily at 4:00 PM. And then there’s location to consider.

Your customers may be distributed all over the world. Segment them by location and optimize timing for each region. This is a simple matter of A/B testing each segment. Start with your tried-and-tested send times. Test them against new times and see which performs best.

#4: Email-to-Landing Page Match

Personalizing your emails is just the first step to successful campaigns. Go one step further and personalize the landing pages you drive subscribers to.

Your email and landing page design should be consistent. The copy on your landing page must continue the journey the user started in the email. By using the personalization techniques described earlier in the section, you’re likely to generate more conversions.

In the below example from ion interactive, the email offers subscribers access to a free eBook:

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The landing page continues this journey (see below). The layout is almost identical, which means users don’t have to think about where to place their attention. They were already “trained” in the email:

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It’s good practice to apply this philosophy to your entire marketing strategy. By unifying your experiences, your subscribers, users, and customers will know what to expect when receiving your messages.

11 Inspiring Personalized Email Examples

To wrap this article up, I wanted to share a comprehensive list of brands who have nailed email segmentation and personalization.

In the examples below, you’ll see personalization applied to a variety of industries. Take these and apply the principles to your own marketing ideas.

#1: Adidas

This first example is a simple one. Adidas knows that their two primary markets are “men” and “women.” So, they segment their audience by this demographic first and foremost.

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Adidas can send brand-wide promotions across these two broad segments, or they can segment further by product interests and the content they’ve viewed.

The key is getting out of the customer’s way. Don’t annoy them with products they have no interest in.

#2: Kerastase

For retail brands, the cart abandonment email is one of the most important behavioral triggers you can apply. In the example below, Kerastase uses a tongue-in-cheek subject line to grab attention:

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They then use personalized copy, highlighting the product that the customer left behind.

Kerastase could have gone one step further here, adding discounts or showing limited stock available. No matter what mechanisms you have in place, the first step is keeping yourself top of the customers’ mind.

#3: Yelp

It’s not too difficult for a brand like Yelp to customize their email marketing. It’s a location-based platform after all.

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In the example above, Yelp shares trending restaurants in the recipient’s immediate area. Notice this isn’t the entire city or region, rather it’s a specific radius based on the users’ previous activity.

#4: Monica Vinader

The British jewelry brand goes beyond personalized copy in their emails. Instead of simply applying the recipient’s first name, they use dynamic content to serve images based on user data:

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In the example above, Monica Vinader uses dynamic imagery, showcasing personalized jeweler using the recipient’s first name. This is a level of impact that could not be achieved using copy alone.

#5: Banana Republic

Birthday emails are nothing new. In fact, they’re best practice in the retail space, which is why this example from Banana Republic is noteworthy.

Birthday emails, according to Experian, yield open rates of 235% or above, and typically generate more revenue. In the example below, Banana Republic does a couple of things well:

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First, they use an enticing subject line: “Happy Birthday! Here’s a little something just for you…” But most interestingly, they send it four days before the customer’s actual birthday.

This plays upon the anticipation and excitement the customer is already experiencing leading up to their birthday. Furthermore, it will plant the seed for what to do with all that birthday cash they’ll receive.

Timing is imperative. Not just time of day, but your timing around key events. Study the customer lifecycle and ensure you’re getting the right message to the right people. Even before the customer knows they need it themselves.

#6: Do

Personalization isn’t just a retention tool. For many B2B and software companies, it’s also about customer success.

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The example above is a trigger email. When a user signs up to join a meeting but doesn’t commit to the platform, they receive this message. The goal is to retain users and reduce churn.

The copy is effective due to its casual tone. It doesn’t use aggressive language, and simply asks if the user has any questions. The call-to-action is clear, but the ball is in their court.

#7: easyJet

Company birthdays are a big deal. At least to those working within the company itself.

But to the customers? It’s hard to give them a reason to pay attention without seeming like you’re bloating your ego.

easyJet nailed this for their 20th anniversary. Instead of talking about all their achievements, they used owned data to highlight top destinations, distance traveled, and the number of countries visited for each customer:

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This is a fantastic use of data to personalize email marketing. Not only that, but they make a personalized recommendation based on their flight history. According to easyJet, this campaign generated a 100% increase in open rates over their usual newsletters.

#8: Twitter

Previous purchases and viewed content aren’t the only sources of personalized content. Indeed, algorithms can pinpoint exactly what your users are interested in.

Twitter is one example of this in action. Here, they suggest accounts to follow based on those the user already engages with:

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A suggestion engine like this requires access to huge amounts of data. When starting small, focus on recommendations based on the content your customers view.

#9: Airbnb

When it comes to behavioral email, Airbnb knows their stuff. In the example below, users who express interest in a listing but don’t book receive a “cart-abandonment” style email:

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In this email, they make the viewed listing the most prominent call-to-action. But below it are other relevant listings that the user might find of interest.

#10: MeUndies

The highly successful underwear brand does a great job of collecting blog subscribers. But they don’t sit and hope they turn into customers.

Instead, they send personalized discount emails to those subscribers who have yet to make a purchase:

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This simple, plain-text email is sent a few days after a visitor subscribes, striking while the iron is hot.

#11: TripAdvisor

Report emails, like the example below from TripAdvisor, are eagerly opened. This is because they contain personalized data, insights, and information specific to the recipient. And they’re rarely ever promotional.

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In the example above, the user receives insight on the reviews they’ve submitted. Furthermore, there are several calls-to-action to get the user back on the platform and re-engaged.

Segment to Sell

Email segmentation is the first step to personalization. In this guide, we’ve shown you how to do both.

Keeping your customers’ needs in mind is important. Prioritize your segments by profitability and engagement first. Then, dig deep to understand their true needs, desires, and pains. Use this insight to personalize your emails.

How are you currently using email marketing to engage different customer groups? Share your experiences in the comments below!