Email list segmentation is the practice of dividing up your mailing list(s) into smaller, more targeted sub-lists, and then sending only pertinent information to the people within those sub-lists. Those sub-lists are usually grouped according to some sort of differential data, e.g. by region, age, ethnicity, or some other grouping that’s relevant for the purposes of targeted email marketing.
Email list segmentation may be more complicated than sending out a simple mass mail to everyone who’s signed up with you, but the fact is that it works. Smart segmentation leads to better open rates, better CTRs, and better conversions in the long run. You’ll also see fewer unsubscribes because people will be seeing content that’s relevant to them, and that they want to see.
These segments can be as broad (users who came to you via Facebook) or as narrow (over-40s who bought a specific product in your online store) as you like. Generally speaking, however, the more targeted your segments, the better your ROI will be. It’s therefore worth putting a lot of thought into your email segmentation strategies.
What are the Benefits of Email Segmentation?
We’ve already mentioned the broader benefit of email list segmentation; you’ll see higher open rates and CTRs, and ultimately a higher conversion rate. Let’s examine these factors (and more) in greater detail.
Higher Open Rates
It’s very easy to open your emails, see a marketing email with a subject line that holds absolutely no interest for you at all, and immediately archive that email. But what about the ones that you don’t immediately archive? The ones that hold your interest and induce you to open them? Correctly segmented emails can be those emails; it’s just a matter of making sure you’re segmenting well.
It’s not rocket science – higher open rates means higher clickthrough rates. If a customer’s interest is piqued to the point where they’ve opened your email, there’s a good chance they’ll read enough to reach your CTA – and click through on it. If it’s a segmented email that’s relevant to them and their needs, that chance is even higher.
Lower Unsubscribe Rates
It doesn’t matter how loyal of a customer you’ve got on your hands – if you keep sending them emails that are completely irrelevant to their wants and needs, they’re going to switch off and, eventually, reach for that unsubscribe button.
Segmented emails make that much less likely by ensuring that customers see the emails that they want to see, and that the irrelevant ones never make it anywhere near their inbox.
Sometimes email spam filters will start removing your emails from subscribers’ inboxes even if they’re still subscribed. This is a particular problem if the subscriber consistently leaves your emails unopened.
How can that be avoided? You guessed it – with more relevant emails that are sent to the subscriber courtesy of smart segmentation. Email list segmentation is the solution.
Higher Conversion Rates
Bottom line: good segmentation results in better open rates, which results in higher CTRs, which results, inevitably, in higher conversion rates. The more relevant the segmentation, the more likely you’ll get the customer to the end of that journey.
What is Good List Segmentation?
With all that in mind, then, what ways are there to segment your lists(s)? There are a great many methods that you can use, in fact; let’s take a look at some of the most effective segments you can employ to maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing.
Having geographical information on your subscribers can be extremely useful when it comes to segmenting your email lists. It’s a great way to make sure that your subscribers are seeing information that’s relevant to their area. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not putting your foot in it by, for instance, offering services in an area where you don’t have coverage.
Segmenting by geography also helps with that most important aspect of email marketing – personalization. If you receive an email detailing Christmas deals that are specific to your area, it makes you feel as if the company sending that email cares about you and your requirements. The goodwill that can generate is worth its weight in gold.
Often the most fundamental method of email list segmentation is one of the most useful. Segmenting by demographics means segmenting by age, profession, gender, or level of income.
In order to exploit that sort of information, however, you first need to have it. It’s therefore important that whatever method you use of having customers sign up asks them to provide as much information as possible (age, marital status, address, interests etc.). The more detailed, the more you can fine-tune your lists and make sure that your segmentation is on point.
Your lists may need further tailoring based on the sort of goods or services you offer. If you’re a business-to-business company, knowing the exact occupations of your subscribers will probably be very helpful. If you sell clothing, it’s probably quite important that you know what gender your customers are.
An effective list segment to cultivate (and, due to its nature, to constantly update) is that of new subscribers. A quick welcome email after they’ve signed up can be hugely effective, both in making them feel valued and as a way to entice them to further browse the goods or services you offer.
It’s also a great way to set new subscriber expectations, by outlining what sort of contact they can expect (whether a weekly newsletter, promotions or whatever else). You can also offer discounts or other benefits solely to new subscribers, establishing early on that you’re a company worth following.
A subscriber’s previous behavior can be a huge indicator of what they’re interested in, and the approach that they’ll be most receptive to. What are they buying? When are they buying it? Are they purchasing it with the intention of gifting it, or is it for personal use? If you’re a B2B company, how are they using the good/service that you’re selling?
By retaining and analyzing a subscriber’s behavioral history, you give yourself a powerful segmentation tool that can be invaluable in aiming the right emails at their inbox. Don’t limit yourself only to purchase history; looking at clicks on your web store, wish lists and even their previous social media interactions with your brand can provide invaluable data about how best to target future emails.
It’s very important not to rest on your laurels with customers that have demonstrated a strong commitment to your brand. It is sometimes tempting to treat their continued goodwill and brand loyalty as a fait accompli, but even the most faithful of customers can drift away if not properly maintained.
The fact is that it’s more expensive to recruit new customers than to retain old ones, and maintaining special segments for ‘old hands’ can work wonders in making them feel special and appreciated. It can be as simple as sending out monthly special offers that apply only to the most devoted of your subscribers.
Year-one customers can be given special offers or discounts that reward their longstanding loyalty, for instance, or those who routinely spend the highest amounts on your products can be invited to get sneak peeks at new stock or services before your other segments.
It’s a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it’s little things like this that can make the difference between a loyal customer and a former one.
Type of Organization
This one tends to be more important for B2B companies than B2C, but it’s useful information to have in either case (you can never have too much subscriber information!).
Does the subscriber work for a charity or non-profit? Are they in marketing? Do they work for a faith-based organization? Depending on the nature of your own business, this kind of information can be key when it comes to effectively segmenting your email lists.
Email Engagement History
Whenever you send out an email campaign, you are generating data that can be useful for future campaigns. Who’s opening your emails, but not clicking through? Who’s clicking through, but not becoming a conversion? Who’s still subscribed, but never engages with your emails at all?
Segmenting subscribers according to this kind of information can ensure that all of those subscribers are more engaged by future campaigns. You can target disinterested subscribers with a campaign or promotion that’s designed to bring them back on board; conversely, you can also design a mass mail that rewards more engaged subscribers with special offers and promotions.
The most frustratingly elusive type of customer can be those who open, click through, add a product to their cart, and then… just slip away. They abandon their cart for reasons unknown and don’t follow through.
Whether it’s down to pre-emptive buyer’s remorse or simply getting distracted, it’s a good idea to try to re-engage with customers like this. A segment that follows up on that abandoned cart and gives them a gentle reminder is a good idea; a notification of a one-time discount on the content of that cart is even better. Segmenting for this kind of situation can turn a seemingly lost conversion opportunity into a successful one.
Different customers are interested in different things. This is so obvious that pointing it out seems, well, pointless, but the fact is that by paying attention to these differing interests, you can better tailor your segments and keep your subscribers more engaged.
Analyze your website and social media data on different customers to see what kind of content they’re clicking through on. If you’re regularly sharing your videos and blogs on social media and via email (and you should be), which ones are grabbing their attention the most? Use that information to build your email list segmentation and to tailor an email that makes further recommendations to them. You’re emailing them about things that have already caught their eye, so chances are your CTA will be a successful one!
Sudden Behavioral Changes
Has a longtime disinterested subscriber suddenly started making regular purchases? Has a previously loyal customer switched off and isn’t even bothering to open your emails before? Something has clearly changed in either case; the question is what?
In the case of the former customer, perhaps an email rewarding their newfound loyalty in the form of a one-time discount can be sent – or even an invitation to that exclusive club for loyal customers we mentioned earlier.
For loyal customers who’ve lost interest, a gentle inquiry email may be all that takes to bring them back into the fold. Incentives like gifts or generous promotional offers can also be offered to try to re-engage them.
If your business is one that offers products or services of varying expense, tracking which customers are buying which kinds of products can be extremely useful in tailoring future email campaigns.
For instance, customers with a lot of disposable income who are frequently buying high-value products are going to respond to very different offers and deals than those who are shopping on a budget. Research suggests that the former group responds better to offers and deals that are not monetary in nature, like exclusive events and invitations; the latter group, which is much more budget-conscious, responded well to discounts.
Some customers may be regular in their purchases, buying the same product on a weekly or monthly basis. Others may make less frequent purchases, and they may only pop up in your sales data once a year.
In either case, those customers require very different approaches when it comes to your email marketing strategy, and your segmentation should reflect this accordingly. When that once-a-year customer is coming up on a year since their last purchase? It’s probably a good idea to drop them a reminder email to let them know. That email might entice them into making that purchase from you again, rather than a competitor.
How to Focus Your Email Segmentation
That was a lot of potential ways to segment your email lists, wasn’t it? There are so many ways to segment your lists, in fact, that it can be easy to overdo it and get lost in the tangled, overly complicated web that you’ve created.
In order to avoid this, it’s crucial that you devise and implement a segmentation strategy early on – and that you stick to it.
Identify your Points of Data
You can’t start segmenting until you’ve established what data you’re using to arrive at that segmentation. In order to do that you need to consider the data you already have, the data that you can get, and the data you can request from your customers.
Once you know this, you can look at whether or not your data-gathering methods and tools are equal to the task. If not, you may want to consider revamping them (or investing in third-party data management).
Experiment with Segmentation and Keep it Flexible
You’re likely not going to get segmentation right for every segment on your first try, even if you’re using automated marketing platforms like HubSpot or SendInBlue. That’s, not, however, a reason not to do it in the first place!
Keep on top of the analytics data generated by your segments, and respond accordingly. If your open rate is dropping in one segment, then perhaps the emails you’re sending out to those subscribers aren’t hitting the spot, or some of those customers haven’t been placed in an appropriate segment.
The aforementioned automated email marketing tools can be of massive assistance in shunting subscribers from one segment to another without your having to lift a finger, and can take a lot of busywork out of the equation. Just remember that they are a tool designed to help you – not a replacement for you.
Analyze, Tweak and Try Again
As mentioned, the fact that current email list segmentation isn’t working is not a sign to give up – it’s a sign to reassess and try again!
Segmentation 100% does work, and it’s just a matter of hitting upon the right approach. The data generated by previous email campaigns is invaluable in recalibrating future ones, and every effort should be made to analyze that data to the fullest.
Open rates, CTRS, conversion rates, hard and soft bounces, unsubscribes – all of this information and more contains clues that can be used to maximize future performance. And all of that information can be used to make sure that the segments that you currently have are both necessary, and that they’re performing as intended.
And if they’re not – it may be time to remove that particular segment and try again with a new approach.
Whatever your motivations and needs when it comes to email marketing, the plain fact is that segmentation is a hugely useful tool that can only help you and your business improve your game plan. It leads to more satisfied and engaged subscribers, and it ensures that the money you spend on your email campaigns is being used effectively.
Again – it’s well worth considering removing a lot of the minutiae of the process by going with an automated marketing platform. With automated workflows and self-regulating segmentation, your email lists can be put to work with minimal input from you. It’s just a matter of choosing the right platform for you and your business.