8 Ways to Segment Your Email List to Maximize ROI

Mallory Mongeon | 2015-01-19T17:16:02+00:00 | email on acid logo

Speak to the individual, not the crowd.

You got someone to opt-in to your list, hooray! But wait… don’t celebrate just yet. If you are going to successfully convert this new subscriber from your emails, you can’t just blast ‘em with general, impersonalized content. If an email marketer takes this approach the new subscriber is going to hit that unsubscribe button faster than you can say Bob’s your uncle! So how can you send out emails that speak to an individual and not a crowd? It’s all about list segmentation, people!

More of a visual learner? Check out our infographic breaking down these 8 segmentation tips before we dig into the nitty gritty below!

This marketing strategy is ever-effective yet often ignored. If you are someone that has put this strategy on the back burner for your past email campaigns, let me bend your ear for a moment and break down some basics stats regarding the impact of segmenting your email list. Lyris found that 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue. If you check out the graph below, you will see that there are TONS more reasons to leverage this tactic.

With the proper analytics and reporting in place, you can segment your list by simple things like gender, all the way down to more granular characteristics like geolocation, subscriber level reporting, the device they are using to read the email and so much more!

Read on for 8 list segmentation tips to boost your bottom line!


The complexity and degree to which a marketer can segment a list vary greatly. For the beginners out there, don’t overcomplicate your segmenting strategy. Start small by pulling the basic demographics that you collected when they opted-in, such as age, gender, company position, etc.

While at first glance this type of information could seem trivial, simply knowing the age of your different target markets could take your email conversions to the next level. In the example below, Fit for Me was offering a promotion and knew their audience varied in age. Instead of creating separate campaigns for each age group (ain’t nobody got time for that!), they simply switched out the image at the top of the email but kept everything else the same. This simple switcheroo allowed the image to resonate with the different age groups that make up their email list.

Never underestimate how a slight change, like the one above, could impact your ROI.

Survey Results

When it comes to crafting an opt-in box, less is more. If you create too many required fields, your prospect will bounce right off that page. So how do you gather all that meaty information about your subscribers so you can segment based off of their interests, emotions and needs? Make an email campaign with a survey, baby!

When creating your quiz, don’t just slap a couple questions together and blast it out to your list. Instead, ensure your questions are thoughtful and will elicit answers that will be helpful to your overall strategy. Also keep in mind, you probably wanna offer an incentive. In marketing, you have to give to get. When we sent out our last survey, we let our audience know that if they filled out our questions, their name would be entered in the running to win a free iPad. Needless to say, we got lots and lots of submissions!

Another way to get feedback via your survey is by not calling it a survey! A survey sounds boring and time-consuming, instead put a better ring to it like ModCloth did. They created a survey to help determine a customer’s individual likes and tastes, so they can segment and market to their lists accordingly. Instead of calling it a survey, though, they called it a “style quiz.” I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a quiz over a survey any day.

By surveying your audience, you can tap into what motivates them or “analyze the psychographic makeup” of your audience and segment from there.

Sending Frequency

It’s tough trying to find the perfect sending frequency for your audience. You want to know why it’s so tough? Because there is no “perfect” sending frequency that will apply to everyone on your list! Some people could love seeing your name in their Gmail promotions tab every day while others could find this über annoying. One way to make sure you are not sending your readers into a blind rage is to let them self-segment by choosing how often they want to hear from you.

Below is an awesome example of stopping an unsubscribe from happening AND allowing the reader to choose when they want Bonobos to drop them a line.

There isn’t a perfect number of emails one should send each week/month, so let your reader chose their own Goldilocks zone: the sending pattern that is just right.


Knowing where your contacts live can be seriously powerful information. Finding out your subscriber’s location is as easy as adding a zip code to your purchase or opt in forms. A great way to utilize their geographic location would be by localizing subject lines! The mega retail store, Target, made good use of this tactic when they tested localization in promotional emails. They did this by identifying which Target stores were close to their recipient’s listed address. The email sent to them featured the name of the subscriber’s local store in the subject line, as well as that store’s telephone number and store-specific links.

Another great example of using geolocation to personalize email copy was seen by S-Digital in an email campaign for the Open Golf Championship. The example below uses geolocation and routing services to create dedicated travel directions (to the Championships) for each and every recipient of the campaign!

As a result of the campaign, the online traffic increased by 250% with over 500 leads!

Weather Patterns

It’s like segmenting by geography on crack! While segmenting by weather patterns may sound a bit over the top, it could be incredibly useful since weather can motivate a purchase. For example, if you were a retail clothing company and had rain jackets you wanted to promote, what better time would it be to send an email offering 20% off rain coats than when it’s raining outside for your subscriber!

A company called Skymosity can track weather patterns and it allows you to create automated email campaigns that are deployed by weather-based email triggers. Brooks, an athletic shoe company, made fantastic use of this data by creating multiple campaigns, based on weather condition and temperature range that were triggered by Skymosity’s weather logic. In the example below, everything from the image to the email copy had been perfectly crafted for the weather conditions of the reader.

Purchase Cycle

Where someone is in the sales funnel is critical in determining how and what you’re messaging them. To make a more laser focused segmentation strategy for your prospect, you need to see how far they got in the buying journey.

To track where someone is in the buying journey, you have to look at their digital behavior. Digital behavior, for example, can be tracked by seeing which pages of yours they visited, how long they stayed on your website and how you obtained their email. Did they end up on your list because they downloaded content from your site or did they enter their email to start the buying process? In the instance that someone gave you their email by downloading educational content, a nurturing drip campaign could be the way to market by sending them an introductory email and then more valuable content over the next few days. After those educations emails, THEN you can make your sales pitch.

If someone entered their email address because they began the checkout process but left, you can send them a more salesy email offering a discount or a free trial right off the bat to help persuade the prospect. The average shopping cart abandonment rate is approximately 67%, so it’s smart to trigger a card abandonment email 24 hours after they left the shopping cart. Below is a great example from Kate Spade incentivizing their prospect to return with a 15% off coupon:

According to SaleCycle, nearly half of all abandoned cart emails are opened and over a third of clicks lead to purchases back on site so it’s well worth your time to segment and target by this criteria.

Past Purchases

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon! Amazon does an epic job of using your past purchases to target you with other products you may be interested with their “You bought this, so you might like this” upsell. By knowing what someone has purchased in the past, you can use that information to send them emails catered to that which interests them. This will lead to more purchases and a longer lifetime value.

One killer tactic to upselling is to ask customers to pay more at just the right time! One way you can ask someone to spend more AND let the consumer save money in the long run is an annual payment offer when their monthly bill is coming up. WPEngine made great use of this tactic in their email below:

Another example of a successful upsell would be if you were a retail e-commerce store and your subscribers put certain items in their “wish list.” By offering a discount for the items they put on their wish list, you could optimize your conversions. You already know they want that product, so just give them the extra nudge with targeted emails.

Email Activity

Tracking and then segmenting based on an individual’s email activity can uncover who is engaged, who isn’t, what content they enjoy reading the most, and that’s just to name a few! At EOA we are able to generate subscriber level reporting which allows you to see a subscriber’s opens, engagement, email client, environment, mobile device and browser, geographic location and more!

Instead of just seeing your campaign’s total number of opens and clicks, now you can see who opened and clicked. You could use this information to create a segment of subscribers that haven’t opened an email from you in months. Then send them a re-activation campaign or an incentive offering to reel em’ back in. Check out Starbuck’s short, simple and sweet re-engagement email below:

Subscriber level reporting allows you to pin point certain audience members even further than just opens. Other ideas for list segmentation and targeting using this report would be dividing up your list based on the environment your subscribers are opening your email in (web, desktop or mobile) or offering a rewards program to your most engaged readers. The possibilities are endless when granular information for individual readers is at your fingertips!

Are you successfully targeting your audience through segmentation?

Do you have the right tracking and reporting in place to successfully optimize and convert your list through segmentation? Try our analytics, free for 7 days, to really know your readers on a personal level.

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