Successfully convincing a reader to click through an email means you need to capture their interest and convince them that receiving a message from you is beneficial to their lives. What’s the best way to achieve this? The answer is to create segmented email campaigns. 

Having a list of email subscribers is a great start, but sending generalized emails to the entire list won’t capture as much attention.

The best marketing campaigns are specific and precise. Rather than taking shots in the dark and hoping your email convinces someone to click, email list segmentation can increase engagement rates, solely because that email is personalized.

In this article, we will learn all about email segmentation: how to segment email lists? What are the main criteria to segment email lists? And what are some best practices in email list segmentation?

What is email list segmentation?

Email list segmentation is dividing your list of email subscribers into a number of smaller email lists based on certain factors or criteria. Doing so allows you to group subscribers who share some traits together, like age, preferences, purchase history, and create more personalized messages for them.

The goal of email segmentation is to send more relevant content to homogeneous groups of subscribers, which is proven to increase open rates.

How to segment email lists?

Segmenting an email list consists of dividing subscribers into sub-groups, or segments, based on specific criteria, pertinent to your brand and marketing.

Here are the most common email segmentation criteria:


The most commonly used criteria to segment email lists are demographics; age, gender, marital status, occupation, education, etc. This information is easily attainable and can help you get started with email segmentation.




Example of an email campaign targeted to men

This next example shows how you can also target campaigns based on occupation. For the back to college season, Bed, Bath & Beyond sent out an email campaign specifically for college students going back to dorms.

A+ ideas to store all your stuff at college.



Another key way to segment your email list is based on geographic location. This will allow you to offer location-specific recommendations for certain groups. This segmentation criterion is also pertinent when you are hosting an event or sales in one location only.

Customer behavior

This email segmentation criterion is the most interesting, yet challenging. We go beyond the surface and dig deeper into each customer’s behavior and interests. What products did my customer buy last (purchase history)? Which page did they visit? Which articles did they click on? How long is their buying process? Did they abandon any products in their cart? A million questions can be asked and answered to better understand your customers and to prepare them relevant, personal emails that truly speak to them.

Tell us what you think!


Example of email campaign sent according to purchasing history

Active / Inactive subscribers

Try to measure active versus inactive subscribers as well, as this is another segmentation group you could focus on. Keep in mind that people are busy and you may be spending too much time focused on subscribers who don’t even have time to read your emails. Identify your most active subscribers and give them emails at a more consistent rate than non-active subscribers.

Ultimately, segmenting your email list and then crafting personalized messages to send is one of the most effective email marketing strategies that any business owner can use. In the next section, we’ll dive into the top three tips you can use to successfully segment any email list.

How to collect data about your subscribers?

In order to segment your email lists into different groups, you first need to understand who your subscribers are. You can collect data about your customers during the sign-up process. There are lots of ways to grow your email list,  Try to gather basic information such as age, gender, occupation, and income level, email list building tools will make it easier to collect the right information.

But be careful when gathering data, because asking for too much personal information can turn people away from signing up for your email list.

You can also consider sending out a survey or quiz to your subscribers in order to gather more information. Adding an incentive for filling out the survey can make your subscribers more willing to participate.

3 tips to successfully segment any email list

When it comes to learning how to segment an email list, there are three effective tips that can help you be successful:

1 – Understand how your ESP works

ESP stands for email service provider. ESPs allow you to send emails to large lists, without triggering spam filters and harming your deliverability rates.

Email providers can usually provide you with monthly email performance or campaign reports that give you insight into subscriber engagement, behavior, location.

This data can be used to target sub-groups.

Mailchimp audience segmentation

Example of Mailchimp automated email segmentation based on Subscriber behaviors and Location

Plugins can also be installed to collect information about past purchase history and help you segment your email list more effectively.

2 – Customize your email messages and subject lines

As mentioned, personalization should be your primary focus when running an email list segmentation campaign. Nothing is more impersonal than receiving a, “To whom it may concern” or “Dear valued customer”. Learn how to use your ESPs merge tags and add some personalized elements to your email content.

You can start by including your subscriber’s first name in the email subject line. This simple yet effective method has been proven to double email open rates.

However, be sure to add a fallback value that will appear in case of a missing name or information.

3 – Test your emails ahead of time

You can’t hope to have a successful email segmentation campaign without testing your emails. Rather than segmenting every subscriber on your list, start with a test group or two.

Measure the click-through and open rates for those groups and stack them against your generalized campaign rates. As with any new campaign, you also need to watch out for bugs that may emerge. If you have never experimented with email list segmentation, you’ll want to keep an eye out for common problems that may emerge.

Hitting send and not having your emails reach a subscribers’ inbox can cause you to be penalized by ISPs, which has the potential to turn into a blacklist. Also, be sure that subject lines and headers are all being personalized. The last thing you want is for your email segmentation campaign to have kinks in it when you fully launch it.

Overall, the success of your new campaign will be up to how well you group your subscribers together.  This isn’t a process that should be done overnight. Take a number of months to learn more about your subscribers and the best ways to group them together. Experiment with putting different subscribers in different groups and studying the results.

According to Ottawa-based software developer and digital marketer Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, “Despite some outcries to the contrary, email is far from dead and is, according to all statistics and expert predictions is actually gaining traction as a marketing modality, making it more important than ever before that you have the right systems in place to ensure you aren’t leaving any money on the table.”

In other words, email remains one of the most viable digital marketing methods today. Segmenting your email list is a quick way to successfully increase your click-through rate, but take the proper time to set up the campaign in an effective way.

In conclusion

Segmenting your email lists leads to more personal, relevant campaigns that capture the interests of more subscribers. And consequently, increase your open and engagement rates.

Brainstorm the email segmentation criteria that are pertinent to your brand: demographics, location, purchase history… And divide your lists into sub-segments that are coherent and share the same traits.

Target them with quality content, and watch your efforts pay off.