Effective Email Segmentation Ideas With Authentic Examples

Effective Email Segmentation Ideas With Authentic Examples
25 December, 2023 • ... • 72 views
Elena Batova
by Elena Batova

If there is one thing that you can do to improve your email marketing, it is to start segmenting your subscribers. As an ESP for small business owners, we know how challenging it might be to come up with email segmentation ideas of your own.

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone! We’ve selected the most effective ideas and collected two dozen real-world examples from successful brands to ignite your inspiration.

What is email segmentation?

Email segmentation is the practice of dividing your email list into groups based on shared characteristics.

These shared characteristics present a wide range of factors, including demographics such as age, gender, location, job title, or even relationship status, as well as behavioral aspects like purchase history and interaction patterns with previous emails.

Email segmentation is one of the key elements of data-driven email marketing, as by identifying and understanding these shared characteristics, marketers can create targeted campaigns that resonate more deeply with each group and subsequently perform better.

Effective email segmentation ideas

Even if you heard about segmentation before, chances are you might feel a bit lost when it comes to identifying effective email segmentation ideas that would fit right into your small business marketing strategy. 

In this section, we list some criteria you can apply to create your first segments or to level up your segmentation game, and share tips to help you choose an email format and navigate through potential challenges.

Location data

Location data offers diverse criteria for email segmentation. You can start by creating segments based on where people live and segment them by country, region, city, or city part. To broaden or narrow your geographical segments, you can take into account additional factors like time zones, holiday calendars, and even weather.

Location-based campaigns are widely used to make personalized recommendations and offer exclusive deals tailored to specific areas or stores. They can also take the form of holiday promotions and reminders to place orders before certain dates to ensure timely deliveries.

Segmenting the email list based on geography can be useful when experimenting with the content and formats of your emails. Marketers often choose to test their hypotheses in the secondary markets to avoid a negative impact on revenue.

Finally, location data opens up opportunities for situational marketing by serving as a focal point for trend-watching. While trend-watching may sound fancy, it can be as simple as designing a campaign in response to a local heatwave.

Surreal’s cereal ice lollies. The brand admits they don’t look or taste good. There is a “SHOP NOW” button in the email, but they urge subscribers not to freeze their products.
Surreal seized the opportunity to engage with their UK audience on the subject of yet another severe heat wave despite the fact that their product isn't particularly helpful. Source: Really Good Emails

Gender

Due to the evolving and nuanced understanding of gender identity, gender becomes a tricky criterion for segmentation.

While conventional marketing strategies often rely on binary distinctions, the Western and, especially, the US market increasingly recognizes a spectrum of gender identities beyond the traditional male and female categories. Attempting to pigeonhole individuals into binary gender categories might lead to alienation or even brand canceling.

Many consumers today, especially from younger generations like Gen Zs, value inclusivity and authenticity.

One way to go about it is to craft your email content in a way that appeals to a diverse audience, meaning you should avoid gender-specific language and visuals that may reinforce stereotypes.

Another way to approach segmentation based on gender is to offer subscribers the option to self-identify their gender during the sign-up process.

However, make sure to provide categories beyond just “male” and “female.” Options like “non-binary,” “prefer not to say,” or allowing individuals to input their own gender can make your segmentation more inclusive.

Handle gender data with sensitivity and in compliance with privacy regulations. Clearly communicate how this information will be used and assure subscribers that their data will be protected. Remember, transparency builds trust.

Interest in topics

Marketers often make the mistake of assuming what might be of interest to their audience solely based on acquired demographic data when the audience’s interests can be segmentation criteria of their own.

Don’t guess let people choose what they want to read about and track what they have chosen to keep supplying them with relevant content in the future.

DTS offers their subscribers a choice of three projects: “Exert yourself,” “Ceramic,” and “Mood board.” Subscribers have 48 hours to make the decision. After that, the next email series will be selected for them.
Source: Really Good Emails

A longer but potentially even more effective way is to analyze the customer data that accumulates on your customers over time. Eventually, you will be able to build an accurate customer persona and achieve a high degree of personalization in your offers.

Past purchase history

Purchase history is one of the major criteria for segmentation since this is the data marketers can obtain fairly easily by just tracking and analyzing sales. The audience gets divided based on their past buying behaviors and interactions with your products or services.

The segments can be as general or as specific as you need.

Regular customers

First-time buyers

vs. Customers who made purchases in the last three months following the link from the email

Customers who shop once a year around the spring holidays

Customers who buy only discounted products

Loyalty program members who buy anything that comes out in a specific product category

Customers who made their first purchase through a referral link

Customers who consistently make orders above a certain threshold

Regular customers already know about your brand, so providing them with incentives like loyalty and referral programs or exclusive offers can help keep them engaged and make them more likely to purchase from you again. On the other hand, first-time buyers might not know much about your brand yet, so providing them with helpful content and resources can help them to become loyal customers.

The most effective email formats for more granular segments include upsells, personalized recommendations, and reminders to replenish their favorites.

Inactivity

Inactivity in the context of segmentation might imply either inactive subscribers or inactive customers.

Inactive or cold subscribers are those who haven’t opened or engaged with any of your emails for some time.

The period of inactivity sufficient to flag such subscribers may vary depending on factors like the frequency of your sendings and your pricing plan. ESPs usually have their own recommended period of inactivity. We at Selzy recommend experimenting with the periods of 3/6/9 months.

Since these people might potentially negatively impact your sender’s reputation, you should separate them from the main contact list and try to re-engage them. Otherwise, you risk your future messages ending up in the spam folder.

Another type of inactivity is the customers who bought from you before and then suddenly stopped. They might or might not be opening your emails. You can also try to win them back with a coupon or special offer based on their previous purchases or send them a survey asking why they stopped buying from you.

Sales funnel stage

The sales funnel stage is another segmentation criterion that can be fairly easily implemented when it comes to identifying segments and setting up sendings. The majority of today’s ESPs offer some kind of automation that moves subscribers from one segment to another and sends them the right type of content without your overwatching each sending.

The content specific to each stage and segment may consist of either a single email or a chain of emails. For example, you can send just one welcome message to new subscribers or prepare a full-fledged drip campaign with a focus on raising brand awareness leading up to their first purchase.

Naturally, the specifics would differ depending on your niche. For an e-commerce brand, a single welcome email might suffice, while a SaaS brand would need a proper onboarding chain and regular upsells.

welcome, account confirmation, onboarding, cart abandonment, browse abandonment, order confirmation, shipping confirmation, delivery confirmation, refer a friend, cancellation, win back
Types of emails or email chains to send to your subscribers based on their position within the sales funnel

The only downside here is that preparing enough content to cover all the stages might require some serious investments at the start. For this reason, traditional email marketing has started transforming into AI email marketing. That way, marketers can quickly and cheaply update their email chains and automation sequences to implement the recent trends in design and copy. While trying out something new might seem scary, and the AI tools keep getting a lot of criticism online, the field data shows that 90% of marketers who use AI in content creation testify to its effectiveness.

Family size

Family size is not a criterion you can implement right away unless you specifically gather that data, but it can still be a part of your long-term segmentation strategy, especially if you are a brand that has collections or product lines for both adults and kids.

If you notice some of your customers have become increasingly more interested in baby products, you might want to start targeting them more with young family-oriented offers and some products designed for children. By further monitoring customer purchases, you may identify and segment out families with two or more kids and consider creating big family bundles.

Even if you don’t specifically target families, you can still benefit from this information. For example, if you are a traveling brand or a coffee shop and some of your customers went off the radar, consider sending them a survey and include answer options along the lines of: “My family circumstances changed.”

Don’t rush to exclude them from your list simply because they have small kids now and can’t buy some of your products. Move them to a separate list and think of what else you can offer them to win them back now, or just keep them loyal for the time being since they might return in the future.

Devices and email software

Most email marketing platforms allow you to track what devices your subscribers open your emails on and what email providers they use. This information might provide a number of important insights for your marketing team and serve as yet another segmentation criterion.

There is a good reason why more and more brands promote their apps. Apps give more control over notifications and promotions and can potentially provide a larger variety of behavioral data.

If some of your subscribers open your emails only from the phone but haven’t installed your app yet, dedicate one of your email campaigns to promote it.

Consider offering a special discount for the first purchase made in-app and highlighting all the perks that come along with the app experience.

Zumiez promotes their app in an email, promising exclusive downloadable rewards and additional points in their loyalty program.
Source: MailCharts

But even if you don’t have the resources to develop and maintain your own app, you might still want to optimize your emails for mobile devices to improve engagement and provide your subscribers with a better user experience.

Email segmentation examples and ideas on using them

You might have noticed when we discussed ideas for segmentation and mentioned specific criteria multiple times. That’s one of the best things about implementing segmentation into your marketing strategy — you can mix and match multiple criteria and experiment with different combinations.

In fact, with an intersectional approach, you can maximize the value of the created content. That’s why most of the examples we share in this section cover multiple segments and can even apply to different cases.

Welcome emails for new subscribers

Welcome email is your first touch point with new subscribers and one of the best opportunities to convert them into customers. According to 2022 data, welcome emails have the highest click-to-conversion rate of 56.9% among other email marketing content types. It means roughly 6 out of 10 subscribers click on the links in the email to activate its offer.

You can further segment new subscribers based on where they are coming from chatbot, website sign-up form, social media, or a referral link and tailor the content accordingly. In fact, we encourage you to have multiple welcome emails depending on the action you want the subscriber to take: complete the first purchase, sign up for a loyalty program, install your app, etc.

To get better results, consider using incentives like gifts shipped with the first order or a special discount for the first-timers.

Little Beast's welcome email is packed with reasons to choose the brand, quick links to product categories, best sellers, adorable social media posts featuring small dogs in cute clothes, and a tempting first purchase discount.
Source: Really Good Emails
Thrive Market offers one of their best sellers with a value of up to $24 as a free gift with the first purchase.
Source: Really Good Emails

Reminders for cart abandoners, website lurkers, gifters, and gift cardholders

Sending reminder emails has become a staple in email marketing, especially in e-commerce.

The most popular format is automated cart abandonment emails. And that’s for a reason.

After all,  it’s fairly easy to segment out the people who closed your website without completing the purchase they were contemplating.

But what’s more important, cart abandonment emails have the second-best click-to-conversion rate, scoring at 44.4%. It means nearly half of the customers who clicked on the links from these emails returned to the websites and bought the things they left in the cart.

Knowing this, marketers go above and beyond with designs and copy to convert with these reminders. That’s why you’ll rarely see an email that just reminds you about the item you were eyeing.

Poo-Pourri reminds the subscriber about the Blush Florals toilet spray left in the cart and offers their other home fragrance products.
Poo-Pourri included recommendations similar to the item left in the cart and additionally promoted their “buy now, pay later option.” Source: MailCharts
The Sak reminds the subscriber about the black handbag left in the cart and provides links to store categories: New Arrivals, Best Sellers, Sale, Shoes, Leather, and Crochet.
The Sak offers an additional 20% off on the already selected item and highlights other product categories that can potentially interest the subscriber, putting a link to the collection of items with up to 60% off. Source: MailCharts
SWATI reminds the subscriber to complete the purchase of a lash applicator.
SWATI adds a sense of urgency to their reminder — they promise to reserve the selected only for 10 minutes. Right after the picture of the selected item, they put a list of diverse payment options to show the customer how easy it is to process the payment. Finally they mention their connection with beauty bloggers as another proof of the quality of their products. Source: MailCharts
Ecco encourages the subscriber to “Try these at home?” with free shipping and returns for all registered customers in their abandoned cart email.
Ecco addresses the main customer pain and fear when it comes to buying shoes online — “What if they don’t fit?” — by offering free shipping and returns. Source: MailCharts

But cart abandonment is not the only email reminder format that works well with segmentation. You can take it a step further and even be a little cheeky and send targeted recommendations to the subscribers who were browsing your website but didn’t add anything to their carts.

Justice features a few looks for teenage girls to encourage the subscriber to check out the brand’s website again.
Source: MailCharts

One more idea for a reminder email is to prompt your subscribers to place orders in time for major holidays. This not only demonstrates your care for customers and their plans but also spotlights your products, encouraging subscribers to consider them as gift options.

In countries that celebrate Christmas, this has already become a best practice among marketers. Naturally, the same tactics can be applied to any other culturally significant local holiday wherever you operate.

MeUndies, in a playful manner, reminds the subscriber to place an order for Christmas gifts before 12/16 for standard delivery and before 12/21 for overnight and two-day US delivery.
Source: MailCharts

If your brand sells gift cards, the period after the holidays is the best time to remind the recipients to redeem their gift cards before they expire. Again, you show care and get a chance to earn more if the gift cardholder decides to go a little bit overboard.

South Moon Under reminds the gift cardholder to spend their gift card before it expires in an email.
Source: MailCharts

Re-engage inactive customers

When you see that some of your subscribers have stopped opening your emails and/or have stopped buying your products, it’s time to separate them from the active user base. While list hygiene is important, don’t delete them just yet. Try to re-engage them first.

Win-back campaigns should look differently depending on disengagement scenarios.

They signed up for your paid subscription of subscription boxes, were a regular customer, but then canceled? Try to offer them a gift that will resonate with them.

Cat Lady offers a Cat Nightlight as an incentive for resuming their box subscription for cat owners, along with a sneak peek of the next box’s items.
Source: MailCharts

Or offer them a deal for ordering in bulk/booking a few deliveries at once.

Sunbasket offers $90 off the next four grocery deliveries.
Source: MailCharts

They used to open your emails, at the very least, and likely even made a purchase. However, they have now stopped checking them? A coupon might work, but it’s best to also find out why they stopped opening your emails. Maybe there were too many of them? Use your re-engagement email as an opportunity to gather more information.

Office Depot offers four options to their disengaged subscriber: receive a coupon, snooze emails for 15 days, request fewer emails in general, or unsubscribe from the newsletter.
Source: MailCharts

Alerting potential buyers

There are a few email formats that you can use to alert potential buyers of specific products you are aiming to sell at a given moment.

Prior segmentation would definitely help you to maximize the results of your email marketing campaigns, so if you already have enough data on hand and the required website infrastructure, you can use emails with dynamic content to notify customers that the items that they added to favorites are now back in stock.

Patagonia notifies the subscriber that a men's black jacket, made from 100% recycled nylon with weather-resistant protection, is now back in stock.
Source: Really Good Emails

However, the back-in-stock emails do not necessarily require a complex infrastructure. Small business marketers often play into the feeling of missing out on limited products or leverage peer pressure and send emails about bestsellers coming back in stock.

By analyzing such campaigns, when first launched, they are able to compile the list of interested customers and group them into one segment to plan and launch new campaigns in the future.

Surreal announces the return of two of their most popular limited editions of biscuits.
Source: Really Good Emails

Another way to compensate for the lack of preliminary data, is to measure the customer’s interest in the new product by asking them to notify them when the product becomes available. With this approach, you kill a few birds at once: you can roughly predict the sales, you get a ready-made segment of people ready to buy your product on the launch day, and you spark interest and drive engagement across your whole subscribers’ list.

Aura Bora sent an email with a blurred image of their new beverage and offered the subscriber the opportunity to get notified about the launch, as they will be offering a limited supply.
Source: Really Good Emails

Understanding customer personas

While obtaining some demographic data might not be that hard, leveraging it wisely to build a customer persona and create targeted content can present a serious challenge.

A clothing brand might have a temptation to divide their email list based on gender and send men’s collections only to those who identify as male, and vice versa. While a lot of people buy clothing items outside their gender identity, the main reason they state is comfort, not gender expression. This means that even if you know how your subscribers identify themselves, it’s always best to ask what they are actually interested in buying.

OFFICE prompts the subscriber to confirm interest in the contents of the newsletter by choosing either men’s or women’s clothing collection.
Source: Pinterest

Geography is often a safer choice than gender for demographic segmentation.

In an email, Loeffler Randall is offering a special 15% discount on orders placed before 9/1 to celebrate the long Labor Day weekend.
Loeffler Randall, an international clothing brand, decided to offer a special Labor Day discount to their customers in the US. Source: Pinterest

A secret to a well-rounded email campaign is the inclusivity of demographics and life scenarios while at the same time calling to shared values and lifestyles. An example of such a campaign could be an email below, sent by Patagonia Provisions, a division of a major outdoor clothing brand, Patagonia, focusing on food.

They are clearly addressing multiple groups of people united by the passion for traveling but who might be looking for different snack options: vegans, meat lovers, families with kids, and people who prefer cooking quick but nourishing meals while camping.

Patagonia Provisions features Chile Mango, Venison Links, and Buffalo Links in an email, urging subscribers not to hike on an empty stomach. They also share a guide of camping-friendly meals based on their products and provide a link to other items in their online store.
Source: Really Good Emails

If you are just starting to implement segmentation, you might not be dead sure about what group a particular subscriber belongs to. So, you might have to create diverse content first, analyze its performance, and figure out your segments. Such an approach will be useful primarily for brands that operate in several niches.

Levain Bakery has three main niches: corporate orders, parties, and gifting. Sending a campaign like the one below helps them to identify their active corporate customers, even if the whole email list receives it.

Levain invites corporate customers to surprise their teams with cookies at the office.
Source: Really Good Emails

Another example of their Back to school campaign allows us to imply that they want to identify the part of their customer base that might have kids at school or is otherwise actively involved with educational institutions. Since the campaign details specify that the offer is not valid for corporate orders or event celebrations.

Levain offers free shipping on 8 and 12 packs as a part of their Back to School email campaign.
Source: Really Good Emails

Now that you feel inspired (hopefully!), you might be wondering where to start with the implementation — how to collect customer data and stay compliant, what the technical aspects of creating segments are, and how to make the whole process cost-effective and small business-friendly.

 And you know what? We just happen to have an in-depth guide on email segmentation, written with small businesses in mind while embracing the best practices of big brands.

25 December, 2023
Article by
Elena Batova
Elena is a UX and Content Writer, with a background in SaaS and video game localization. She advocates for bringing value to users and readers, implementing DEI best practices, and creating safe spaces for teams and professionals to share their experiences. She writes in both English and Russian. A cat lover, foodie, and adventurer.
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