Segmentation for Email Marketing: The What, Why, and How

Topics: Email & SMS
By Gavin Write
Email Pop-Up Example For Email Segmentation Blog Featured on Laptop Render Graphic

Email marketing is far from dead. However, the days of batch and blast are long gone. With an ever-growing number of brands vying for our increasingly fractured attention, our emails need to be specific to the recipient and provide genuine value.

Thus enters one of the most important elements of email marketing: list segmentation.

You want your marketing campaign to be as precise as possible so that the right message can hit the right people at exactly the right time.

Email segmentation is straightforward: it’s simply dividing up an email list into smaller, specific groups with shared characteristics in order to tailor the content you send out. 

Email marketing segmentation isn’t something reserved only for those with advanced marketing automation or big budgets. With a bit of creativity and patience, you can start segmenting your audience easily, right now. 

In this article, we’ll be sharing the what, why, and how of list segmentation in order to maximize the ROI of your email marketing campaigns (although the benefits are not exclusive to email alone).


Lesson One: The Why

With the rise of Big Data, people are receiving incredibly relevant ads on social media, search engines, and… email. Personalization isn’t a “nice to have” - it’s a must-have.

Customers are more likely to engage with a message tailored to their behavior, and the data tells this story:

65% of users said they were motivated to be loyal by receiving personalized offers, and 61% by personalized product recommendations.


Segmented And Targeted Emails Statistics

Featured on ZoomInfo's Marketer's Guide To Email List Segmentation, the results  above speak for themselves and the data-points here are 'true-to-life' examples of the increases one can expect when performing these actions.

Now, let’s dive into the details...


Lesson Two: What

Regardless of what you’re selling, there are always numerous opportunities for you to collect more information on each customer or website visitor.

Let’s take a look at how exactly we can do that:

Strategy One: The Direct Approach

Ask them! One of the most recommended versions of this is a New Visitor pop-up promotion: Give a new visitor time to look around and understand who and what you are, often around 30 seconds to 1-minute. Then, show a pop-up asking for their information (often in exchange for a discount, gift, or downloadable content). We use lead generation and lead capture systems to provide the backbone for triggers and rules that we set up in order to generate the right timing, and of course, the right creative.

Now what we collect, is the core piece of information you need (email), but you can also ask for things like their name, gender, birthday, product interests, or any other combination of data fields that would make their shopping experience better, while also adding to your email segmentation data.

The example below illustrates a great approach for a custom email flow rewarding users later with a gift on their birthday. This can also be used for merchandising against age-group interests and many other things.

Email Marketing Discount Pop-Up For Vex Clothing Brand With Blonde Woman

The next step here (once you have information about the user), is to:

  1. Send a list of links to relevant products that align with the users' interests, and guide them to what they’re looking for right away; mainly so that they have an easy option to buy.

  2. Add this information to their contact profile for reference when personalizing their experiences later on; and remember that other systems can also leverage data to target using ads, retargeting, on-site search, and much more.

When you’ve collected data on enough customers, look through the responses to make corresponding categories of visitors to start creating segmented email lists. You can also create a few different versions of an email and send a much more relevant version of each one to your grouped customer lists.

Other questions you can ask are: where they heard about you, the company, and the position they’re in (if you’re a B2B company), phone numbers, and much more.

If this sounds like a lot of complex work, don’t worry - this process is entirely automatable with any of these best email marketing software for eCommerce. With that said, the key element to making all of this work together with your overall brand communications is having a plan to advance these lists, segments, and gathering techniques into as many other marketing areas as possible.

Here's an example promoting B2B bulk buying and making it simple to "Get On The List." A pop-up triggered by viewing wholesale and partner pages of a retail website; giving the business an opportunity to gather targeted leads while not disturbing customers that are viewing all of the other retail pages.

Email Marketing Flow Pop-Up Capture

Another example would be having signage inside of retail stores promoting offers (if you have a brick and mortar), using QR codes or landing pages, and any other marketing and advertising methodologies to bring the bigger picture together with digital platform capabilities.

Now as we look at the requirements in the above examples, the one determinant factor is that this applies only if: they take the time to tell you! Not all website visitors or customers are going to do this. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of all the data they leave behind in their digital wake.

Strategy Two: Work Behind The Scenes 

Hidden fields are one of the most powerful ways to improve personalization. These are fields that collect certain data like geo-location, abandoned cart values, pages, browsed products, or any other valuable piece of the information that can be collected from cookies and other data footprints. You can also track where visitors came from (social media, a landing page, organic search), or what marketing campaign they were referred from. 

Once you have this data, you can target your visitors accordingly for a more personalized follow up. 

Create segments for a variety of buyer personas:

  • Those who haven’t been to your website recently (ex. Within the last 30, 60, 90 days)

  • Formerly active/engaged subscribers who have gone dormant

  • One-time customers

  • Re-targeting browsers or cart abandoners

From here, you can tailor content to their interests: previously browsed products, new arrivals, post-purchase messaging for conversions down the road, and much more. Here are a few simple examples of tracking types (taken from Google's very own UTM Builder) used by brands all over the world for AdWords. The same exact concept applies to hidden fields in the context of pop-ups and emails. The key here, is that as long as any information can be tracked and collected through your ESP and systems, you can segment against it.

To learn more about abandoned cart emails, check out this resource on how cart abandonment emails rescue lost revenue. 

UTM Email Marketing Segment Parameters

Lesson Three: How

Fortunately for all of us, now it’s easier than ever to put segmentation into practice. Create new fields within your pop-up or landing page forms and have it sent to your ESP or collect the data directly into a .csv file for later use.

If you want to use hidden fields, you’ll need to be integrated with an ESP that can collect the data directly. If you're unsure if your ESP handles this type of automation, give us a call and we'll review the system and the tracking capabilities and let you know what options are available.

Now let's take a look at some examples using email segmentation.

  • PBH Foods, a keto and paleo-friendly CPG brand, implemented a few basic email segmentation strategies with great results. The first thing they did was to segment their product emails between their engaged lists versus their unengaged lists. Then, created specific lists based on the buying habits of their customers. This was their first time implementing programs that connected Klaviyo email segmentation together with lead capture, and they needed to start simple before diving into more complex flows and segments.

    With a regular newsletter email going to both engaged and unengaged lists, the results were good, but open rates, order counts, and other metrics should opportunity for improvement. By limiting the email marketing to engaged customers, then adding segments of customers that only purchased once, they could target different offers and upsells. (It’s worth noting that their unengaged list was about twice the size of their engaged).

    Not only were the unengaged not providing any value to them, but they were further diminishing their brands' sending reputation scores with ISP's (Internet Service Providers). Google and others calculate your sending reputation by reporting against how many opens, bounces, and overall engagement each e-mail receives. That data is also tracked over time, so the higher the open rates, the cleaner your reputation, and the higher likelihood that your emails will go to the inbox vs the spam folder. Segmenting users that produce no actions out of the batch email marketing mix is exactly the type of audience segmentation best practice that is a good place to start.

    Once they had that engaged list in place, they began to segment it even further by sending specific new product emails to customers that had displayed an interest in products like it. This time, the entire list was engaged and they had a new list of contacts with a clear interest in their new product. The result? Those that had displayed interest previously performed 9 times better than the regular engaged list.

All said and done, this allowed for 20+ new segments to be built that generated an instant increase in sales (over the previous blast approach), and reduced unsubscribe rates by over 400%; keeping more people on the list, and speaking to paleo customers differently than keto; the key factor here in how the segmentation was targeted against the interests of the user.

  • Perfec-Tone, a skincare beauty brand operating in several countries, as well as multiple currencies, also uses hidden fields to determine factors about a user and their interactions with the website. This includes things like if the user has any unredeemed loyalty points in their loyalty rewards program, if they are a repeat customer coming back, and many other criteria by which they segment their contacts. This data is automatically sent to the e-mail marketing system, and the email service provider tracks behavior within the user flow. This helps determine the path the user goes through and tracking each conversion that comes out of it.

    By tracking each customer, Perfec-Tone creates a historical log on the visitor behavior, and over time a more in-depth email profile gets built-up. During the user’s on-site experience, the promotion they interacted with and the products they purchased/viewed prior, are all used to provide the user with a more targeted experience, recommending products that 'go with' the products they purchased before. Ultimately this improves brand loyalty, reduces friction, and delights customers with helpful messaging and communications.

As you can see from these two examples, segmentation doesn’t need to be an incredibly complex or difficult task - starting with basic segments like product preferences and engaged audiences can go a long way to improving your click-through-rate and conversion rates.


Personalization is a prerequisite to any marketing strategy whether it’s email, paid ads, or on-site CRO. Gathering data and segmenting your customers is the first step in this process and cannot be ignored. With customer opt-in and conversion rates skyrocketing from even small changes in marketing, the message is clear.

Email marketing segmentation is vital for increasing eCommerce revenue. With great research, design, and content your email segmentation can capture more customers than ever before.

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