List Segmentation Strategies to Improve Engagement


Traditional marketing has taught us that to successfully gain a customer’s attention, you have to segment your audience and target messages to meet their specific needs. The same is true for email marketing. Regardless of the scope of your email marketing, your recipients are all unique and will usually be at different stages of the purchasing cycle, therefore requiring unique information from you.

What is list segmenting?

List segmenting is a process of dividing your list into sub-groups based on the data you have collected about your recipients. While some messages are meant for everyone, sub-groups allow you to send specific messages to pre-determined groups, based on their behaviour or needs. Segmenting allows you to send targeted messaging and will thus improve the chances of recipients being receptive to your information and more inclined to open and click, i.e. be more engaged with your campaigns. Additionally, more relevant content and better engagement rates will improve the ROI of your marketing campaigns. Not to mention, you’re likely to experience fewer spam complaints and a decreased unsubscribe rate, which will contribute to improving your deliverability by improving your sender reputation.

It is impossible to ignore the benefits of list segmentation when you consider the following compelling stats on segmentation from Email Stats Center:

  • 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates
  • 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates
  • 24% experienced greater revenue.

Although, when it comes to list segmenting, there is no silver bullet that will yield results for everyone and the process can become quite an obstacle. Since you can create any custom fields that are useful to your business, you can choose almost any demographic or preference to segment your list by, such as age, gender, geographic location, roles (e.g. HR managers, financial managers etc.), or industry.

You can also segment based on the email contact’s own behaviour, for example what they open, download or read. You can even use your contacts’ behaviour on your website as a basis for segmentation and to offer tailored content. With the TotalSend API, you can pull advanced data from your site to send targeted messages to your contacts. The secret of course is to offer personalised content that is relevant to the recipient.

Examples of behaviour-based list segmenting include:

  • Someone who abandons their shopping cart before concluding a purchase may be sent a message a few days later to remind them to complete the transaction, or to offer an additional discount on a complementary product.
  • If you segment your list based on past purchases, you can send tailored messages with value added content related to those purchases such as instruction manuals, recipes or idea books to build trust and loyalty with your customers.
  • You can segment the list based on location, to send customers special in-store offers, invitations to events or to show support for local town or city activities that are related to your event. An example is a grocery store offering residents along the 94.7 Cycle Challenge route a discount on refreshments the day before the event, because roads will be closed while the race is on.

How to get started with subscriber list segmentation

  1. Take a long view. There is no need to rush the process because even the slightest segmentation can increase your email success rates. Start with the data you have and grow your data fields as your skills grow. Initially, you should look for obvious groupings based on the information at hand, such as their levels of engagement, purchase behaviour, questions received or the content they read or download.
  2. Study the stats. Don’t let your efforts go to waste by neglecting to measure your ROI. Monitor to see if open and click rates are increasing, or unsubscribes and complaints are decreasing to determine if the segments are responding to the more targeted messages. Test, test, test until you find the best solution and then test some more!
  3. Talk to the experts. If you want to get the best ROI for your efforts, it will be worthwhile speaking to experts such as TotalSend for help creating and maintaining segments, as well as setting up the technical capabilities to automate segmenting and dynamic content display.

Dynamic content is another option for targeting your messaging campaigns. With dynamic content, you can create a single email campaign using dynamic content tags to display different content to different people based on the data you have collected. A good and well-known example of this approach is Amazon’s recommendations to their millions of users based on their browsing history and past purchases.  

Ultimately, segmenting shouldn't be a nice-to-have, it is a necessity that offers the coveted rewards of higher click-through rates, better deliverability and more revenue. Using this short summary as a starting guide, you’ll soon discover creative and rewarding segmentation ideas based on the individual characteristics of your audience and industry.