Optimize Your Email List Segmentation

by Hannah Stuart, Copywriter - 02/27/17


Want to boost your email marketing engagement and ROI? Effective list segmentation is essential.

Imagine your subscriber list is a pizza. You can’t eat the whole pizza at once—that just makes a giant mess no one wants to deal with. So you slice the pizza. You can slice it in square pieces or traditional triangular wedges based on your preference, and whether your toppings are the same across the whole pizza or they vary—whether your pizza or half pepperoni and half ham and pineapple, for example—no one slice will be exactly the same as another.

Email list segmentation is like slicing up a pizza. It’s an important tool for email marketing, and can, if done well, improve your campaign’s performance. Segmented, your target audience is narrower, more specific, and more relevant. Because of this, you’re far less likely to annoy your subscribers and prompt them to immediately dump your emails into the trash or—even worse—hit the unsubscribe button.

Segmented lists break your contacts into smaller segments based on any number of criteria. It could be by risk for specific health conditions, by how engaged certain subscribers are, by demographics, or by any other type of information you’ve managed to gather about your subscribers. It’s not difficult to do, either. Most email marketing tools provide users with the ability to create a nearly endless variety of list segments.

Need proof that email segmentation works? MailChimp measured performance of segmented campaigns to determine just how effective the tactic is at improving engagement with your subscribers. Compared to non-segmented campaigns:

  • Opens were 14.6 percent higher
  • Unique opens were 10.8 percent higher
  • Clicks were 94 percent higher
  • Unsubscribes were 9 percent lower

Segmenting your list also saves you money. Because most email service providers charge per email subscriber, you get charged twice if you have the same person on two separate lists. Segments allow you to categorize subscribers in multiple ways within one list.

List Segmentation Ideas

Your ability to segment depends entirely on the data you’ve collected about your subscribers. The more information you have, the more options you have for list segmentation.

One important thing to keep in mind is that how to best segment your lists depends heavily on the industry you’re in. Different demographics are going to be more relevant to certain industries than they will in others. For example, while a clothing retailer may limit its list segmentation to factors like gender and/or age, a healthcare marketer can get more detailed to target candidates for specific health services.

Obvious ideas for list segmentation include age, gender, language spoken, the industry the receiver works in, and geographic location. However, thinking outside the (in)box can be particularly beneficial when it comes to creating segments.

Some Ideas Include:

Content Topic

Similar to how Twitter suggests accounts to you based on others you’ve followed, you can segment your list based on topics that your subscribers have indicated interest in. Examples include women's health, men's health, fitness and nutrition, and more.

Interest/Engagement Level

You can separate subscribers based on whether they spend a lot of time engaging with your content, or whether they seem to have lost interest over time.

Reviewers versus Non-Reviewers

The more positive reviews you can get, the better. Why not, then, specifically target subscribers who have yet to leave a review? Even better, cross-reference this list with your other lists and target subscribers with content you’ve noted that they take an interest in.


How frequently do your subscribers use your website? Do they know it like the back of their hand? You can separate these users out from the subscribers who visit infrequently, and target the latter, finding ways to draw them in.


If you have clickable calls to action (CTAs) on your site, segment your subscriber list by those who have clicked on your CTAs in previous emails, and those who need a little more convincing. Do a little more digging on the group that needs convincing and see what you can do to improve their engagement.

The point of list segmentation is to ensure you’re choosing the right subscribers to receive the right content at the right time. Take a few extra minutes to determine what kind of segments work best for you. It’ll be worth it.

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Topics: Digital Marketing, Audience Segmentation & Targeting

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