Advanced Email Marketing Techniques, Part 2: Subscriber List Segmentation

October 11, 2020

Author: Angela Noble

Author: Angela Noble

Email marketing is the most important digital marketing channel, with an ROI of $42 for every $1 spent according to a 2019 report from Data & Marketing Association

Are you ready to start using more advanced features and strategies in your email marketing efforts? Let us show you our top tips on how you can start increasing engagement and getting more conversions.

In this series of Advanced Email Marketing Techniques, we’ll cover the following:

Please let us know if you’d like to see any other topics covered in future series.

Subscriber List Segmentation

Email subscriber list segmentation is the practice of dividing your email list into smaller sections to send more targeted emails. List segmentation will help you send more relevant messages to your subscribers based on their interests or activities. It will also help increase engagement rates and decrease your unsubscribe rate.

According to MailChimp’s report “Effects of List Segmentation on Email Marketing Stats”, segmented campaigns perform better than non-segmented campaigns:

  • Open rates were 14% higher
  • Click through rates were 100% higher
  • Unsubscribes were 9% lower

By sending messages to more targeted audiences, your subscribers will find your campaigns more relevant. In turn, your campaigns will get better results. After all, marketing as all about targeting the right audience at the right time with the right message.

Data Used For Subscriber List Segmentation

You can segment your list based on a variety of data points. These include:

  • new vs. old subscribers
  • preferences they’ve selected
  • location
  • interests based on activity (if you’ve tracked what they’ve downloaded or purchased on your website)
  • email activity (high engagement vs. low engagement)
  • demographics
  • and more

Any data that you have that would allow you to send more individualized campaigns could be a potential segment.

Here are two examples of subscriber data from two different MailChimp subscriber lists that you could use to segment your subscriber list.

screen shot of subscriber data list options from MailChimp interface

The first is from an e-commerce company and shows e-commerce data. The second example is from our own lead and client email list and shows groups and merge fields to segment by.

Let’s start with some subscriber list segmentation ideas for an e-commerce email subscriber list. 

Before getting started, you’ll need to sync your e-commerce website data with your email service provider. If you’re using Shopify for your website and MailChimp for your ESP, an app called ShopSync will do the trick. If you’re using WordPress’ WooCommerce, you can sync directly with the plugin MailChimp for WooCommerce. Typically, whatever e-commerce platform and ESP you use will have an integration capability of some kind.

Once you have your customer data syncing to your ESP, it’s easy to start creating segments and targeted campaigns based on that data. 

1. Subscriber List Segmentation Based on Past Purchases

We recommend two different types of subscriber list segments for past purchases. One for subscribers on your list who have made at least one purchase, and one for subscribers on your list who have not yet made a purchase. 

These two email subscriber list segments are in completely different places within the sales funnel. Accordingly, they should be treated differently with messaging.

When you’re setting up a segment, including Email Marketing Status = Subscribed is always a good idea so you can have a more accurate count of how many subscribers will get your message.

Here’s an example of our “Has Not Purchased” Segment parameters:

screen shot of segment parameters including email marketing status is subscribed, and purchase activity is has not purchased

For your other “Has Purchased” segment, simply change the second parameter to “has purchased”. 

You can also get more granular with additional segments based on number of orders or even specific products that were purchased.

One segment that would be great to add is “Repeat Customers”, or those that have placed more than one order.

You can also market similar products to those already purchased. For example, if you have customers that purchased table runners, perhaps sending an email promoting matching placemats would be a good idea. You have this data at your fingertips, so why not use it?

If you have a product that would need to be re-purchased overtime such as a skin care item that would only last one month, sending a follow up email after 3 weeks reminding them to order another bottle could be a great idea.

2. Subscriber List Segmentation Based on Amount Spent

Another data point to use to segment your list is amount spent. You can easily see and segment based on the purchase amounts of your customers including average per order, total lifetime spend, or total spent on a single order.

Depending on your product line, amount of subscribers, and what would qualify customers as big spenders, you can create segments around those amounts.

For example, here’s a segment based on total lifetime spend of more than $200:

screen shot of segment parameters including email marketing status is subscribed, and spent (total) is more than $200

Perhaps sending these VIP customers something special would be a good idea. Even letting them pre-shop products before they become available to everyone else, or letting them know about upcoming events or new products could be a great way to show your appreciation and give them incentives to continue purchasing.

3. Subscriber List Segmentation Based on Time Since Last Purchase

Using purchase date data to create additional segments is a great way to win back customers who haven’t made purchases in a while and nurture customers who have been more frequent shoppers.

Here’s an example of a segment created to target any customers who have not made a purchase in the last 6 months from the current day. 

screen shot of segment parameters including email marketing status is subscribed, and purchase date is not within the last 182 days, and purchase activity is has purchased

Perhaps your store has seasonal peaks and you want to target any customers who made purchases last season. 

In this example, we’ll use the November-December holiday period of November 1-December 31. 

screen shot of segment parameters including email marketing status is subscribed, and purchase date is after a specific date (11/01/2019), and purchase date is before a specific date (12/31/2019)

Sending these holiday shoppers a special message or promotion about your current holiday items and specials would be a great way to remind them you’re here for their seasonal shopping needs.

4. Subscriber List Segmentation Based on Abandoned Shopping Carts

If you run an e-commerce website, you may already know that around 70% of shoppers abandon their carts before completing their purchase. Many times this is just due to their intent—perhaps they are just window shopping and not ready to purchase quite yet. 

There’s a simple way to attempt to win back these shoppers with a highly targeted abandoned cart automation. Simply segment these shoppers into a special category and target them with a personalized email.

You can set up an automated email to trigger in a specified amount of hours or days after a shopper abandons their cart. The email would be automatically sent based on the time parameters you set up and would typically include a list of the items they left in their cart with a link to complete the purchase.

See Part 3 of this series about E-Commerce Abandoned Cart Automation for specific how-to details.

Now let’s talk about segmenting your email subscribers in a non-e-commerce list. 

The data you use to segment your subscriber list in a non-e-commerce setting will primarily be based on what you’ve collected from website and email activity or data points you’ve entered manually about your subscribers. These could include the page, lead form, or pop-up they were on when they subscribed. It could also include certain actions they took or didn’t take on your website or how they’ve engaged with your email marketing.

1. Group & Merge Field-Based Segmentation

Data sets we use in our own email marketing strategy are groups and merge fields. 

When we add subscribers to our list, we place them in groups for Leads and Clients. This data is manual and based on what we select for new subscribers as we add them. This allows us to send out different marketing messages to subscribers who are already our clients versus subscribers who have just shown interest in working with us.

We also use merge fields to add subscribers automatically based on website activity such as downloading our e-book. When users arrive on our website, we have a handful of places that direct them to download our e-book. This is gated content, meaning a user must provide their name and email address in order to download it. 

When a user enters their email on this lead form, they are subscribed to our email list and added with the Merge Field “ADA Ebook Interest”. When subscribers are added to our list with this Merge Field, an automation begins where they get an immediate email message with a link to download the guide. 

screenshot of workflow email based on a send "immediately after a subscriber's audience field, ADA Ebook Interest, changes to TRUE

We have a special segment based on this Merge Field data that adds them to the Segment “Accessibility E-Book”.

screenshot of Segment where Merge Field ADA Ebook Interest is not blank

We can then target specific messages to these subscribers using this special segment.

2. New Subscriber Segmentation & Welcome Email Automation

Welcome email automations work very similarly to how the above automation works. The difference is, this automation would usually send to any new subscriber, not just ones with special Merge Fields.

When a subscriber joins your email list via a subscribe form or pop-up on your website, this could trigger an immediate or timed welcome email or series of welcome emails, depending on your strategy.

We dive deep into welcome emails in Part 4 of this series on Welcome Email Automation.

3. Subscriber List Segmentation Based on Email Engagement

Aside from data about your customers and their activity on your website or otherwise, you can also use data collected from email activity as well. Data sets such as if a subscriber opens or clicks often, has engaged with certain messages, or doesn’t often engage with anything, is all stored in your ESP and can be used to segment your list.

For example, if you send out an email to your whole list about a certain topic, you can then segment your list by engagement for anyone who opened or clicked on that email. This will allow you to target them more specifically in a follow up about that same content that they have an interest in.

For any type of business or organization, we always recommend segmenting un-engaged and engaged subscribers. This would be based on the frequency (or infrequency) a subscriber clicks on or opens your email messages. This data could lead you to running a re-engagement email campaign. In Part 1 of this series, you can learn all about Email Re-Engagement Campaigns.


There are a lot of different ways you can segment your email subscriber list based on data you collect. Ultimately, your strategy for segmentation and targeted email marketing will depend on your type of business and business goals. 

No matter what your list size or industry, using some type of list segmentation is sure to help you achieve your email marketing goals.

If you need help creating an email marketing strategy, schedule a complimentary consultation with us today.

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