Most marketers know email is the linchpin of 1:1 marketing but many still struggle to get away from batch-and-blast campaigns. If you’re having trouble getting started with your plan, you can use these simple steps to determine how to best segment your audience.

Dive Into The Analytics

Analytics are the most important part of any email segmentation strategy. Dive in to your data, pull reports, and analyze your subscribers to identify common characteristics.

Since every business is different, there is no “best way” to approach your analytics. However, there are some common things you should be asking while analyzing your data:

  • When do people typically make their first conversion?
  • How frequently do customers convert?
  • What types of products or information are different demographics interested in?
  • What types of emails do different demographics interact with?

Once you’ve done the research, you will start to see clusters of your audience form. To build out your strategy, you’ll want to turn these clusters into segments.

Your goal here is to identify those obvious clusters of your subscriber base and start developing personas and messaging strategies. These clusters sometimes look like:

  • Single vs. multiple purchasers vs. lapsed purchasers
  • In-store vs. online vs. combination shoppers
  • Men vs. women

Micro vs Macro Segments

This is probably where we see marketers struggle the most. To simplify email segmentation, split your segments into two audiences, micro-segments and macro-segments.

Micro-segments are very granular segments where every subscriber is truly unique. These types of segments tend to be specific to each subscriber, which makes it nearly impossible to devote creative resources to that level of unique content. Instead, we are able to effectively target these audiences by using tools like Predictive Intelligence or Certona to pull in enormous amounts of subscriber specific content. One of the best examples of this is product recommendation content. Below is an example from Nebraska Furniture Mart that brings in product recommendations based on subscribers browsing history.


Macro-segments are larger segments for which you have the creative and content resources to develop more encompassing email segmentation strategies. These segments have enough subscribers who meet the qualifying criteria that it makes sense to devote resources to develop full campaigns with highly relevant messages. It’s common to see macro-segments like gender segmentation, lifestyle segmentation, or some high-level purchase history segmentation.

When developing your macro-segments, make sure you have:

  • Data points allowing you to identify the segment within your messaging platform. Make sure you have all key feeds that contain the data to support your segmentation strategy integrated with your messaging platform.
  • Enough qualifying subscribers that you will see a positive ROI when targeting this audience. You’ll want to see how many people would qualify for each of the segments you’ve identified. From here you can either consolidate smaller, similar audiences into a larger audience (ex. maybe you can group single and repeat purchasers together) or you can focus your efforts on collecting more data (ex. you only have gender information on 10 percent of your audience and will need to collect more data before you begin segmenting).
  • Resources to devote to developing content and messaging strategies to support each segment you identify. This is again where you might consolidate similar, smaller segments into larger segments to ensure the marketing team isn’t stretched too thin and you have resources available to properly develop the messaging for each audience.

Determine Segment Objectives

Once you know what primary segments you’re going to target, you then need to figure out what your strategy will accomplish.

Before any new strategy, you’ll want to determine what your overall objective is for each segment and how you will measure success.

These goals might be different for each segment you’ve developed. For example, you might have a segment of single purchasers where your goal is to increase repeat transactions to turn these subscribers into repeat purchasers. You might have another segment of unengaged subscribers where your goal is opens/clicks to turn these subscribers into an active audience.

Test, Analyze, Repeat

Once you have measurable goals for each audience, it’s time to put your segments into production and test, analyze, and repeat. Go back to your analytics and determine if you need to modify your messaging and content or the criteria for each of your segments to optimize for your goals.

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