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D.A.T. Segmentation

Posted on 9.02.2014

By Peter Prestipino

Chances are good that the traffic you receive through the email channel is a major contributor to top-line digital marketing metrics (unique visitors and page views) and pure, bottom-line sales performance indicators (leads and conversions).

Today’s digital marketers must appreciate how influential the interactions are that result from the email experience and treat recipients in a manner that respects the value of this interaction to the business.

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While the trend toward digital personalization (the technologies used to deliver messaging in accordance with users’ tastes, preferences and behavior) is increasing dramatically, only a small percentage of senders currently segment their lists. MarketingSherpa’s 2014 Email Benchmarks Report revealed, in fact, that just 32 percent of the 1,000 organizations surveyed indicated “customer segmentation” as one of their main goals within the next year.

Despite the slow pace of adoption among digital marketers, the benefits of segmentation are clear (and many). Senders that engage in the practice of email segmentation, specifically, regularly experience higher open and click-rate rates, better conversion rates and even decreased unsubscribe rates. On the whole, marketers that segment their lists simply have more engaged prospects (and greater profits).

To start more effectively utilizing your database of customer information, you must realize that each of your customers has particular needs and is at his or her own special point in the customer experience. Instead of sending the same batch-and-blast email to everyone on your list, why not send custom communication based on a type of audience segment? Below are three such audience breakdowns to get you started:

Did You Know?

86 percent of U.S. digital marketers use email marketing regularly.

(Source: Gigaom, 2014)

Demographic Segmentation

Perhaps the most conventional method to segment an email list is to do so by some of the more obvious demographic traits of your recipients. For example, geography, age and gender are practical approaches, as are the industry, the job function of the recipient as well as his or her seniority level. Another, albeit slightly more sophisticated approach, is to forgo demographics and segment using psychographics, the attitudes and aspirations of users. To segment a list using demographics or psychographics, however, it’s necessary to have information available about recipients – something that should be done within the acquisition phase. Learn how to create an effective email form at

Activity Segmentation

Another powerful way to segment an email list is to do so by the recipient’s activity level (as well as the value of their activity). It has been very common in the past to segment by RFM metrics (recency, frequency, monetary) and past purchases undeniably provide as good a starting point as any – but for most senders a more elementary approach is needed. Many email service providers (ESPs) offer functionality within their platforms that reveal which users are most active. MailChimp, for example, offers a 5-star Member Rating (based on open and click activity, bounce history, etc.) that is recalculated for every send. Segmenting based on activity enables senders to test a variety of techniques to determine the optimal subject lines, different calls-to-action for each activity level, and what’s more, sending emails that align with user activity will result in better deliverability over time and a better sender reputation for your enterprise.

Transactional Segmentation

Arguably the most valuable way to segment is to do so based on purchase history. Frequent buyers, one-time buyers and irregular buyers each require a different style of communication so the more targeted senders can make their segmented list, the better chance they will have of delivering the right message at the right time to the right recipients. Senders using transaction-based segmentation will be able to promote new products and features to the most frequent buyers, offer incentives or discounts to irregular buyers and encourage those that haven’t yet bought to do so.

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