The Essential Guide to Email Segmentation

Why You Should Segment Your Email List

The Essential Guide to Email Segmentation

Chapter 1: Why You Should Segment Your Email List

If you send marketing emails, such as newsletters, email promotions, announcements, and special offers, sending one master email to your entire list might do more damage than good—both to your engagement and sender reputation.

How does segmentation affect sender reputation? Internet service providers (ISPs) evaluate how your recipients interact with your emails when deciding where to place your email. If most of your users are unengaged, the ISP probably won’t think your email is very important and may deliver it to the spam folder.

Segmenting emails, a tactic every email marketer should (and can!) master, produces relevant and valuable messages that your recipients are more likely to read (and respond to). Email segmentation helps you take your messages from an email blast, one-to-many approach to a personalized, one-to-one experience.

To take your segmentation strategy a step further, consider adding Short Message Service (SMS) to your existing email program to reach your customers on their preferred channels. With SMS, you can send timely, personalized text messages that have unmatched open and engagement rates. SMS adds another layer of segmentation to your overall marketing strategy, giving you the ability to target users through multiple channels to optimize your campaigns.

Email service providers, like Twilio SendGrid, provide email metrics and engagement analytics that can help determine segmentation groups to fine-tune your messages and get your recipients excited to engage with your emails.

Sliced Open Geen Limes on Symmetrical Blue Background with one peeled open
Sliced Open Geen Limes on Symmetrical Blue Background with one peeled open

Chapter 2: How to Start

Wondering where to start? We advise starting with segments based on large differentiating factors, including: 

  • Demographics: Who are your recipients, and how are they different?
  • Customer information/insight: What service plan/level are they on, how much do they spend, and when did they join?
  • Email types: What types of email, transactional or marketing, do you send?
  • Engagement: Who opens all emails, just some, or hardly any of your messages?
  • Activity: How often do your recipients log in, buy, or use your product or service?


Below, we dive deeper into each segmentation area. We also provide examples of how you can better target customers and maximize your email delivery and engagement.

Best practice tip:

Using Twilio SendGrid to segment your email list

With Twilio SendGrid's Marketing Campaigns, you can use custom fields to store customer insights that will help you send the right content to the right recipients. For example, how might the images in a promotional email differ if you sent them to a segment of your male customers vs. your female customers? You can also leverage text fields, number fields, or date fields, each of which offers segmenting options. For example, you can segment by text fields that “contain” certain characters or a date field that “is within” a specific date range.

Women and shopping
Women and shopping

Chapter 3: Demographics


Whether your recipients reside in different states or countries, it’s important to know where they are. This allows you to customize your content based on location for a relevant message. For example, you wouldn’t want to send a Fourth of July promotional email to a segment of Canadian recipients.


Track when your recipients open and interact with your emails to schedule them to land at the top of their inbox at or right before that time. Learn more about this segmentation practice in our blog post, Two New Email Segmentation Techniques.

Gender and age

Although it might not make sense in every situation, segmenting by gender is a simple yet impactful way to deliver personalized content. Just note that you may have to ask recipients to respond to a survey in which they indicate their gender.

Depending on your product or service, it may make sense to ask new users for their age or age range as well. If you’re not sure about asking your recipients’ gender and age, perform an A/B test with a select group of recipients to gauge how they respond. Then, if it’s favorable, go ahead and open up the question to your entire list.

Occupation and industry

When you know the occupation of each recipient, you can tailor the message to how they’ll most likely use your product. This is particularly effective for business-to-business emails. Whether the recipient is a creative director at a small agency or an accountant at a large corporation, segmenting by occupation helps improve your message relevance and craft creative messaging.

Chapter 4:Type of Customer or User

New user or buyer

Start your new users or first-time buyers off with focused messages that’ll extend their relationship with you. Sending a personal welcome email is a great way to achieve this. Read more about welcome emails.

Frequent user or buyer

Separate email recipients who actively use your site or purchase your products into a frequent user segment. These are the recipients who consistently open and interact with your emails. Consider these to be your VIP recipients and treat them as such by sending special offers and discounts. By surveying them, you learn how to improve your program.

Free trial subscriber

If your company offers free trial periods, driving trial subscribers to convert to a paid version is the next step. Your communications with these users should focus on how they can benefit from paying for your product when their trial ends. For example, if you offer a free or low-cost version of your product, create a segment of users in this tier and use your email campaigns to nurture them into upgrading.


Free trial users don’t always turn into paying customers. But you can still glean value from them by reaching out with a feedback survey or other communications to learn what you can improve in the future.

Average order value

The customers who spend more on your product or use your service the most likely interact with you much differently than the customers who spend less time with your service or product. Create segments for these two distinct groups to tailor your communications. Show lower-volume customers all of the benefits and features they receive currently or could receive by upgrading in specialized nurture campaigns. On the other hand, offer more incentives to valuable, long-standing customers to retain their business.

Best practice tip:

Twilio SendGrid Contacts API

Looking for an automated way to keep customer data up to date? Twilio SendGrid's Contacts API can update customer data on a daily basis. This is especially useful for data that changes frequently, such as "last website visit."


Chapter 5: Email Type

Engaged users

Dive into your email program analytics to determine your most active and engaged users. Create a segment of these most engaged recipients and send any new email communications to them first. Not only will you learn more about the effectiveness of your content from each send, but it will also help you maintain a solid sending reputation.

Interest level

Go even deeper into recipient engagement and segment who opens your emails and who opens and clicks on your calls to action. This way, you can determine who was intrigued by your subject line, who dropped off after reading your content, and who actually took action. Those who open and click should be in your engaged users segment mentioned above.

Inactive users

Separate those who previously interacted with or responded to your brand emails but stopped from the rest of your list. But don’t give up on these users just yet! Send inactive users reengagement and win-back campaigns. If inactive recipients don’t open or click on links within your emails in a few months, it’s time to remove them from your list completely. Ultimately, inactive users do more harm than good to your email marketing list, so it’s better to say goodbye than risk them marking you as spam.

User response

Consider allowing your recipients to respond to your emails. Twilio SendGrid customers can use the Parse Webhook to remove the “donotreply” address in their message, allowing recipients to simply reply to the email message. This can provide great feedback about the emails you send by making your communications a two-way street. Learn more about the Parse Webhook in our docs pages.

Chapter 6: Recent Activities

Last purchase and recent web activity

If you have access to more sophisticated tracking, you may want to segment your marketing emails based on which products or services your users view on your website as well as their purchase history. Track what your recipients purchased most recently, then include complementary products and services in their next email.

Depending on the other tracking services you use, you can see what pages on your website caught their attention (based on clicks and time on page) and send messages about those specific products.

Chapter 7: Microsegmentation

What is microsegmentation?

Microsegmentation breaks down the audience segments we discussed above even further, creating smaller audiences that you can reach with highly targeted content. This level of segmentation leverages granular customer data to send ultra-personalized emails, which increases the likelihood of conversions. 

How to microsegment users

The key to microsegmentation is data. The more you know about your customers, the more effective microsegments you can create. 

You can use algorithms, data mining, artificial intelligence, and even manual data analysis to help you create microsegments based on user data and behaviors. Start with the broader categories outlined in the previous chapters and create niche lists from there. 

Don’t have the customer data you need to create microsegments? Gather information about your customers through surveys, questions in your email sign-up form, or even cross-referencing other databases, such as your social media audience segments. 

Different ways to microsegment

Once you have your customer data lined up, you can slice it up in a few different ways to find the microsegments you want to target. Here are a few ways to segment your audiences. 

City or ZIP code

You may already have your customers segmented by country or region, but you can take this further and segment them by city or ZIP code. This allows you to send targeted emails that align with customers’ locations. For example, if you open a new location for your business, you can send an email to customers within a 25-mile radius to invite them to check it out. 

Demographic niches

Go beyond gender and age and segment your customers by more specific categories such as family status. For example, if you have a microsegment of customers who are parents or caregivers, you can target them with products or events for kids. 

Behavioral patterns

Look for patterns in your recipients’ behaviors to help you send them the right email at the right time. For example, if you have customers who purchase a refill of your product around every 3 months, anticipate their needs by sending a well-timed email with a reminder or a discount.

Purchase history by category

When you offer a wide variety of products, microsegmentation can help you send more personalized deals to your customers. For example, a sports apparel company can microsegment customers by sport or activity based on their purchase history. Customers who purchased yoga apparel and accessories are more likely to engage with yoga-specific emails than broad emails that promote products for a range of sports. 

In today’s email ecosystem, email blasts aren’t going to cut it. But email segmentation doesn’t have to be as daunting as you might think. Twilio SendGrid’s Marketing Campaigns allows you to build a powerful email marketing platform with precise segmentation techniques. Read up more on Marketing Campaigns and start sending thoughtful and segmented email today.

Chapter 8: SMS Segmentation

Text messaging, or SMS, is a powerful communication channel that can take your segmentation strategy to the next level. SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to 14.5% for email, making it a quick and effective way to reach your target audience. But it’s important to segment SMS messages to drive customer engagement and initiate two-way conversations.

By segmenting your SMS audiences, you can achieve higher response rates and develop a personal relationship with your customers. Like email, you can segment SMS by:

  • Geography
  • Demographics
  • Customer type
  • Recent activity

As the use of mobile phones increases, it’s critical now more than ever for companies to adopt SMS to communicate with customers. Segmenting SMS is the key to tapping into attentive audiences and providing customers with promotions and offers that they actually want.

Texting illustration on iPhone
Texting illustration on iPhone


Geography is a highly effective way to segment your SMS messages. Mobile geolocation makes it possible to send offers to recipients living in the geographic area of the promotion you want to advertise. When you target by location, you ensure that your customers receive notifications for events and discounts that are nearby and relevant to them.

Hi (name)! Show this text and get 50% off ANY beverage at our downtown cafe located on 8th Ave. 


Another great way to segment your SMS messages is by demographics. Whether it be gender, age, background, or lifestyle, demographic segmentation is an effective way to provide your customers with discounts and promotions catered to their specific wants and needs. 

Take 15% off all beauty products when you use the code SUMMER15 at checkout!

Customer type

It’s also important to segment SMS messages to customers at different stages of interacting with your brand. For new customers, it’s best practice to send an introductory text to welcome them into your subscriber list. 

Welcome to the family, (name)! Thank you for subscribing. Get excited to receive exclusive rewards!

For returning customers, sending exclusive rewards and discounts can be a great way to reward their brand loyalty. 

We love having you on our team! Here’s 20% off your entire purchase today to show our love. Use code FRIEND20 at checkout!

Recent activity

Targeting a user by their recent activity with your brand is also an effective way to drive future sales by nudging interested customers to make a purchase. For example, if your customers visit your website frequently and express interest in your brand, an SMS message is a great way to push them in the right direction.

We noticed you’ve recently added ____ to your shopping cart. Why wait? Take 10% off your entire purchase today with code SALE10.

Likewise, if your customer engagement is low, a win-back campaign might be what it takes to spark customer interest and influence purchasing behavior. Just remember to make it easy for your customers to opt out of your texting list if they no longer wish to receive promotions. 

We miss you, (name)! Here’s 10% off your entire purchase to show that we care. Use code SALE10 at checkout!

Like email, you can segment SMS messages to send timely, personalized offers and information to your customers. Segmenting your text marketing not only helps you increase customer engagement with your brand, but it also gives your audience promotions that they’ll actually be excited to receive.

To learn more about how you can incorporate SMS into your existing email program, talk to an expert at Twilio.

Best practice tip:

Use a reliable platform to customize your SMS segmentation

Twilio’s Programmable SMS makes it easy for you to send the right message to the right person on the right channel. Our SMS infrastructure features the ability to easily segment your sending lists and measure the results of your SMS campaigns. Start sending like a pro!

Chapter 9: Takeaways

Segmenting your email and SMS audiences enhances all aspects of your marketing program. The biggest benefits of segmentation are that it: 

  • Helps you create meaningful and valuable content for each recipient on your list.
  • Helps you maintain a strong sender reputation.
  • Helps you increase your engagement by building personal communication with your recipients.

Email and SMS segmentation don’t have to be overly complicated and time-consuming. If the thought of creating customized content for every type of user, demographic, or engagement level feels a bit overwhelming, take a step back and identify easy-to-implement ways to tweak content or images rather than starting at ground zero for each segment. Small adjustments can have a big impact.

Get Started with SendGrid

SendGrid helps you focus on your business without the cost and complexity of owning and maintaining an email infrastructure. And with a full-featured marketing email service that offers a flexible workflow, powerful list segmentation, and actionable analytics, all of your email needs are met in one simple platform.