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Why You Should Segment Your Email List

If you send marketing email such as newsletters, email promotions, announcements, and special offers, sending the same exact content to your entire list might be doing more damage than good–both to your engagement and to your sender reputation.

Your recipients first and foremost want to receive email that's relevant to them. If this doesn't happen, they won't engage. And it's not just your recipients that want you to be relevant. Email segmentation is a way to group your email list into categories to send more targeted marketing emails.

Email segmentation also affects your sender reputation. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) evaluate how your recipients interact with your email when deciding where your mail will be placed. If most of your users are unengaged, the ISP probably doesn’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 to take your messages from an email blast "one-to-many" approach to more of a "one-to-one," personalized communication.

Email marketing platforms, such as SendGrid Marketing Campaigns, help make it easy to segment emails by organizing data about your recipients for you. These platforms also offer additional insights like how your recipients have engaged with previous emails. When you're empowered with automated data such as this you can efficiently fine-tune your messages so your recipients are excited to engage with your email.

Wondering where to start? First, think about segmenting based on larger differentiating factors including:

  • Demographics: Who are your recipients, where do they reside, when do they tend to check their email, and how are they different from eachother?
  • Customer information/insight: What service plan/level are they on, how much are they spending, and when did they join?
  • Activity: How often are your recipients logging in, buying, or using your product or service?
  • Engagement: Who is opening all emails, just some, or hardly any of your messages?

We dive deeper into each segmentation strategy below and provide examples that you can try today to better target customers and maximize your email delivery and engagement.



Whether your users reside in different areas of a state or in different countries across the world, it’s important to know where your recipients are. When you know this, you can customize your marketing emails based on location to ensure your content is as relevant as possible. For example, you wouldn’t want to send a Fourth of July promotional email to a segment of Canadian recipients.


You may want to consider segmenting your email list by time zone. Although there is no "perfect" time to send, if you notice that your users are opening more emails at a certain time over another, you can set your emails to land during this time frame. Learn more about time segmentation practices in our blog post, Two New Email Segmentation Techniques.

Gender and age

Men and women may read into and interpret communication differently from each other–and even more so depending on the product or service. Although it might not make sense in every situation, segmenting out by gender is a simple, yet impactful way to create recipient segments that allow you to deliver personalized content. Gathering your customers' gender information during the signup process can be a valuable and insightful experience.

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 gender and ages from everyone, perform an A/B test with a select group of recipients to gauge how they respond. If the results are favorable with a high response rate, go ahead and open up the question to your entire email marketing list.

Occupation and industry

When you know the occupation and industry of each recipient, you can cater the message around how they’ll most likely be using your product. You can collect this information during the email sign up process by asking the user to fill out their occupation and industry.

Small businesses will likely have a different use case for product and approach to factors such as pricing compared to an employee at a large company with, for example, a much bigger budget to work with. So whether your recipients are 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.

Type of Customer or User

New user or buyer

Kick off your relationship with your new users or first-time buyers right by focusing your messages on subjects and actions that will extend their relationship with you. Sending a personal welcome email is a great way to achieve this.

Frequent user or buyer

Separate email recipients who are actively using your site or purchasing your products into a frequent user segment. These recipients are consistently opening and interacting with your email. Consider these users to be your VIP recipients. Make sure you treat them that way by extending them special offers and discounts and surveying them to get a better understanding of how to improve your email marketing program.

Keep a close eye on the engagement levels of this group. If you notice open and click rates are dropping or that you experiencing a higher unsubscribe rate from this group, you may be sending too much email.

Free trial subscriber

For companies that offer free trial periods, driving these subscribers to convert to a paid version is the next likely the next goal. Your communications with these users should focus on how they can get started with your product and make the most of your paid product's features and benefits. If you have free or low paying users, you may want to nurture them into upgrading.


Free trial users or email subscribers 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 on in the future.

Average order value

Customers spending higher amounts on your product or use your service the most are likely interacting much differently than the customers who spend the least amount. Approach communications with these two distinct groups by segmenting them during marketing campaigns.

Show lower volume users or buyers all of the benefits and features they are receiving currently or could receive by upgrading in specialized nurture campaigns. And offer more incentives to valuable, long-standing customers to retain their business.

Email Engagement

Target openers

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 help you maintain a solid sending reputation.

Interest level

Dive even deeper into recipient engagement and segment who is opening your email and who is opening AND clicking on your CTAs. 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 both open and click should be included in your target openers segment, mentioned above.

 Inactive users

Separate those who were once involved with your brand, but have stopped interacting or responding to your emails from the rest of your list. But don’t just give up on these users just yet! Send inactive users re-engagement and win-back campaigns. If inactive recipients don’t open or click on links within your email 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.

Let your users respond

Consider allowing your users to respond to your emails. SendGrid customers can use the Parse Webhook to remove the “donotreply” address in their message–allowing them to simply reply to the email message. This can provide great feedback about the emails you’re sending by making these email marketing a two-way street. Learn more in the Inbound Parse Webhook Guide.

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 what products or services your users are viewing on your website as well as their purchase history. Keep track of what your recipient purchased most recently and 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 most (based on clicks and time on page) and then send messages about those specific products.

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. SendGrid's Marketing Campaigns allow 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.



Segmenting your email enhances all aspects of your email marketing program, but the biggest benefits of email segmentation are that it:

  • Creates meaningful and valuable email content for each particular individual on your list.
  • Helps you maintain a strong sender reputation.
  • Increases your engagement because you're building a personal communication with your recipients.

Email segmentation doesn’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 in small efficient ways before 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. Email marketers around the world use SendGrid because of its elegant design options, functionality, and impactful way to measure engagement and make informed decisions. Scaled infrastructure, ISP outreach and reputation monitoring, whitelist services, and real-time analytics are all ready for your use when you sign up for SendGrid.

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