Effective email marketing segmentation strategies for your audience

Profile photo of author Alexandra Edelstein
Email marketing
February 18, 2021
audience segmentation hero

An effective segmentation strategy looks at your brand’s unique customer journey, and creates moments of surprise, delight and “right message, right time” seemingly effortlessly.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 8, 2018. It’s been updated to reflect the most current data and insights.

Email marketing audience segmentation is when email subscribers are divided into groups or ‘segments’ based on different customer profiles to create personalized tactics to deliver more relevant experiences. The email segmentation maybe based on audience geographic location, interests, purchase history, and much more.

Sending smartly segmented emails across the entire customer lifecycle is a surefire way to ensure you’re sending marketing messages to the right folks at the right time, maintaining your sending reputation, and ultimately driving sales.

Audience segmentation is the place to start. You can segment your audience in your email campaigns based on attributes such as engagement, location, and past purchases.

Where the rubber meets the road is the advanced audience segmentation of autoresponders, or automated email flows. Here are ways you can segment your autoresponder series throughout a core part of the customer journey—activation!

Understanding the customer lifecycle

For ecommerce shop owners, understanding the customer lifecycle can be tricky depending on your industry, as well as the types of products you sell.

The buyer journey isn’t quite as simple as acquiring new customers and getting them to convert.

customer lifecycle flow chart

Throughout each phase of the customer lifecycle, the quality of your communication to your audience will ultimately determine if a customer stays or goes. To be successful, you need to:

  • Map your existing flows against the customer lifecycle, and fill in any gaps if there are key lifecycle stages you’re neglecting
  • Ensure your email content speaks accurately to the mindset and motivation of your primary buyer personas at each stage of the customer journey
  • Use the power of audience segmentation in flows to create more one-to-one journeys for customers who should receive tailored messaging based on past activity or behavior

With these three points in mind, there are many ways you can level up your flows using audience segmentation strategies. In this post, I’ll be focusing on moving leads from “Awareness/Interest” toward “Desire/Action”, using compelling automated sequences.

Email automation basics that help grow your email channel and segmentation marketing

Convert leads with advanced email segmentation and automation

Welcome series

Someone signing up for your email list is kind of a big deal. In a world where there are entire businesses built around helping people bulk unsubscribe, someone choosing to sign up for your marketing emails isn’t nothing. In your first email to your new subscriber, thank them for signing up and put your best foot forward. But what should you say?

Welcome email series examples from successful marketing campaigns

The right message will depend on how familiar this subscriber already is with your brand.

Welcome series flow example in Klaviyo

Tip #1: Email marketing segmentation based on retention

Segment your welcome series based on whether a new subscriber is already a customer.

New subscribers who have purchased from you before, are very likely already fans of your business. They might be subscribing to take advantage of a promotion, because they want to stay in the loop with product launches, or because you’re known for offering great content.

Think about what is driving these existing customers to all of a sudden subscribe to your list, and make sure your first Welcome Series email speaks directly to that motivation!

The individuals who subscribe but have never purchased are likely much newer to your company. So there are two important things to do—re-affirm their decision by making it clear why your brand is great, and incentivize them to make their first purchase.

Consider what makes your existing customers love you, and use that to shape your messaging. You could focus on your brand story, feature an eye-catching photo of your best selling product, and/or consider offering a discount off the subscriber’s first purchase.

Personal care company, Ursa Major, follows this strategy for audience email segmentation in their welcome series. And guess what? Their welcome email strategy is working.

Ursa Major’s first email targeting new subscribers performs 14x better than the average welcome email.

Ursa Major email segmentation example

Tip #2: Segment based on acquisition source

Segment your welcome series based on acquisition source to send a more relevant message based on how someone subscribed.

Split your sequence based on the sign up method, and create parallel paths for each source. You may only need to customize the first welcome email, and then you can bring these different paths back together for the remainder of your new subscriber on-boarding sequence.

Marine Layer takes a unique approach to audience segmentation. Their welcome series flow is based on how new subscribers are acquired. They have one automated email campaign for in-store subscribers and another for online subscribers.

For those who visit in-store, the primary goal of their first welcome email is to introduce the shopper to their website and draw them into their online world. For those who subscribe directly on their website, the goal is to get them to convert as quickly as possible—Marine Layer offers 10% off a next purchase for new subscribers that opt-in online.

Marine Layer email segmentation example

Cart abandonment email marketing segmentation

Alright, either your marketing strategy is off the charts, your products are speaking for themselves, or all of the above. Someone has initiated the checkout process and is so close to making a purchase.

With well-documented stats pointing to the fact that between 60-80% of carts get abandoned, a shopper getting to the checkout stage may not mean a home run. If that shopper does navigate away and leave their cart behind, what next?

Automated abandoned cart emails are nothing new, but using advanced audience segmentation to take a more personal approach can yield above-average results.

Abandoned cart email examples and automation strategies

Tip #3 : Separate and segment based on high and low value abandoned carts

Segment your audience for your abandoned cart campaign to separate high value and low value abandoned carts.

In a world where consumers are always hunting for the best deal, and coupon codes are not hard to find in most product categories, as a business you may be struggling with the best way to offer incentives. 

For your abandoned cart emails, consider splitting out your campaign flow based on the value of a cart and providing compelling messaging (but no coupon) for customers with low value carts. For customers who left higher value carts behind, you can provide a discount knowing the ROI will likely make it worth your while.

Pro styling tools company, Sam Villa segments their abandoned carts by the order value as well, as professionals or consumers can make purchases. They offer free shipping for customers in the US who spend over $50.

Sam Villa email segmentation example

Browse abandonment segmented email flow

When it comes to browse abandonment emails, you need to consider what content and timing of your email is going to catch the eye of someone who was essentially just window shopping. 

If you have certain products that are true best sellers, it may make sense to develop content targeting customers who browse these in-demand items. 

For other less prominent products, focusing too much on the item someone browsed could be the wrong approach—instead, you may want to simply feature your best sellers and provide social proof that supports your brand.

Browse abandonment email examples based on segmentation strategies

Tip #4: Segment audience based on last viewed product

Segment your browse abandonment flow based on the products your customers last viewed.

Pick three to four top best sellers that you want to build out a tailored content series for. Split your flow to create unique parallel paths for customers who viewed these top products. 

If you don’t want to get that granular, consider taking this approach on the product category level. Taylor Stitch segments their browse abandonment series by their top four product categories.

For those that view an alternative category, they get more general content about the company’s most in-demand lower cost items. Here is an example of an email tailored to those that browsed any item in the category Men’s T-Shirts.

Taylor Stitch email segmentation example

Let the customer lifecycle inspire your email marketing segmentation

I hope the above examples inspire new ways you can level-up your strategies for audience segmentation and automated flows to help convert customers just starting their journey with your brand into loyal first-time buyers.

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Alexandra Edelstein
Alexandra Edelstein
Alexandra is a group product manager at Klaviyo. Managing several product teams across areas such as integrations and analytics, Alexandra loves helping shape new product experiences that are equally as delightful as they are powerful.