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3 Bullet-Proof Email Segmentation Strategies for E-Commerce (w/ Examples)

  • Email Marketing

If you’re like most email marketers, you spend hours trying to get subscribers and customers to read and act on your emails.

No one wants to see their emails wither away in their subscribers’ inboxes. It’s a waste of money and it doesn’t offer a return on the time—or money—you invested in them.

While there are endless reasons why your emails aren’t as effective as they could be, there is one bullet proof solution that will guarantee higher engagement from your recipients.

Email segmentation.

Segmenting your audience and sending targeted email campaigns is one of the most effective ways to increase engagement and drive more sales.

A recent study from Mailchimp found segmented email campaigns have a 14.31% higher open rate and a 100.95% higher click-rate than non-segmented email campaigns.

Segmentation is all about knowing your audience, and in this post, I’ll show you how to segment your email subscribers so you can send the right marketing campaigns to the right prospects at the right time.

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Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).

1. Segment your subscribers for higher email engagement

When users opt in to receive your newsletter, they’ve taken the first step towards becoming a customer.

You won’t convert all new subscribers into customers, but you will convert a considerable amount with the right email segmentation strategy.

Segmenting your audience doesn’t necessarily entail long and complex surveys. Rather, it involves asking a simple question such as: What is your primary occupation? How old are you? What are your interests?

But before you start asking questions you need to decide how you want to segment your audience.

What’s the most important information you need from them to send them relevant and high-converting email campaigns?

If you’re selling clothing it could be knowing their gender; if you’re selling sports equipment, you need to know what type of sports they are into, and so on.

The most effective ways to segment your subscribers are:

  • Demographics
  • How they opted in for your newsletter
  • Engagement history

The first two segmentation strategies are key when segmenting new subscribers, while the third strategy is invaluable for retaining subscribers and customers.

Let’s have a look at the first email segmentation strategy for new prospects.

i. How to segment by demographic

Demographics include characteristics such as age, gender, income level, company position, and more.

Of course, you shouldn’t ask your subscribers for all this information at once. What information you ask for depends on the product you’re trying to sell.

E-commerce businesses that sell clothes and shoes would benefit from knowing the gender of their subscribers so they know if they should send offers on dresses or suits for instance.

Here’s an example from SSense:


They include a link in their welcome email where you can update your email preferences. Then you’re directed to this page, where you’re asked for your gender.

SSense Email Preferences

That way, they know if they should send offers on men’s or women’s clothing.

This type of segmentation is perfect for developing buyer personas that will help you send highly targeted email campaigns.

A great example of an e-commerce business which makes use of buyer personas is Barkbox.

Barkbox knows their audience comprises dog lovers, but segment one step further by asking what size dog the reader has.


They’ve made segmentation as simple as one click while collecting valuable information about their subscribers.

The easier it is for your subscribers to answer your question, the more likely they are to follow through.

ii. How to segment by signup source

Another way to segment your subscribers is by their signup location.

To generate high-quality leads, you need to have multiple signup options on your website and in your offline stores with different call-to-actions (CTAs) and incentives.

Based on those incentives you can segment your new subscribers.

Let’s say you’ve included a content upgrade for one of your pages offering a guide to one of your products.

People who’ve opted in for this guide shouldn’t receive your regular welcome email.

Take this example from Intelligent Change:


I opted in to get the Five Minute Journal Quick Start guide, and they made sure to include it in the welcome email.

When you offer a lead magnet to new subscribers it should be included in the first email you send them.

If people opt in for a content upgrade, you can use this information for future email marketing and not just your welcome email.

For example, if someone opts in for a recipe, you know that they’re interested in cooking and you can send them more recipes and cooking tips, along with offers on cooking equipment.

If subscribers opted in for a training program, you know they’re interested in fitness and you can send them content on how to optimize their workout, and offers on products to help them do so.

Whatever your product is, there’s an effective segmentation strategy to be discovered.

Intelligent Chance also tries to get additional information by asking about my struggles.

This is especially useful when it comes to email marketing, as solving burning challenges for your audience is the best way to drive sales.

Another example is from AYR who offers a 10% discount on first orders through a popup on their website:


When I signed up to get the discount, I immediately received this email:


They promised me a discount and included a simple CTA linking back to their website so I can make my first purchase and get the discount.

This is a great way to engage new subscribers and convert them into customers—fast (especially if you need to recoup your spends from paid traffic).

There is, however, one disadvantage with discounts:

Offer too many too often, and your subscribers and customers will grow accustomed to them and never pay full price again.


There’s a fine balance when it comes to discounting, and you’re the only one who can figure out what that balance is.

iii. How to segment on engagement history

Engagement history is another vital part of email segmentation.

Looking at how subscribers’ have engaged with your previous campaigns will give you an indicator of how to approach them in the future.

If you send a weekly newsletter, for example, and a user hasn’t engaged with any of your six previous emails, you might need to move them to another email flow where you try to re-engage them.

If you send an email every day, six emails wouldn’t be enough to determine whether a subscriber is inactive as they might just be on vacation.

Next, you need to look at what type of content your subscriber engages with most.

Is it the emails where you offer free shipping; show them your newest arrivals or your flash sales?

Maybe they only engage with you when there’s a chance to win something?

Look at the type of content subscribers act on and create an audience segment based on interest.

Then you can include more of that content in your segmented email campaigns for this specific audience to increase engagement and start pushing for sales related to that content.

Another segment could consist of those subscribers who attended your last event.

Whether this was a physical event, a webinar, an online training session, demo, tutorial, or other, these people have shown a high level of engagement, and you can push harder for a sale than with your other subscribers.

You could send them a limited offer related to the topic of the event.

Again, focus on problem-solving.

What was the purpose of the event and what was the reason people attended?

Did they want to lose weight? Learn about your new computer program? Find new inspiration on how to dress?

2. Segment your customers and drive more sales

Once subscribers have made their first purchase, they can be considered customers.

They may never purchase anything again–but I don’t want that to happen to you.

So let’s take a look at the three best ways to segment your customers to drive more sales.

i. How to segment by interests and preferences

This one’s similar to demographic segmentation, but here you segment by your customers’ interests rather than demographics.

If you get your customers to define their interests (within your area of expertise, of course), you can send highly targeted email campaigns to those segments.

Here’s an example from Chairish:


They ask you to add items to your favorites on their website. Then, you get an email when any of your saved items go on sale.

The more items you add to the list, the more likely one or more will go on sale at some point.

The benefit of this type of email marketing is its simplicity. Customers will browse your site and fall in love which specific items—which increases the likelihood they’ll purchase them when they go on sale.

Speaking from personal experience, impatience is a powerful advantage for businesses.

Once I’ve fallen in love with an item, I want to have it—and I want to have it now!

How many times have you gone out after your Birthday and purchased items from your wishlist that you didn’t get?

More than once, right?

The tactic that Chairish uses is basically the same—they get customers to create a wishlist, and increase engagement and eventually sales.

ii. How to segment by cart abandonment

With cart abandonment rates hovering around 67%, it’s crucial businesses segment abandoning visitors.

An abandoned cart email is all about timing and good copy.

Here’s an example from Casper:


This email is simple and includes the most important elements of a great abandoned cart email.

They’ve included the specific item that I left in my cart which convinces me that this email was sent specifically to me.

They include a soft CTA that tells me to return to my cart instead of a hard CTA such as “Buy Now!” which can, in some cases, scare off potential customers.

Casper knows visitors abandon their carts for different reasons, so instead of assuming users didn’t have the time or the money to finish their purchase, they offer customers to chat with them to answer any questions that might have had about the checkout process.

Having a dialogue will give you valuable insights into why people are abandoning their carts, which can help you make your emails more targeted.

iii. How to segment on location

When customers make their first purchase, they always leave their address, so you know where to send their purchase.

This information is highly valuable to you as you can segment your customers based on location.

If you have brick and mortar stores, you can send segmented emails to the customers who live near one of your stores.

If you don’t have brick and mortar stores, there’s no need to worry; you can still segment on location.

Let’s say you run a travel agency and you’ve segmented your list by customers who live in southern England.

You’ve checked the weather forecast, and it’s going to rain for the next two weeks with temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius.

This is a perfect opportunity to send a targeted offer on an extended weekend in Spain or somewhere else where the weather is much better.

One idea could be to include the weather forecast in the email to show people how bad it’s going to be at their location, and then show them how great the weather will be at the travel destination.

3. Segment repeat customers and create brand advocates

Segmenting customers—especially repeat customers—will not only drive more sales but build stronger relationships with your customers that will last a lifetime.

Will Ferrell Customer Loyalty

Okay, so you might not become best friends with your customers, but it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic.

Generating repeat customers is much more cost-efficient than acquiring new customers.

Think about it: You don’t have to spend resources on paid advertising, PR, and so on.

All you need is a well-timed and highly targeted email campaign.

These are the top three segmentation strategies for repeat customers:

  • Purchase history
  • Purchase amount
  • Inactive customers

Mastering these three types of segmentation will get you loyal customers and drive sales through the roof.

What’s not to like?

i. How to segment by purchase history

The one thing every repeat customer has in common is they’ve purchased from you before.

That previous purchase gives you exactly what you need to send a segmented email encouraging another purchase.

Look at your customers’ purchase history to see what type of products they’re interested in, and promote related products in your emails.

Here’s a recent email from ASOS:


The email promotes a 70% clearance sale on dresses, which is highly relevant as the majority of my previous ASOS purchases have been dresses (and many of them!)

They know I’m not interested in bags and accessories because I’ve never bought such items on their site.

This segmentation can be applied by all e-commerce stores.

If you run a gaming store, you can segment repeat customers based on what type of game they’ve purchased previously (fantasy games, racing games, simulation games, etc.)

An online fitness store could segment on the type of training equipment their customers have bought (running, weightlifting, climbing, cycling, etc.).

Keeping your email campaigns relevant will also reduce your unsubscribe rate and churn rate.

Another way to segment by purchase history is to offer refills on previously bought items such as shampoo, dog food, carbonators (soda stream), diapers, and so on.

Calculate the approximate time it takes for a customer to use the product, and send them a friendly reminder to restock when they’re about to run out.

ii. How to segment by purchase amount

Use customer purchase history to determine which customers are more interested in high-end and expensive items, and which are more likely to buy lower priced items.  

If you have customers who only buy items on sale, it won’t make any sense to send emails promoting your newest and more expensive items.

Also, if customers typically buy your newest items, it might be effective to send them an email every time you launch a new product or product line (of course, depending on how often you do so).

Here’s Huckberry promoting their new sunglasses:

Huckberry Email Segmentation

They start out with some storytelling leading up to the introduction of their new exclusive product.

The hard CTA “Shop now” is relevant because they know the customers they’re targeting are interested in the newest arrivals because they’ve previously bought their newest items.

Your loyalty program is also a great source for user segmentation.

Whenever a customer has spent a certain amount of money on your site, you can send them an email with a gift or another type of reward.

You can also create a loyalty program where customers collect points every time they make a purchase (the more money spent, the more points). These points can then be used to redeem rewards, discounts, etc.

H&M is a great example of this:


Every time I make a purchase I get a certain amount of points depending on how much I spend.

Then H&M sends an email once in awhile telling me how many points I have, and what those points can get me. These include mostly discounts and free shipping.

iii. How to segment inactive customers

It’s important you don’t forget about inactive customers.

If your repeat customers haven’t made a purchase in a long time, you need to try and re-engage them.

First, try to figure out why they’ve been inactive.

Have they opened your emails but not clicked any of them?

This could mean that they were interested in the content, but your CTA wasn’t convincing enough.

In this instance, you could try the same type of content but with different CTAs.

If they haven’t opened any of your emails in a long time, you should remove them from your list and add them to an email retention flow instead.

Here, you don’t to sell to them; you need to re-engage them in other ways such as browse your website, read a blog post, make a wish list, and so on.

This is another example from Huckberry:


This email is all about getting subscribers to read the featured interviews with three famous men and staying top of mind with customers by sharing information without selling.

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

Let’s face it: writing good marketing emails is TOUGH. To help, we’ve put together an email marketing swipe file, including 41 email marketing examples (organized by category). Plus, a few other goodies not featured below (*cough* killer Facebook Ad examples *cough*).

Time to start segmenting

With the right e-commerce email segmentation strategies you’ll see significant increases in email opens, clicks, purchases, user engagement, and much more, all while saving money.

Acquiring new customers is key in all businesses, but that doesn’t mean your existing customers aren’t just as (if not more) important.

While it might take some time to create your segments and set up the right triggers, email marketing segmentation will save you time and money in the future.

What segments are you using in your email marketing strategy? And what are your experiences? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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