Break These Email Segmentation Best Practices

Best practices are a great place to start improving your email campaigns. But sometimes, it’s OK to break those “rules” and best practices. In fact, it’s probably even better. Take email segmentation for example. Let’s look at a few commonly accepted best practices and see why it might be a good idea, profit-wise, to change up the rules.


Segment soon

Many email marketers recommend sending segmented and fully personalized emails to new subscribers right away. If your sign-up process includes a form to select preferences (which it should), you’ll have a pretty good idea of which segments the subscriber falls into.

However, there are plenty of cases where you want to break this best practice. In an effort to make email sign-up as painless as possible, you could also go the route to only ask for an email address to get on the list. The only downside is that it will take some time to collect and analyze data before subscribers can be effectively segmented.

Here’s where a communications preference center comes in handy. Note that I refer to it as a “communications” preference center, not an “email” preference center. That’s because you can capture valuable data on how your subscribers prefer to be contacted – that goes beyond email. Find their sweet spots, then capitalize on them.

Check out this preference center for Honda Power Sports. Subscribers can choose from the vehicles that interest them – motorcycles, ATVs & MUV or scooters. They also can drill down to sub-types within each category. Now that’s product based preference segmentation.





While crafting age-appropriate messages for your emails looks like a best practice in email segmentation, don’t make assumptions about the online behavior of certain age groups.

If your business caters to an older audience, that doesn’t let you off the hook designing mobile-friendly emails and a mobile version of your website. According to the AARP, baby boomers account for about 40% of paying customers for wireless services. This segment is definitely mobile. So don’t assume this segment isn’t web- or mobile-savvy.

If email messaging and/or format are condescending to any segment of subscribers, they will be less likely to engage with – and buy from – your brand.

Another big email marketing no-no is to craft an email which looks like it is geared towards a certain age group, but actually isn’t. So you use these stock images of people aged 50+, hoping that it connects with the audience. While the most appealing imagery and their mindset might be totally different.


The gift of gender segmentation

It’s easy to assume that opens, click-throughs and conversion rates will be higher for women who receive feminine-themed emails. The same would apply for men, following strict better email marketing practices.

At holiday time, we see a lot of marketing to the opposite sex, as the Blue Nile email below illustrates. To truly cater to this segment, the email could have included some self-purchase suggestions as a secondary message, such as tie clips, cufflinks, etc. Make sure your database reflects who is the recipient. It’s not uncommon to see people register for an account on your ecommerce site because they want to buy someone a gift.




Gift giving is also appropriate when you look at age segmentation. I often use an example of an email by a television channel for 50+ audience. They offer a Donald Duck bed sheet as a prize for their contest. What?! Just give it some thought why that actually might be a touch of brilliance.


Geographic location

For a local brick-and-mortar business, it makes sense to target your emails to those within a certain radius of your location. National companies, however, may want to revisit how they segment their products by geography.

For example, marketing snow shovels in February to residents of the northeast of America is great, but you could mix it up and offer them summer clothes as well. In a case of tunnel vision you might forget that these people also go on vacation or might have moved without telling you, so look for hidden opportunities there. (comments to this tip are welcome below)


Email segmentation

The point is, once you segment your list, realize that it’s not set in stone. And while some of the ideas above might not be recommended all of the time, it is good to mix it up, keep your email marketing fresh and break the rules every now and then. Maybe try to look to the side and step away from the preceived notions. Maybe use an uncommon segmentation strategy and periodically take a look at your segments and think of ways you can cross-market to maximize your selling potential.

How do you segment your emails today?

  • Barbara Mckinney

    Great article here
    Jordie!Segmentation is becoming more and more of a must-have in the world of
    email marketing, and the marketers who take advantage of it and do it well
    are reaping higher click-through rates, better deliverability, and generating
    more revenue from their email sends than their non-segmenting
    counterparts.Sometimes it’s good to break the rules to become more effective
    on our campaign and to stand out from the crowd.

  • Jordie van Rijn

    You are right Barbara, thanks for your comment. Although your deliverability might not always become better once you start segmenting, revenue certainly can get a big boost.

  • Jericho

    Love the examples – thanks :)