How Email Segmentation Could Boost Your Retention

How smart is your email strategy for your digital business?

As we’ve said before, getting people on your list is one thing, but it’s even more important what you do with them next.

Whether you’re a SaaS, an ecommerce business, or a seller of digital products and services, one thing every business wants is to successfully retain customers. After all, it tends to be cheaper and more cost effective to keep your current customers than to find new ones.

Email marketing works. In fact, the graph from Neil Patel below shows it far outdoing other methods in terms of ROI…


… but the key is that you have to have good strategy behind it to see results.

Email segmentation is important if you want to smart about your business email strategy. It’s also a good way to boost your chances of retaining those customers…

Why Are “Blanket” Emails A Bad Idea?

You hear the word “relevance” discussed regularly when it comes to any form of marketing. We want to publish “relevant” content, present “relevant” offers and target the right audience with those things.

Email is no different. If I purchase makeup from your online store, how likely is it that I’ll also be interested in men’s socks? Yet many online sellers work off the basis of blanket emailing everything they have to say to every person on their list.

By my second or third men’s sock sale email, I’ve been trained to believe that your emails are not relevant to me and I’ve stopped opening them. If I don’t open any of your emails, you may start to slip from my mind as being a business relevant to my needs, then how likely will I be to come back and shop again?

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Why Segmentation Works

We’ve covered segmentation previously so we won’t labor over the point, but in a nutshell, segmentation works because it allows you to be more targeted with your messaging so that relevant messages are put in front of the right people.

These statistics from Mailchimp show how segmented email campaigns do better than those which aren’t:


As Neil Patel puts it, email segmentation helps you to find untapped potential in your list and take advantage of it.



Source: Neil Patel

Avoid Spam Folders

The whole purpose of email marketing gets defeated if your emails end up on a quick trip to the spam folder. One way to avoid this is to do your best to get good open and action rates on your emails.

Email service providers note whether or not your emails are getting opened, links are getting clicked, or actions such as replying or flagging as important are taken. If you’re sending irrelevant, blanket emails which are ignored or deleted, expect to end up in spam boxes and have your task of retaining customers made even more difficult.

How To Segment

A major benefit of segmenting is that it allows you to respond appropriately to customer behavior and serve up relevant information to them. Previously, we looked at some basic tagging in Infusionsoft to help you create segments, but let’s look at a few slightly more advanced segmentation ideas:


This is a basic way to create a segment, but look at what you can do with it. Simply knowing age, gender or job role can allow you to adjust your messaging for maximum engagement, even if it is essentially the same thing you are promoting.

Email Marketing On Acid provide a great example of this from Fit For Me.The message is exactly the same as they are sharing the same promotion, but the image on the left could be sent out to younger subscribers, while the one on the right is sent out to an older age group. This way they have elements that any of their subscribers can relate to.


Product Category Preferences

How does a 7000% increase in email marketing revenue sound? In this example from EmailMonday, Totes Isotoner Group noticed that many shoppers were only visiting a single product category: umbrellas, gloves, or boots.

When they segmented those consumers and sent targeted email offers based on that category, they saw more browsers becoming buyers and achieved that impressive 7000% statistic. See how relevance works? The company will also be more likely to keep those customers because they understand their preferences.

Your Best Customers

However you define “best customers”, creating a segment for them is a good idea. This way you can not only send them special offers, but encourage them to engage with your business.

For example, you may want to survey them and get their input on new products they’d like or any ideas they’d like to see implemented. You could also use this segment as a means to encourage referrals of new business, perhaps rewarding them for doing so.

The idea is that you want to keep nurturing those top customers. Make them feel special and you will be more likely to hang on to them.

Abandoned Tasks

This is a good one for any SaaS out there. Churn is always of high concern, so you want to make a move early to prevent it. Say your client abandons a task part way through in your software, it could be because they were busy with something else and decided to leave, but it could also be because they got confused or something went wrong.

If you can set up a system so that the abandoned task triggers a tag rule, you can send an email seeking to find out why they abandoned the task. You then have an opportunity to help the customer succeed and potentially intervene before they leave.

Survey Results

If you’re starting close to scratch and need a way to quickly understand what customer preferences are, surveys or quizzes can be a great way to do it. In fact, as Marketo shows, the evidence is in that people love taking quizzes.

For maximum effectiveness, you need to be quite thoughtful with the questions that you ask, so that you can generate useful results of preferences, ability or personality. You can then segment your customers based on the answers they gave you.

Look at Tru&Co for a perfect example. The online lingerie retailers offer a 10% discount to those who complete their quiz and use it as a means to recommend products which will suit the preferences of the customer. This is also a great way for them to send targeted email offers which make sense to the customer.


Geographic Location

It goes without saying that sometimes an offer may be better suited to those in a certain geographic location more than others, but Email On Acid demonstrates how you could take this a step further…

If you know where someone is located, what else do you know about them? That’s right, you can understand the kinds of weather patterns they deal with and make offers accordingly (especially if you are an ecommerce seller).

Skymosity is a company set up to track weather patterns and help you to segment customers accordingly. To share the example given by Email On Acid, athletic company Brooks used this data to create multiple campaigns based upon weather conditions and temperature range. This is a powerful way to remain relevant!


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Final Thoughts

How does email segmentation boost retention? Simply by allowing you to remain relevant in the eyes of the customer, keeping you on their minds and ensuring that your emails get opened.

Segmentation is a powerful way to encourage engagement, promote repeat business and therefore retention of your customers.

Different email marketing platforms support segmentation in different ways, and it’s important to understand what are your most valuable segmentation cohorts when choosing the best marketing platform.

There are literally dozens of different ways you can segment your audience, but look to try some more advanced methods if you really want to increase your chances of keeping the customer.
If you can deliver high customer value and increased email engagement, then your retention figures should look good.

Keith Perhac

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

How To Create A Welcome Email Series That Works

It’s always validating when you get a stream of subscribers coming onto your list. “Hurrah” you say, “I’ve optimized, I’ve got the right messaging and my lead magnet works.”

Getting them there is one thing, but arguably what’s more important is what you do with them next.

This is where having a well-constructed welcome email series comes in – emails that help your subscriber get to know you and start to build a connection; even encourage them to purchase from you in the end.

How do you create an effective welcome email series? We’re digging in to take a look.

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Why Do You Need Welcome Emails?

It can be tempting to think that email marketing must be on a death slide, especially if you think about the average person receiving 121 emails per day and having nowhere near enough time to deal with them all. However, research tells us that email still brings a remarkable return on investment (4300% ROI according to the Direct Marketing Association), it still converts well, and it is a relatively simple strategy for businesses large or small to put in place.

The role of welcome emails is important as part of effective customer lifecycle marketing, which means delivering messages to customers at the right time in accordance with where they are in their journey with you.

Build Recognition Early

How many times have you subscribed to something, then completely forgotten about it? This often happens if you haven’t received any kind of communication directly after subscribing. When the site you subscribed to eventually sends you something, you are more likely to ignore or spam it because you can’t remember who they are.

Research from Bluehornet finds that almost 75% of consumers expect to receive a welcome email when they subscribe. This means something personable and engaging, not an automated “you’re subscribed” or something like the image below.

Besides the fact that your new subscribers are expecting to receive welcome emails immediately, further statistics show that welcome emails generate more revenue than blanket promotional emails. They capture the interest of new subscribers while you are still fresh in their minds and are vital for building a connection before their interest dwindles.

Source: Easy SMTP

First Impressions

Your welcome emails set the tone and impression the prospect has of your business. This is your chance to hit them with something super interesting, engaging, and professional in appearance early to help generate that trust in your brand.

These emails can lay the foundation of their entire relationship with your business. They can set expectations (for example, how often they can expect to hear from you), encourage connection through social media channels, and point customers back to your website for any offers you may have going.

What Makes A Welcome Series Effective?

#1. Timing and Frequency

For starters, as indicated in the previous section, you need to be timely with that first email going out. That means sending out an email immediately while the customer is still engaged with your business; don’t go for options like batching of emails to send out later.

As far as the number of emails and timing between them, that will depend upon what you decide a new subscriber needs to know about your business (which we look at under “content” below). Some people suggest a series of 6 to 8 emails, spaced a couple of days apart, others will say to send one email per day for the next five days. This is something you’re going to need to test for yourself, but the key thing is not to send out emails for the sake of emails. If you’ve really got something to say across 8 emails, go for it, if not, the prospect will appreciate you not wasting their time.

Another timing consideration is whether or not you want new subscribers to immediately be receiving what your regular list gets. If not, tag them so that they only go into the main newsletter list once the welcome series is over.

As a side note for those sending out regular newsletters or other email communications to their list, the 2015 study by BlueHornet on Consumer Views of Email Marketing revealed that a weekly frequency is the sweet spot.


#2. Getting Opened

Obviously the first thing you want people to do is actually open your emails, though this is one of the trickiest things to achieve in crowded inboxes. There are really two elements that encourage (or not) the prospect to open the email:

  • Trust – does this look like spam?
  • Relevance – is the subject line compelling?

When you’re beginning a relationship with a new prospect, trust elements are quite simple. You need to be sending from an email address which appears trustworthy and your subject lines shouldn’t scream out “spam” with excessive use of exclamation marks, dollar signs, or spam trigger words such as “free”, “affordable” or “cash.” Your subject lines are an element you should set up for split-testing to see which are the most effective. There is some research out there to suggest which words are more effective than others to use in the subjects of welcome emails, but there will be variations depending on your business type.

Source: Easy SMTP

Research presented by Easy SMTP shows that generic “from” email addresses should be avoided. People are more likely to open an email from “[email protected]” rather than “[email protected]


[email protected]” is even worse because it implies that the email is being sent by some kind of robot that doesn’t allow the customer to engage with your business. The idea is that you want to keep those lines of communication open.

#3. Content

The first thing you need to decide before writing a single line of content is which actions you want your subscriber to take. What are the goal outcomes? What should a new subscriber know about your business?

No matter how many emails you decide to put together as part of a welcome series, there should be a cohesive story and clear actions to take with each email.

For example, you might want subscribers to:

  • Learn about your brand story.
  • Provide their subscription preferences (a great way to ensure they are put into the right segments).
  • Connect with you on social media.
  • Use a coupon code or offer.

Calls To Action
Calls to action are a must if you want your emails to be effective. You could use any or all of these goals throughout your series, but if you want people to take action, then you should limit your calls to action to one type per email, as found in research by Which Test Won? (You can repeat it more than once, but if you ask people to take more than one kind of action, you may overwhelm them and get none).

Deliver Value Immediately
What content should you include in your welcome series? The answer to that lies in the reason that people subscribed with you in the first place. You will have made some kind of promises to entice them to subscribe, so start delivering on those ASAP.

If you offered an incentive for sign-up, deliver that in the first email. For anything else, live up to your promises, whether that was helpful information or awesome deals. Keep it relevant to what the customer signed up for: If it was deals, they probably don’t want an email that’s purely about your brand history (give them your story but include the deals!).

Delivering value early is about building trust with the prospect. From the beginning you want to train them that your emails are relevant and worth their time opening. For this reason you may also want to consider segmenting prospects according to how they signed up and preferences they expressed, then sending out different welcome series accordingly.

Another point to remember is that even if one of your big goals is to sell, if your emails all come across as a sales pitch they are not likely to be effective. The point of your welcome series is to build the relationship, not make them feel like they’re meeting up with the classic, oily salesperson.

How Long?
Constant Contact did some research recently looking at the relationship between the length of emails, the number of images used, and the click through rates that resulted. Their overall finding? Less is more.

Specifically: “Emails with about 20 lines of text and three or fewer images received the highest click-through rate.”

This is another element for you to test within your own business, however. As they point out, general findings can give an idea of best practice, but may vary between businesses.

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Final Thoughts

A welcome email series can be a very effective tool for your business if you spend a little time developing it well. It allows you to start building a relationship with your prospect early while your brand is still on their mind, and to set the standard for what they should expect from you.

This is why it’s worth your time. Generic “thanks for subscribing” emails are uninspiring and don’t deliver any kind of value to the customer. A well-planned welcome series engages them and helps them to realize the value you can deliver.

Make your welcome series effective by building trust, being responsive, and delivering relevant, valuable content.

Keith Perhac

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.