How to Get Started With User Segmentation in Marketing Automation?

Getting someone’s attention is nothing short of achievement in 2021. Everyone’s juggling between cute cat reels on Instagram, push notifications from Dominos, and embarrassing photos in the Whatsapp family group chat.

So we marketers are in a bit of trouble. How do we stand out in that flood of dopamine-spiking triggers on the interwebs? (Hopefully, without annoying someone to death. Let’s not forget that, unlike the family group chats, our sales messages are not immune to blocking.)

The answer?

User segmentation.

49% of consumers buy because of a personalized offer, and 63% are annoyed with generic marketing. It’s hard to ignore the fact that marketing is now all about personalization. To make marketing automation work for you, you need to be truly relevant, or your audience will ignore you.  

This is where segmentation comes in.

User segmentation is the underpinning of personalized communication and bespoke customer experiences. 

In this post, we’ll look at the importance of user segmentation and how grouping people with similar characteristics can not only bring efficiency to your marketing efforts but make a substantial dent in your engagement metrics.

What is user segmentation in marketing automation? 

Segmentation in marketing automation is the practice of grouping together users, leads, and customers based on common characteristics. These characteristics may include location, blog subscribers vs. paying customers, active vs. inactive contacts, people who have visited the pricing page, and so on.

Segmenting your audience can help you add relevance to your emails, landing pages, paid ads, or other marketing campaigns.

Segmentation uses collected data like attributes, user behavior, website activity, email engagement, user preferences, and others in order to put people into targeted buckets called “segments.” All people within a segment share the same criteria.

At a top-level, there are 2 types of segments — implicit and explicit segments. 

Implicit segments give you a basic idea of the user’s needs based on their intentions. For example, it’s natural to assume that a user is interested in purchasing if he visits the pricing page or compares two products. These segments are helpful to prove a hypothesis, run marketing experiments, or A/B testing. 

Explicit segments are based on precise data, generally provided by the user directly, like personal information or demographic data. Explicit segments help create content or target users based on their age, gender, location, company role, etc.

Explicit SegmentsImplicit Segments
Users who signed up for a paid plan in the last six months. Website visitors downloading a lead magnet on the topic of “SaaS Marketing Automation” would be a SaaS business interested in a free product demo. 
Leads who filled out a form on the website indicating their location, industry, or job profile Returning website visitors on the pricing page are considering to buy 
Users belonging to a particular age group.People who are offering marketing services are most likely to be interested in marketing automation tools. 

Common user segmentation models that you can use in marketing automation

Website visitors, contacts, leads, and potential customers can all be grouped into segments. Every segment has some distinguishing characteristics, needs, and interests.

Understanding your users’ behavior, challenges, likes, and dislikes can help you create more personalized campaigns and connect closer with your audience.  Personalization makes your audience feel more valued. The result? Higher conversions, better open rates, increase in engagement, and a positive ROI.  

86% of the marketers stated that they observe positive results for their business after personalizing their campaigns. 

Savvy digital marketers use segmentation to personalize recommendations, create targeted copy, nurture leads, and convert free users to paying customers.

But where do you start with segmentation? How do you group your users in the first place? 

Here are some of the most common characteristics for categorizing any audience or user group: 

  • Demographic — Age, income, gender, education, marital status, etc.  
  • Geographic — Nation, state, city, or region 
  • Psychographic — Personality, attitude, values, hobbies, and interests
  • Technographic — Mobile users, desktop users, apps used to access your website, etc. 
  • Behavioral —  How users use your product, their frequent actions, features used, email activity, and usage patterns 
  • Need-based — What brought them to use your product/service, the features they look for in a product, what pain points they’re trying to solve 

The characteristics mentioned above are just a few examples. Think of them as guiding milestones to help you break down your users into buckets within your email or marketing automation tool.

Robust marketing automation tools like Encharge allow you to collect that data and use one or a combination of multiple parameters to create hyper-targeted user segments. 

Below we’re going to explore some of the most effective methods of building segments.

1. Segmentation based on user attributes 

This is one of the most common ways of segmenting users. With this approach, you use demographic, geographic, firmographic, and other criteria to categorize your leads and users. 

Almost all major marketing automation tools will allow you to segment your users based on user attributes. 

The technical term most software tools use for attributes is “fields”, “user properties”, or “user traits.” Usually, every tool comes with a set of pre-defined default fields like email, name, country.

However, if you want to be precise with your segmentation, you have to create “custom fields” that go beyond the basic user data. For instance, you can collect billing data such as the name of the user’s subscription plan and map it to a custom field called “Payment Plan.”

Important: when selecting a marketing automation vendor, ensure that the tool (or the plan) supports custom fields. Without custom fields, you will be severely limited with your segmentation and most other aspects of your automation.

Advanced marketing automation tools support custom fields and give you the tools to organize and automatically map these fields. For instance, when you connect your Stripe account to Encharge, the platform will automatically create custom fields for all of the data that comes from Stripe. That way, saving you from the chore to manually create dozens of fields.

Custom fields in Encharge
Encharge creates custom fields automatically when you connect an app

Classic user segment examples based on attributes include:

  • People Living in New York, USA 
  • All Females Between Ages 25-45 
  • Males who speak the English language in Europe 
  • Marketing Professionals within the Age group of 25-28 

Tech companies and SaaS startups target certain professionals on social media all the time. Such advertising campaigns are a great example of attribute-based segmentation at work. These campaigns target professionals because they have a higher chance of trying out a service owing to industry affiliation

This Facebook ad by SEMRush targets SEO professionals using the occupation attribute.

SEMRush Facebook ad

The demographic segments we shared above will mainly be used by B2C companies, online stores, or targeting on ad platforms like Facebook and Google.

However, attributes have a much broader use case than that and can be extremely helpful when building segmentation for B2B businesses. When it comes to email marketing, the possibilities are endless.

For example, popular chatbot builder Landbot has created a segment of all users on the last day of their trial:

Trial expiration segment in Encharge

This segment uses 2 attributes (or custom fields) — “Trial Days” and “groups,” both passed from their application to Enchare through an API. Once a user enters this segment, they use Encharge to send an automated trial reminder email:

Landbot trial expiration email

ZEWS marketing agency uses attributes to organize their audience based on the type of the contact — contacts, leads, clients, etc. Then, they can send personalized email sequences based on the client stage of the contact.

ZEWS user segmentation
A way to organize your client funnel with segments

We are just scratching the surface with these examples, but as you can see, attributes can be much more powerful than just simple demographics data. Every data field can be passed to your marketing automation tool and used as an attribute to segment your audience — including fields from your CRM, payment provider, or form tool.

3. Behavioral segmentation 

Behavioral segments are created based on what actions your users take or don’t take on your website, your app, across your emails, or even external properties.

Tracking page visits and form submissions would allow you to collect the data required to build segments based on what web pages a person has visited or hasn’t visited, as well as what forms they have submitted. Not only that, but you’d be able to segment contacts based on their form responses.

But behavior segmentation goes beyond page visits and form submissions — it can allow you to create segments with any custom actions your users do on your website or inside of your product, and we are going to cover that in a bit.

Note that very few marketing automation tools support segmentation based on product or app activity, even when they state that they support “behavior segments.” We did a comprehensive review of how the most popular tools handle user segmentation for SaaS — and since SaaS businesses have the most sophisticated needs when it comes to behavior-based segmentation, you can consider this as a benchmark for powerful segmentation.

Personalized behavioral emails can be created based on users’ activity in your app and across your email communication. This type of messages can help build strong relationships and boost overall conversions due to its high relevancy and perfect timing.

Below is a re-engagement email example based on the user’s inactivity:

Re-engagement email

Sometimes behavior-based segments are not only optional but critical for the smooth operation of your business.

Energy Healing Institute has created a segment of people that have recently purchased one of their courses: 

Recently purchased user segment
User segments based on recent purchases in Encharge

If a person has purchased within the last 7 days, the automation below will automatically eject that person from the “Abandonment Cart Email” flow. After all, you don’t want to ask people to finish their order if they’ve already completed the checkout, right?

Abandoned Cart Workflow

Powerful marketing automation tools like Encharge will allow you to build segments using the actions of the users directly. So instead of relying on fields, you can create segments with “events.” Events are essentially custom actions that people perform.

For instance, imagine you are Facebook. You might have an event called “Friend added” when a user accepts a friend invite. With a tool like Encharge, you can use that event to build a segment of all people that have added a friend. It will look like this:

Event-based Segmentation
User segment based on events in Encharge

You can be even more specific and ask Encharge to show you all people that have added at least 5 friends:

Event Based User Segmentation

Events are not user fields and will not show as attributes on the contact profiles. So you don’t have to worry about creating a custom field for that action. Instead, Encharge is smart to know if the person has performed or not performed that action, and it’s up to you to decide when to build the segment without any extra hassle.

Here is a summary of some of the types of behavioural data that you can use to create behaviour-based segments, as well as the tracking method required to collect that data:

Segment based on:What it is:How to track it:
Website activitySegment based on what pages a person has visited or not visitedInstall website tracking code on your website.
Form submissionsSegment based on form answersYou need a website tracking code installed on your website with the ability to track form submissions.

Alternatively, you can use external form tools like Typeform to connect directly with Encharge.
App activityUse events to segment based on what actions your users perform in your app. Connect your app or product to Encharge using the API integration or Segment.com

Your app will send events to Encharge. Those events will later be used for segmentation.
Email engagementSegment based on email opens, clicks, replies and unsubscribesIt comes as an out-of-the-box solution with most ESP and marketing automation tools
Billing activitySegment based on purchases, refunds, and other billing-related activityEncharge connects directly with Stripe and other payment providers like Chargebee and Recurly.

All of the billing data will automatically sync to Encharge, allowing you to create segments with that data. 

Of course, you can also build segments combining one or more of these methods.

3. Preferential segmentation 

Users can also be segmented based on their personal preferences or choices. Ask them what they’re looking for when they sign up for your email list or book a demo call with you.

Collecting that information directly from the source will leave tiny room for interpretation. Recall how newsletters ask you how often you’d like to hear from the publisher. Some even go further to ask you about your interests and personalize emails based on your preferences.

Some tools like Encharge are equipped with communication preference features that allow your subscribers to decide what emails to receive from you:

Communication Preferences in Encharge

 You can also capture your contacts’ likes and dislikes directly in your email communication. 

Ian Brodie, author of “Email Persuasion” and creator of Course Builders Hub, shared with us his approach to segmentation based on interest:

“If I have a topic I believe many, but not all of my subscribers will be interested in, I’ll send an initial email to everyone with some useful content on that topic and ask them to click if they want more on the topic. I’ll then create a segment from the people who clicked and send further emails about that topic.”

To capture interest for his new coaching program, Brodie sent the following email to his whole email list:

Ian Brodie segmentation email

Brodie’s sequence was aimed at selling a paid webinar that also promoted his flagship program.

“Most of the webinar buyers and I think all (or nearly all) of the people who eventually joined the program came from the segment of people who clicked the initial link.”

Fortunately, setting this segmentation is pretty straightforward in Encharge. All you need to do is create the email, add the link, and then use the “Email activity” condition when creating a segment:

User segment based on interest
User segment based on email clicks in Encharge

4. Segmentation based on Lead Score

The lead scoring method involves assigning weights for one or more activities a user takes in relation to the desired outcome. A lead can also be scored based on their attributes.

For example, if a lead opens an email and clicks on a link, their score increases. Positive actions increase the lead score and vice versa, which helps predict the likelihood of a positive result. 

Lead scoring flow

Lead scoring helps you determine the value of a lead and help find out more about a user’s preferences and expectations. 

French franchise agency EverFruitDigital uses scoring at different places in their lead nurturing sequence to determine which leads are more likely to move to the next stage of the buyer’s journey and focus on them:

Lead scoring flow

With the lead score aggregated in Encharge, it’s extremely easy to create a segment when a person reaches a specific threshold. 

ZEWS digital has a segment of highly engaged people with a lead score higher than 80.

Lead scoring segmentation in marketing automation
A segment based on lead scoring in Encharge

Once that segment is created, ZEWS can send automated email or Slack notifications to business developers to follow-up with those active leads at the right time (when they enter the segment).

Building your user segmentation plan 

User segmentation isn’t a one-off activity. 98% of the marketers feel that a static, one-off segmentation exercise doesn’t offer many benefits. 

Static segmentation shortcomings diagram
Data source

You need to continuously evolve your user segmentation plans to stay on course with your marketing automation and growth objectives

Here’s how you can create a dynamic strategy to keep segments updated with behavioural changes of your customers: 

Step 1: Define your goals and collect data

Before you begin, you need to question yourself about what you’re trying to achieve from this exercise. 

You need to define why you want to segment your users. Some of the reasons include: 

  • Understand your customers deeply so that you can create meaningful messages that address their pain points.
  • Create targeted marketing campaigns that are highly relatable and relevant.
  • Boost customer loyalty with personalized offers and solutions.
  • Discover new product development and growth opportunities to scale your business efficiently. 

Your goals must be specific and unique to your business trajectory, as this will define how you will group your customers or leads. 

For instance, if your goals revolve around increasing the conversion rate of leads to customers, you would want to brainstorm the important lead data you need to collect to create meaningful segments. First, you might create an opt-in form that asks your leads about their biggest challenge. Then, create segments and send personalized messages based on their response.

Step 2: Build your segments

Once you collect the appropriate data and have some ideas about what segments you want to create, it’s time to start grouping your users into segments. 

Segments in Encharge are defined by their Conditions. Conditions allow you to build laser-targeted segments using attributes, behavioral data, events, and more.

These are the types of conditions that we support:

User segmentation conditions in Encharge
User segmentation conditions in Encharge  

The best part is that you can also mix and match two or more conditions to create hyper-focused groups using AND/OR rules. 

Remember your underlying goals and use them to drive your segmentation process. For example, if you’re planning to create re-engagement emails for users who signed up for a free trial, you can create a user segment with users who have the Field condition “Last activity” set to more than 30 days AND have the Stripe status set to Trial. This will target all trial users that haven’t been active in the last 30 days.

Step 3: Set up automations using flows 

Once you’ve converted all of your raw data into meaningful segments, it’s time to turn your efforts into results. Now it’s time to build your automations.

In Encharge, you create automations using flows. Think of flows as the canvas where you draw your customer journey. You can use the Entered Segment or Left Segment trigger steps to add people to a flow and personalize their customer experience.

See how creating a flow in Encharge works:

Encharge allows you to create custom flows and modules so that you can stay in control throughout the customer lifecycle without increasing your load. 

Personalized flows for a segmented audience lead to higher conversion and an overall better customer experience. Not only this, but an automated flow builder also brings efficiency to your marketing, sales, and support operations. 

Here are some of the flows that our customers have created using segmentation:

  • User Onboarding — Payment solution Payfacille nudges their trial users who’ve still not connected their Stripe account to the service via email. This helps trial users realize the full potential of the platform and entices them towards a paid plan.
  • Freemium Conversion Loop — Project management tool Nifty has a segment for all users who sign up for a freemium plan. The project management tool creates targeted marketing messages and delivers personalized offers to convince freemium users to convert into recurring customers. 
  • Lead re-engagement Sampleboard segments users based on their email activity — unique opens/un-opens. They’ve set up a follow-up email sequence to re-engage all the users who haven’t opened an email.  

These examples are just the tip of a giant iceberg with immense potential for any startup, content creator, agency, or subscription-based business. 

Step 4: Improvise, refine and repeat 

As we mentioned earlier, segmentation is not a one-time job. So, you’ll have to keep updating your segments based on changing behaviors and needs. You should talk to your team members, monitor user behavior continuously, and make changes to your user segments from time to time. 

Another exciting way to improve your segments is to directly reach out to your users via surveys and feedback prompts. 

Also, if you run a startup and are in the early stages of your product development journey, make sure to adjust user segments as you refine your solution, rebrand your service, or reorganize your buyer personas. 

Remember, user habits and behaviors change with time. So, keep revisiting your segments and improve them as much as you can.

Segmentation in marketing automation FAQ

What is the best method for customer segmentation? 

There is no one-size-fits-all. The way you segment your audience depends on your business goals, internal processes, the tools you use, and a whole lot more. Behavioral segmentation, demographic segmentation, psychographic segmentation, and need-based segmentation are some of the most effective methods for digital businesses. 

How do I implement user segmentation? 

  1. Set your goals with segmentation. 
  2. Decide on what user data you want to collect.
  3. Collect the data.
  4. Use a marketing automation tool with powerful segmentation capabilities.
  5. Implement the new segments in your automations.

What are the benefits of user segmentation? 

You can use user segments to refine your positioning, craft more meaningful offers and marketing messages, target and re-target users, improve your engagement rates, and increase conversions. Not just that, user segmentation would give you an accurate data set to experiment and prove your marketing hypothesis and assumptions. 

Do you need a marketing automation tool to implement segmentation?

You can segment your contact base using Excel and Google Spreadsheet and manually import static segments. As you can imagine that process is extremely tedious, time-inefficient, and prone to mistakes. Not only that but your segments will be out of date most of the time.

Final words

With the right user segmentation plan, your marketing and sales processes will become more efficient than ever before. Your efforts will change from reactive to proactive, as you’d be able to target people at the right time as soon as they enter or leave your segments.

If done correctly, user segmentation will turn you from a “me-too” business to a warm and relevant business partner that always has just the “right solution” for everyone. So, if you want to ace personalization and make the most out of marketing automation, start segmenting your users today. 

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