Lists v. Tags v. Segments: When, How & Why to Use Them

14 Dec
Lists v. Tags v. Segments: When, How & Why to Use Them

Want to know the secret to email marketing success?

If we had to sum it up in two words, it’s effective targeting.

The more targeted your emails are, the more relevant they’ll be to your audience, and the more engagement and response you’ll get out of them.

But effective targeting is more than just creating a bunch of email lists. It requires in-depth research, subscriber data collection, and the use of tools like lists, tags, and segments!

In this post, we’ll help you learn the difference between email lists, tags, and segments, when to use each one and how to set them up in Sendlane.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Lists vs. tags vs. segments: What’s the difference?

Lists, tags, and segments are all amazing tools for targeting your contacts. But each one has distinct functions and should not be confused with the other.

The main difference between a segment and a list is that segments are dynamic and characteristic-driven, and lists are static groups of contacts that are organized under a single, identifiable label.

  • Lists 

Lists are static groups of contacts that are organized under a single, identifiable label. You can add contacts to a list manually or have them join via a subscription form or automation funnel.

For example, you can create an email list of all your contacts you want to send out updates or offers to. You can name this list “Contact list,” and have people join this list when they subscribe through the opt-in form on your website.

  • Tags 

Tags are your action-based lists. In other words, tagging a contact means you’re adding new information to their profile in real-time. 

For example, you may tag some of your subscribers with specific product labels, after they click on certain links in your emails. 

You might also want to go more in-depth and tag subscribers based on the type of product they purchased, when they purchased it, or how much money they spend on average.

  • Segments

Segments are groups of contacts who have existing characteristics or data points in common.

For example, you could create a segment of contacts that haven’t bought anything from your store in the past 90 days. Or, you could segment contacts based on their age, gender, or engagement. You can also create segments based on specific tags!

What tags and segments have in common is they’re both helpful for sending targeted, personalized emails.

The difference is that segments are dynamic and characteristic-driven. 

Tags involve the use of actions or the engagement of users to drive that personalized grouping of customers. Which can then be used to send targeted emails.

When to use lists in Sendlane

Email lists are the most basic tools for organizing your contacts and sending targeted emails.

Unlike segments, lists don’t grow or shrink as people meet or fail to meet certain conditions. They only grow as people subscribe or are added manually.

Because lists are made of a static, fixed group of contacts, they’re best used for sending out emails to a mass audience as opposed to highly targeted groups of contacts.

Here are some ways to use email lists for your eCommerce business:

  • Send welcome emails: You can create an email list of all customers and set up an automation funnel to send a warm welcome note whenever someone makes a purchase for the first time (i.e. subscribes to the ‘customers’ list.)
  • Announce new collections, sales, and promotions: Send promotional emails and announcements to contacts in specific lists. For example, you can send an email announcing a sale on handbags to all your female contacts.
  • Share newsletters, blog posts, and resources: Send daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly emails to contacts who have subscribed to receive your newsletter, blog post updates, and other content resources.
  • Product Recommendation: If you have several different types of customers, such as women, men, and teenagers, you can create separate lists for each type. You can then send targeted emails to each list recommending products those contacts are likely to be interested in.
  • Collect customer feedback: Send email surveys to specific lists of contacts to gather insightful data on how customers think and feel about your brand.

Examples of using a new customer list to trigger a welcome series automation.

You can create lists in various ways. First, you can create them manually by adding or importing email addresses. You can also set up automation funnels to add people to specific lists when they subscribe to certain forms, such as newsletter opt-ins.

In Sendlane, you’re also able to create lists from segments. This will add all contacts who meet certain conditions at a particular time to your email list. You can also create a list of contacts that have specific tags attached to their profiles.


When to use tags in Sendlane

Tagging is one of the best ways to manage your contacts and send targeted emails. As we mentioned above, tags are used to add new information to specific contacts.

You can add more than one tag to each subscriber. In fact, the more tags you add, the more targeted you can get with your email marketing and segmentation!

Here are five ways to use tags in email marketing:

  • Organize your contacts: Managing thousands of contacts is no joke. It can be hard to sort through and organize them without attaching specific labels to each contact. Tags help you do exactly that! By tagging contacts, you’re able to create targeted lists and quickly access, manage or delete contacts that have something in common.
  • Create multivariable segments: Sendlane allows you to create custom, highly targeted segments based on multiple factors, including tags. For example, if you want to find your high-value sunglasses purchasers, you’d use your “Purchased sunglasses” tag and segment those who’ve spent $100+.
Using a tag in sendlane to create a targeted segment
Leverage tags inside Sendlane to create hyper-targeted segments of customers.
  • Trigger automations: Tags can also be used in any part of your automation as triggers. For example, let’s say you want to run an automation that alerts contacts about your new 2022 collection. You can set the automation such that when a subscriber with that tag “Sunglasses” opens the email, they will automatically receive another targeted email after a few days that focuses mainly on your line of shades.
Use tags within an automation to create customized journeys for specific shoppers.
  • Track customer journey: In Sendlane, you can assign tags to any link inside an email campaign, such as text, an image, or a button. When a contact clicks on the link, the selected tag is automatically added to their profile. This helps you track their journey on your website, understand their behavior and interests, and target them with more personalized offers.

The best part is that when you send out email campaigns in Sendlane using tags, you’re able to view detailed campaign reports to understand the performance of your emails. Use this information to improve your future campaigns!

Learn more about how to use tags in Sendlane in our complete guide to tagging.

When to use segments in Sendlane

Segments are created with the help of existing information you have on your contacts, including any tags added to their profiles!

When you think about it, the sole purpose of segments is to send targeted emails.

But what’s important is how you create your segments and what information you use to group those contacts. This will ultimately determine how targeted and successful your emails are!

Below are five types of segmentation techniques used by brands:

  • Demographic: Segment subscribers based on people-based information like their age, gender, marital status, occupation, education, and more.
  • Psychographic: Segment subscribers based on mental and emotional characteristics, such as interests, preferences, personality traits, beliefs, and values.
  • Behavioral: Segment contacts based on their actions. For example, you can create a segment of contacts who haven’t been engaging with your emails in the past month, or contacts who have made at least three purchases from your store.
  • Geographic: Segment subscribers based on their geographic location, such as a continent, country, city, town, or region.
  • Multivariable: Segment contacts based on a combination of multiple factors, including those mentioned above. In Sendlane, you can easily create multivariable segments using “and” and “or” conditions.

In Sendlane, you can create segments based on a variety of factors. When you open the Segments tab in your dashboard, you can choose your segmentation criteria from a drop-down menu with tons of options.

Example of the engagement based segments you can build in Sendlane.

For example, you can segment contacts based on their demographic information like age and gender. You can also create segments based on subscriber location, date of birth, engagement and activity, custom fields, device, and tags.

And if you’ve set up a deep-data integration with your Shopify or WooCommerce store, you can also create segments based on granular customer data like the number of orders, total spend, product type, order status, and more!

Learn more about the different ways to segment your contacts in Sendlane.


Send hyper-targeted emails with lists, tags, and segments

Lists, tags, and segments are essential tools that every great email marketer should master. If you aren’t using them already, you’re missing out on a lot of potential email marketing ROI!

Use lists to organize your contacts and group them under identifiable labels. Use tags to add more information to your contacts, sort them, segment them and add them to your automation funnels. And use segmentation techniques to send highly targeted emails to your contacts that they’re more likely to engage with!

Ready to take your email marketing to the next level? Sign up for Sendlane’s 14-day free trial and take it for a test drive!

Want to learn more about email marketing? Check out our similar posts:

10 Black Friday & Cyber Monday Email Marketing Examples

5 Examples of Summer Email & SMS Campaigns To Increase Sales

How to Map The Buyer's Journey Through Email to Sell More Effectively

Four Ways to Boost Referrals With Email Marketing

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