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More emails are being sent today than ever before: The number sent and received is projected to reach 376.4 billion by 2025. For that reason, it's now more complicated for senders to reach their intended audiences' inboxes.

Obstacles abound. Advanced inbox service provider (ISP) filtering, for example, gets in the way of email deliverability, stymieing businesses from maximizing their email investment—an added pressure for brands in today's economic climate, in which businesses have tighter budgets and face higher demand to deliver results.

But regardless of the more competitive landscape, email is still a cornerstone channel for businesses for engaging with their target audiences. It delivers a high ROI of $36 per $1 spent on average. And more than 76% of senders agree that email marketing is integral to the success of their organization, according to recent research from Mailjet by Sinch.

So, marketers must ensure that their emails are reaching their intended destination, their lists are targeted, and their email content is relevant to their audiences.

The bottom line? If your emails aren't landing in the inbox, they aren't being read, and you're leaving money on the table.

Email segmentation is a tried-and-true tactic for maximizing email engagement. The practice consists of separating an email list of subscribers into smaller groups based on interests, behaviors, demographics, or other criterion, and then sending tailored content based on those segments' individual needs. And it drives real results: Segmentation alone can increase email open rates by up to 203%.

But how can segmentation help senders get more emails into the inbox?

The answer: use strategic engagement tactics to inform segment creation.

Email Engagement's Impact on Inbox Placement

Strong email engagement is key for winning over ISPs, which is critical when more than 90% of incoming email is spam and blocked by ISPs or sent to spam before it can reach the inbox.

One of the ways ISPs filter emails is by looking at how recipients interact with brand emails. Senders with higher positive engagement (emails opened, clicked on) are more likely to land in the inbox, whereas those with a lack of engagement (emails unopened, deleted) or negative engagement (high unsubscribe rates, spam complaints) are more likely to land in the spam folder.

So, high engagement rates improve your sender reputation—a key determining factor for whether ISPs place your emails in the inbox or the dreaded spam folder.

Engagement Tactics to Improve Deliverability Through Email Segmentation

Engagement metrics are closely monitored by ISPs to determine whether emails should be placed in the inbox or spam folder, so adapting sending frequency to different engagement patterns through segmentation is a useful tactic for those looking to maximize their chances of having their emails read by their audience.

Email segmentation can be used to divide an email database into cohorts based on engagement, creating targeted groups for those who always open and click on emails, those who do so periodically, or those who rarely engage with your brand's email content.

One method of engagement-based segmentation—sunsetting—focuses on mitigating the effect of negative engagement on your deliverability, whereas another—signal-boosting—focuses on maximizing the impact of positive engagement.

Both sunsetting and signal boosting depend on tracking whether your contacts open, read, and click through your emails. Therefore, email segmentation is a powerful tool to improve deliverability because it can be used to adapt sending frequency to an audience's engagement habits, increasing positive engagement and reducing negative signals, such as spam complaints and unsubscribes.

Although cleaning out your list frequently is often recommended, these two list segmentation strategies can help mitigate deliverability issues before you decide to remove users for good.

1. Sunsetting: Cull nonengagers from your email lists

If you're regularly emailing too many nonengagers, your sender reputation can take a hit—along with your deliverability rates. A sunset policy can be used to identify and discontinue sending emails to disengaged contacts who don't open your emails or those whose engagement has diminished over time.

A sunset policy enables you to define what nonengagers look like for your business. That depends on how often you're sending emails: some high-frequency brands might sunset contacts who haven't engaged with their emails in a month; for others who send emails less often, contacts who haven't engaged in six months to a year might be on the chopping block.

Once you've identified your nonengagers' criteria, you can initiate a re-engagement campaign with a call to action to see if your contacts would like to continue receiving emails from your organization. Add a discount to the body as a means of encouragement for visiting your store, online or in person, and ensure the unsubscribe button is visible in case the recipient decides your brand isn't for them.

After a final attempt to get a reaction from your recipient, you can segment and exclude the unengaged within your email marketing platform without unsubscribing them. That gives you the freedom to focus on what's truly important: creating high-value emails and sending them to those who want to receive them.

2. Signal-boost: Give engaged subscribers more of what they want

With a targeted list of engaged subscribers, you're free to experiment with signal-boosting, the practice of sending more emails to recipients who are already invested in your content.

Those recipients are a "safer bet," so segmenting your database to increase frequency for your most engaged contacts can improve engagement, open rates, and clickthrough rates across the board. That works wonders with the ISPs: Solid engagement rates deter them from considering you a spammer.

Signal-boosting is especially effective in the lead-up to big events such as Black Friday, when brands are often tempted to send more email. Strategically segmenting your top engagers will allow you to stay top of mind with those who are truly interested in what your business has to offer.

Combine signal-boosting with other advanced email marketing techniques, such as personalization, to drive even better results in your email campaigns, which will continue to positively affect your email deliverability.

* * *

Ultimately, deliverability is affected by your email engagement and sender reputation, so it's critical to provide your subscribers with content that resonates with their interests—at the frequency they prefer.

By taking email segmentation a step further—i.e., pruning nonengagers by using sunset policies, and signal-boosting to your most engaged recipients—you can maintain a strong engagement rate even as you increase email frequency or volume.

It can also help improve the likelihood of your email's landing in the appropriate inbox—a deceivingly tricky task that is crucial for the success of an email program.

In an ever-evolving email landscape, such best-practices can empower your brand to generate stronger customer relationships—and a higher ROI—with your email program.

More Resources on Email Segmentation

How to Optimize Your Email Campaigns With Interest-Based List Segmentation

What You Should Know About Your Audience Before Creating the Perfect Email Workflow

The Impact of Email List Segmentation on Engagement

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Engagement-Based Email Segmentation: How to Ensure Your Messages Land in the Inbox

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image of Kate Nowrouzi

Kate Nowrouzi is the VP of deliverability and product strategy at Sinch, a provider of SMS, voice, video, and verification APIs.

LinkedIn: Kate N.