The Ultimate Guide to Email List Segmentation for a Subscription Box Business

The Ultimate Guide to Email List Segmentation for a Subscription Box Business

One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘how do I correctly segment my email subscribers, so people all get the right emails?’

It’s really a pretty big deal because you really need to do your best to make sure you don’t send people the wrong emails, and consequently piss everyone off. If you want to see for yourself go and send sales emails to your customers and see what they reply back! 🙈

Of course, separating customers from non-customers is just the most basic and obvious segmentation, but there are a few other ‘buckets’ of people that you want to separate, because you want to treat them differently based on where they are in the buyer journey.

The main buckets are going to be:

  1. Your leads, or people who haven’t signed up yet
  2. Your current subscribers
  3. Your cancelled customers

But we also split your leads into 2 groups, hot leads, and warm/cold leads. Usually, the hottest leads are the people who have come to your site and gone all the way to the checkout before dropping off. We will call these the ‘Abandoned Cart’ bucket.

Warm/cold leads could have joined via a pop-up on your site, or via a blog article, competition or social media campaign. They are not as likely to buy as those who have been to your site and abandoned the cart. We just call these the ‘Leads’ bucket.

So now we have 4 buckets

  1. Leads
  2. Abandoned cart
  3. Customers
  4. Cancelled customers

I am going to explain how you can correctly segment these people to ensure everyone gets the right messaging at the right time, and also make sure nobody is duplicated in lists so you can have a consistent experience for everyone.

Note: I use WordPress for my website, Subbly for my e-commerce platform, and ActiveCampaign for my email software. I discuss in this post a way to set all of this up using other softwares also.


Bucket #1 – Leads

How to capture them:

On your website you should have at least one email capture strategy. Most commonly you will have a pop-up, but to avoid annoying every person that comes to your site, considering having it trigger to display after:

  • A 10 second delay
  • When someone tries to exit
  • After scrolling 50% of your homepage

This will avoid causing customers to immediately close it because they want to have a look at your site before giving you any of their information including their email.

Signup survey

What we utilise on our website is a signup survey or ‘flow’. This is where a customer clicks on ‘get started’ or ‘sign up’ and instead of taking them straight to a product page or the checkout, you ask a couple of questions to ascertain their preferences. In our case we ask:

  • Dog’s name
  • Dog size
  • Dog breed

Then before we redirect them to the product they chose; we ask for their email.

People don’t mind entering their email at this stage because it makes sense, they have given us information about themselves and their dog so when we ask for their email, they have already made a few micro-commitments, so they are not put off if we ask them to enter their email to go to the checkout.

The best thing here is that of course some people go right over and buy, but most don’t. For the ones that didn’t, you still have their email, and you can follow up again later. That way you are building up a list of leads that have shown an interest in your box but for whatever reason dropped off after visiting your site.

What to email them:

The ones that do sign up are automatically moved into the customers list (which I’ll cover later) but those that don’t sign up can be emailed in what I call a ‘Sideways Retargeting Sequence’ which is an automated series of emails telling them about the benefits of your product, breaking down objections and making them a series of increasingly enticing offers to sign up to your box.


Bucket #2 – Abandoned Cart

How to capture them:

This depends on what kind of e-commerce platform you are using to run your business. We use Subbly, which has a built-in abandoned cart feature, so when a customer enters their email while checking out, Subbly can capture that information and store it if the customer doesn’t complete the checkout process.

So for you, double check with your platform whether they already do this or else how can you set it up for your own business. If they don’t offer this, there are a couple of ways to get around it.


Most platforms nowadays have plugins, Shopify, WooCommerce, WordPress etc. offer these plug-ins for greater functionality. Here are some examples of software solutions to implement this on your site.

Shopify Apps: CareCart Abandoned Cart Recovery, Recapture.

WordPress plugins: WooCommerce Cart Abandonment Recovery, Retainful

Subbly’s feature is built in and is $29 extra p/m

Cratejoy integrates with CartStack for abandoned carts

Join my Newsletter

Exit Intent

Another way of capturing emails is to use an exit intent pop-up, that only displays when someone is on your checkout page. We use a software called Wisepops for our pop-ups, and in there you can set the trigger to open when:

  1. Viewer is currently on page
  2. Viewer tries to exit the page

This way you can have a pop-up saying something like ‘Hey don’t go yet! Here’s 10% off your order, enter your email to reveal code’. That way you can get some people to continue the purchase, and others to enter their email and you can send them back later.

These emails go into your ‘abandoned cart’ list.

What to send them:

This messaging is going to be quite salesy, you are assuming they want to buy your product, but something just got in their way, so in this sequence you’re sending them reminders, breaking down objections and trying to get them to go back and complete their purchase with some urgency and possibly a special discount.


Bucket #3 – Customers

How to capture

So, when someone actually signs up to your box and is now a customer. We need to automatically move their email into the correct list in your Email provider. Because every platform captures a person’s email when they check-out because they usually need an email to complete their purchase.

But where does this email go? Well, you should be sending all of your customers emails into a ‘customers’ list. You can do that by either integrating your website platform directly with your email platform, but from my experience usually they don’t integrate perfectly together, so what I use is Zapier. Zapier is a tool that essentially connects together 2 tools that usually don’t integrate together.

So, to funnel our customers emails into our customer list, we create a Zap in Zapier that is ‘triggered’ when a new subscription is created in our platform, in our case Subbly. The ‘action’ then is to move your customers email into your customer list in your email provider, in our case ActiveCampaign.

You may be wondering, but what if people enter their email at the pop-up and become a lead, then later they sign up, won’t their email be in 2 lists, both ‘Leads’ and ‘Customers’? Yes, you are correct.

In order to fix this, we create an automation inside ActiveCampaign that says ‘if someone joins the list ‘customers’ then remove them from the lists ‘Abandoned cart, Customers, & Cancelled’ so once Zapier triggers their email moving into the customer list, they will be removed from the other list, so people are not duplicated across every list.

These leads will be in the ‘customers’ list

What to send them:

The purpose of this sequence is to get your customers feeling welcome, excited to receive their first delivery, and invested in your brand story. Essentially you want them loving your box and your company long before their box even arrives, so they are primed to enjoy it once it comes. Of course, your box hopefully lives up to their expectations, and now you have a loyal customer that knows your story, and is primed to stay subscribed and possibly ready to make further purchases from your online store.


Bucket #4 – Cancelled

How to capture

Very similar to the capture process of the customers list, we will be using Zapier. In this situation, your customers email is already in your email software system, from the time they have become a customer, in your customer list.

When they cancel their subscription though, you must move them out of this list and into our final bucket, ‘cancelled’. You trigger a Zap that says ‘when a customer’s subscription is cancelled’ then the action is ‘move the customer’s email to the cancelled list’.

Again, we must create an automation in ActiveCampaign that says, when a customer joins the list ‘cancelled’, then remove them from the list ‘customers’. Now we have them in the cancelled list and out of the customer list.

Remember this is all automated, so it sounds complicated now but when it is built all of these actions will fire instantly. You won’t even have to think about it.

These leads are stored in the ‘cancelled’ list.

What to send them:

This is a critically important and often overlooked aspect of running a successful subscription box. When people cancel, you have to find out WHY. This information is gold for you to go back and make improvements to your products, your marketing, your website, everything. Send people a survey 30 days after they cancel and ask them the reasons why they left, after a few dozen responses, isolate the 3 biggest reasons people are cancelling and go all out to fix them. That should go a long way to bringing down your churn.

You can also make special win-back offers for your cancelled customers, to try and get them to re-activate, which is always cheaper than finding a new customer and paying another customer acquisition cost.



I hope this article was helpful in getting your head around how to identify and separate your email segments for your subscription box marketing strategy. If you have any questions on this or subscription boxes in general, post below and I’d be happy to help!

Join my Newsletter

Leave a Reply