Differences between lists and segments

While lists and segments are two types of tools used to manage contacts and send them messages, there are several key differences between the two. It might not be easy to understand what these differences are, especially if you've never used a segmentation tool before.

In this article, we'll explain the differences between lists and segments and in which cases it'd be better to use a list or a segment.

Good to know

  • To learn more about segments and what the different conditions available are, check our dedicated article About segments.

What are the differences between a list and a segment?

A list is a collection of individual contact records, each of which typically includes information such as a person's name, email address, and other details. A segment is a subset of a contact database or list, created based on a set of conditions

➡️  For example
You have a database of 1,000 contacts. From this database, you can create a segment that includes only contacts who live in a particular city, who have opened your last email campaign, or who have made a purchase on your website within the past month.

There are a few key differences between lists and segments:

  • Size: A list is typically larger than a segment, as it includes all or a part of the individual contacts in a database. A segment is a smaller group of contacts within the database or list, selected based on a set of conditions.

  • Purpose: Lists are generally used for storing and organizing all of the contact information for a business, as well as sending messages to mass audiences. Segments are used for sending targeted messages, analyzing the performance of your marketing efforts, and other specific purposes.

  • Flexibility: Segments are more flexible than lists as they are dynamic, meaning that they grow as new contacts meet the conditions and shrink as contacts no longer meet them. They can be created and modified based on changing criteria or business needs. Lists are generally more static, as they represent the overall pool of contacts for a business and only change when contacts are added or removed (manually, via a form, etc.).

When to use a list or a segment?

Now that you know what the differences between a list and a segment are, you might be wondering in which situations it'd be better to use one or the other.

Use a list Use a segment

Lists are best used for sending out messages to a mass audience as opposed to highly targeted groups of contacts. There are a few situations where it might be appropriate to send a message to a whole list instead of a segment:

  • When you have a general update or announcement that is relevant to everyone on the list. For example, if you have a list of customers and you want to announce a sale or a new product release, sending the email to the entire list would be appropriate.

  • When you are just starting to build a relationship with the people on your list and don't have enough data yet to create segments. In this case, sending a general email to the whole list can help you establish a connection and start gathering data that you can use to create segments later on.

  • When you are trying to reach as many people as possible with a specific message. For example, if you are running a contest or promoting a special offer, sending a message to the entire list may be the best way to maximize your reach.

  • When you are sharing newsletters, blog posts, and resources. For example, you can send these messages to the lists of contacts who have subscribed to receive your newsletter, blog post updates, and other content resources.

It's important to keep in mind that sending a message to a whole list can be less effective than sending targeted emails to segments, as the message may not be relevant to everyone on the list. It can also impact your deliverability if many of your contacts don't engage with your messages. That's why we recommend you follow our best practices for the deliverability of emails, SMS, and WhatsApp messages.

However, in some cases, sending a message to the whole list may be the best approach depending on your goals and the information you have available.

⏩ What's next?

To learn how to create a list or segment in Brevo, check our dedicated articles:

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