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.
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.
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.
Segments are best used for sending targeted messages to specific groups of contacts as opposed to sending out messages to a mass audience. There are a few situations where it might be appropriate to send a message to a segment instead of a whole list:
When you have specific information or offers that are only relevant to a particular group of people. For example, if you have a list of customers and you want to send a special offer to customers who have made a purchase in the past month, creating a segment for these customers and sending your message to that segment would be more effective than sending it to the whole list.
When you have data that suggests that certain segments of your lists are more likely to engage with your messages. For example, you can create a segment for contacts who have opened your messages in the last 3 months or who have spent over a certain threshold and send them coupons or exclusive content.
- When you want to cross-sell. For example, you can create a segment for contacts who bought a specific product but have not purchased one or more related products and send them specific product recommendations.
But segments are not only useful for sending targeted messages, you can also use them to clean and analyze your database:
- By segmenting your unengaged and old contacts, you can try to reach them out one last time to see if they're still interested in receiving your messages. If they're not, simply blocklist them and focus on your most engaged and recent contacts. To learn more about how to effectively clean your lists, check our dedicated article Optimize and clean your contact list to improve email deliverability.
- Since segments are automatically updated in real-time, they provide an easy way to see what is going on with your contacts and allow you to analyze your performance based on their spending habits, their behavior with your messages, etc.
⏩ What's next?
To learn how to create a list or segment in Brevo, check our dedicated articles: