List Segmentation: Couples Versus Singles

As consumers become more selective about who they accept email from, simply sending broad-based mailings to your list increases the odds they’ll unsubscribe and decreases response rates. Database segmentation is one of the best ways to grow your business. Many email advertisers once resisted this process. Now’s the time to do it if you aren’t already.

Segmenting means appending consumer data to your list to send targeted offers to specific segments. If your database contains postal addresses, you’re in a position to append a tremendous amount of information. If your records include only email addresses, it’s more difficult, but still possible, to enrich the database.

Segmenting by marital status is very basic and a good place to start. If you sell to both groups, merchandise selection, offers, and copy should relate to each group.

According to a Nielsen//NetRatings report, the top five items purchased by each group were as follows.

  • Singles:

    1. Student loans

    2. Credit cards
    3. Video games
    4. Computer software and games
    5. Music

  • Couples:

    1. Prescription drugs

    2. Home improvement
    3. Educational computer software
    4. Gardening tools and supplies
    5. Toys and non-computer game

As you can see, the products are vastly different. It only makes sense to determine marital status to target offers and merchandise more effectively. If you have postal addresses in your database and don’t know marital status, you can append that information by matching your database against one of many that do have the data. You may even be able to append marital status without a postal address. When acquiring new data, remember to include a question about marital status.

If you buy opt-ins or build your list through ads or sign-ups on third-party sites, consider the sites frequented by singles or married people:

  • Singles:


    • Matchmaker
    • PlanetOutPartners
    • PlanetOut
    • SparkNotes
    • Yahoo Personals
    • Student Advantage

  • Couples:

    • FamilyFun

    • BabyCenter
    • American Baby
    • Nick Jr.
    • PBS Kids
    • EDGAR Online

Singles flock to dating sites. Couples visit child- and finance-oriented sites. No surprise, but I’m amazed at how many singles-related offers I receive, despite how long I’ve been married.

None of this is particularly astounding or unpredictable, but I want to get you thinking about segmenting your database. Segmenting and sending appropriately targeted offers to those segments almost always result in higher response rates, conversions, revenue, and return on investment (ROI). That, coupled with a cluttered email environment, is why you should do this now. While you’re appending marital status, you can append lots more to enhance your database. More on that in a future column.

What kind of offers work better for singles rather than couples, and how should copy and design be modified for each group? Here’s the cheat sheet I use to write copy:


  • Product selection: Entertainment, self-indulgence

  • Price point: The lower, the better
  • Key driver: Instant gratification
  • Fulfillment: Comfortable with electronic fulfillment, such as music downloads
  • Copy: Hip, edgy, cool
  • Offer: Discounted price
  • Graphics: Bright, bold


  • Product selection: Children, home, garden.

  • Price point: Higher price points should be supported by value, payment plans to make them more affordable.
  • Key driver: Value, affordability. and utility.
  • Fulfillment: Most likely physical due to product types; provide option of physical or electronic download.
  • Copy: Straightforward.
  • Offer: Free or low-cost trial.
  • Graphics: No need to shout; state the offer clearly.

Remember, the single population is primarily under 40. The married population is aged 20 to 60 and older. Approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population is single. In general, couples watch their money more carefully and therefore search for value more often. They have a lot of expenses many singles don’t, such as mortgages, children, automobiles (often more than one), and schooling.

Though singles tend to have fewer expenses, they typically have lower incomes. Keep that in mind. That’s why price is important to singles. With couples, value and affordability (the ability to pay) are what matter.

If you sell a lot of products and maintain them in a database, tag each as primarily a singles product, a couples product, or both. When you consider email promotions, being able to query for products appropriate for either group makes the job much easier.

Start segmenting your database now to ensure people will want to continue to receive your email offers.

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