Aug 12, 2013

Avatars, New Ways to Segment, and Other Updates in v8.6

Update (7/18/16): The Discover Similar Subscribers feature is no longer available. To learn how you can use MailChimp’s powerful segmentation tools to send relevant messages to your subscribers, visit our Knowledge Base.

Over the next few days, we’ll be rolling out some new features. For those of you keeping track, we’re at v8.6 which includes avatars, new segmentation options, chinchillas, and an API that’s out of beta.


Avatars are here. No, we’re not trying to build the next social network. We think avatars are great for comments and collaboration, and can add clarity when you have multiple user accounts. From now on, your tiny, beautiful little head will appear in several areas: 1) your MailChimp dashboard, 2) inside the campaign editor beside your comments, and 3) in subscriber profiles beside your notes. Every MailChimp user gets a profile photo, and that goes for teams with multiple users too. These photos are especially handy for teams that collaborate during the editing process, when everything is happening fast and you’re trying to keep up with who’s saying what.


To add a new profile photo, go to Account > My Profile > Profile Photo. You can upload one from your computer, or snap one on the spot with your webcam. You’ll notice some familiar photo editing tools, which we pulled from our Aviary integration.


If you don’t have a photo in MailChimp, we’ll pull one from Gravatar. And if you don’t have one there, either, we’ll just use your first initial in that space. You’ll start to see avatars in our mobile apps soon as well, as our collaboration functionality spreads across the MailChimp continuum.

Auto-updating segments

We’ve totally revamped the list segmentation functionality in MailChimp. The biggest change is that you can now save segments (it’s no longer necessary to rebuild them for every campaign). To save a segment, create a segment like you normally would (List > Segments > New Segment), and check the box that says Auto-update when you’re ready to save the segment. It’s that easy. Whenever you’re ready to send, we’ll update the segment based on your most current list of subscribers.


I’m not going to bore you with a screen-by-screen analysis of the other UI changes to list segmentation. Generally, you’ll find nice little touches here and there that make it faster and easier to create new segments, save them, and browse member profiles within segments.

Discover similar subscribers

If you’re interested in learning more about your list and experimenting with segmentation, try our new "Discover similar subscribers" tool. Identify a specific group of people, and we’ll show you similar subscribers within your list. If you’ve read any of the posts from our data scientist, you know that data is always at work in the background, discovering trends and keeping our system clean. Now, we’re excited to launch a tool that actually allows our customers to put that data to work for them. When you provide a segment or small batch of your subscribers, we’ll analyze that group and return a list of other subscribers that are related to the ones you selected (related in a "proprietary data science" kinda way, not in a "family tree" kinda way), based on what we know about their email behavior. The number of subscribers we return will depend on both your list and the subscribers you provided. In some cases, we won’t have any related subscribers for you (do what I do, and just blame math). If that happens, you might want to try a larger sample to see if we can find more connections. Of course, our users’ privacy comes first, and we only return subscribers who are already on your list. The intent of this feature is to help our customers reduce irrelevancy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • You’ve got an announcement about a new product that you think the designers on your list would love. Problem is, your subscribers don’t specify their profession in your signup process. If you can give us a good sampling of some known designers on your list, we can find similar subscribers to them. This allows you to send a message that’s written specifically for that segment, without bothering the rest of your list.
  • You’ve got an announcement that you think programmers or techies would be interested in, but not so much the average subscriber on your list. You remember a campaign where you included a link that only true nerds would click. Pull up that campaign report, find your subscribers who clicked that particular link, and then generate a segment of similar subscribers.
  • You’ve got a small group of VIPs on your list, and you wonder if there are other potential VIPs you should know about. This feature will find subscribers who we think are similar. You might want to click through their member profiles to see if they match your personal criteria for "VIP."

The tool isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t always deliver results. A lot depends on the initial group of subscribers that you input. But when it works, it’s a great way to deliver relevant messages to specific recipients, without bothering the rest of your subscribers. We’re all about making email more useful here at MailChimp. There are three ways to discover segments, all from within the segmentation screen of the app:

1. Discover similar subscribers based on a new segment

Create a segment like you normally would, add your criteria, and preview the segment. You’ll have the option to Send to this segment or Discover similar subscribers. Click Discover similar subscribers, and we’ll show you a list of subscribers who are related to the segment you just created.


2. Discover similar subscribers based on a saved segment

Select a segment you’ve already saved, and click to Discover similar subscribers based on that existing segment.


3. Discover similar subscribers based on a group of email addresses

Copy/paste your own list of email addresses. Click to Create a segment from a list of emails. Name the segment, paste in the email addressees, and click Discover similar subscribers.


  Important things to know about the "Discover Similar" segments:

  • This is a feature that’s only available to paying customers.
  • It doesn’t return subscribers on other lists, and it doesn’t reveal how subscribers are similar.
  • The intent of this feature is to help you be more human, by helping you annoy fewer people with irrelevant messages. Still, if you just don’t want to be part of it, we understand. You can opt-out of it under your account settings.

Miscellaneous updates

That’s how the avatars and segmentation options work, but there are more updates where that came from:

  • Version 2 of our API (aka "Chinchilla") is officially out of beta. There’s a specific reason it’s codenamed Chinchilla. They just haven’t told me that reason yet.
  • All of your customer-facing MailChimp signup forms are now responsive for better readability from any device.
  • We made even more refinements to subscriber tables, so you can see more data without as much scrolling.

We’ve had a string of really big, meaty releases lately. We built a totally new drag and drop editor, we added multi-user permissions functionality, we released an all new MailChimp Mobile app for smartphones, and it all culminated with the launch of a completely redesigned website and application that’s built for mobile collaboration. Compare today’s MailChimp to MailChimp from the same time last year, and you’d think we totally reinvented ourselves. This is not an easy thing to do for a 12-year old company with +3 million users and just under 200 employees. We add more than 7,000 new users every day now. That’s 7,000 new people with zero back story and no brand loyalty or patience for mistakes whatsoever. It would’ve been a lot easier to sit back, get complacent, and just optimize what we already had. But relentless innovation is what we live for here at MailChimp. All these big upgrades helped us clean the slate, get rid of years of technical and design debt, and better prepare for another few years of rapid iteration, competition, and innovation in the email space. Moving forward, you’ll notice us switching back from these giant upgrades to the more subtle 4-week iteration cycles you were accustomed to.