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Alice Almeida Manager of Innovation & Insights Hitwise

How can segmentation help brands to better understand their audience and meet their needs?

Buzzwords... It seems that each week there is another one being thrown around, making little impact and causing a lot of confusion. Some stay and become common talk, but most fizzle out after being mocked by industry publications. But there are some buzzwords that never seem to die. They may disappear, but they will be back and finally get their time to shine. Segmentation is one of these words. In the past 24 months its gone from something that’s done without talking about, to something that everyone is dropping into sentences – and actually knowing what it means (hurrah!).

Segmentation has taken on a much sexier role in the past few years, with the growth of online behavioural consumer data. Whether it’s via their online behaviours through site visitation, search or even online purchases, or it be from the observed interests and intentions shown online, defining and building a consumer segment is now easier (and more accurate) than ever before. 

Audience segmentation is now vital in order to achieve the best possible outcome for any advertising/marketing campaign. It’s vital because by applying segmentation you remove the whole ‘spray and pray approach’ that has been used for so many years, and you only pay to reach those valuable to you; those who have either shown an interest, intention or are a current consumer. Online behavioural data can highlight exactly who these people are, what life stage they’re at and where they can be found. Broad age brackets and gender are no longer the most effective ways to determine a target audience, not when you have such incredible consumer data at your fingertips. 

There are so many examples where we can showcase the strength of audience segmentation but for this example, let’s look at a retirement planning product and those aged 40-64. Within that age segment you could have workers, retirees, new parents, new grandparents, the rich, the poor, travelers, home builders, single, married, you get my drift. This segment captures multiple life stages and situations and unless you are speaking the correct language to all those different people, you’re wasting a fair chunk of money. If this target audience was to be segmented out, you could target individual groups at exactly the right time and tone. Those who have recently turned 40 need different messaging to those who are 64 and about to retire. Rather than treat everybody the same, understand the exact needs of your consumers and target those needs individually. In this case, those turning 40 need to have a retirement plan in the back of their mind, whereas those at 64 should already be sorted. 

My suggestions for those looking at audience segmentation are:

  1. Understand your true audience – those interacting with your offering/product or brand online, whether it’s through search or your website. 

  2. Use those findings to build out segments. Life stages and situations – if you want to go further, add in interests too.

  3. Implement the segments into your marketing strategy for your next campaign.  

When done right, audience segmentation can save your brand a substantial amount of money and this is why so many brands have started to do it. But it’s not just important from an advertising point of view – segmentation can help brands deliver exactly what their consumers want, and when they want it. 

Segmentation, it’s not just a buzzword but now the norm when it comes to marketing.