Customer Segmentation Methods

Anyone invovled in customer segmentation strategies?

We’ve historically used a demographic segmentation, but I’m proposing a “psychodemographic” segmentation, and an affinity mapping method to get there.

Looking for methods and lessons learned…

I’ve been using socioeconomic and geopolitical means of segmentation.

I’ve heard it as “Attitudinal segments” remember the phrase - its easier to sell an old man a young man’s car?

well, there is ethnographic research which supposedly covers this method of research fairly well. i often question what is to be discovered that will be so influential in creating most common products? these concentrated studies seem a little exorbitant in my opinion. after all isn’t everyone after the “best” product? and when this isn’t affordable by a certain class, then reductions in quality are made to accomodate these consumers. i know it may blow everyone’s mind a little who live by user-centric design approaches, but bear with me for a moment while i play a little devil’s advocate to foment some thought. you did mention psychology. so, isn’t it true that if we consider the designer(s) to be these “analytical surveyors” of the public’s affinities (largely now homogenized), that these conjurers of target appeal, have in a sense made an attempt to draw a line between themselves and the surrounding society as if they are studying some foreign matter through the lens of a microscope. but, on the contrary, this would be nearly impossible to create an unbiased seperation between the the developer, the development, and the user. the ideas that may be discovered are incestuous, in that they are born from what each group involved in the process is most familiar and in agreeance. if there is no agreeance between the designer, the user, and the culture, then there will be a failed product, right? its like if a Canadian designer were to design a niche product for an Asian market, having to entrench his/her mind into the consumers’ desires. therefore, he/she will train his mind to think as theirs, only reinforcing the idea that the ideas are already in motion. it would then become apparent that it is not in the designer’s will to fashion these things. psychology in this scenario is rendered meaningless. it is an appropriate function of desigers to assimilate these active ideas into not what will be most desired by the human psyche, but what will prove to be useful and meaningul to the collective, by analyzing the proclivities of the groups, which will be based on past events. i am not refuting the value of your proposal, only the way in which it is presented as being overtly ambiguous. let us not forget how the products are shaped more by past products + sheer human insight and intelligence, rather than a contrived attempt to understand the innermost realms of a group of consumers’ desires. but, of course, there are methods to deriving evidence of what aspects of the product a consumer would deem “good”. otherwise, it is simply our jobs to be sensitive to our environment and fellow man to extract those insights from what is already manifesting as a useful and meaningful design. thanks for bearing with me. i am definitely intrigued by your strategy, although i am left wanting more.

Hi CG,

“We’ve historically used a demographic segmentation, but I’m proposing a “psychodemographic” segmentation, and an affinity mapping method to get there.”

I think you’re correct to look at new ways of segmenting markets and describing consumers. Demographics are starting to look like an inaccurate way of achieving this aim as markets become ever more congested with niche products. This is one of the reasons ethnographic methods are gaining popularity. They can be used to describe markets in terms of customer wants and desires and lifestyle, rather than rigid socioeconomic categories.

I would partly disagree with Trimmhh when stating

“let us not forget how the products are shaped more by past products + sheer human insight and intelligence, rather than a contrived attempt to understand the innermost realms of a group of consumers’ desires.”

It is true that past products shape our future product expectations to an extent, however human insight and intelligence isn’t innate. People have to work at developing these insights, and having confidence in justifying them. It is certainly not true that everyone is after the ‘best’ product, and that that product is the same for everyone. This is why there are numerous methods and techniques being used.

Have a read of this paper. It’s a nicely written piece on how consumers are changing their views of ‘quality’ in saturated western markets.


thank you tom for dissidence in regard to my assumptions regarding consumerism. mainly, i was intending to highlight that our capacity to struggle in attempt to define innovation, largely in an effort to shape the future is mostly inhibited by what is most powerful - which is the most prevalent artefacts and way of life, obviously being the nearest span of experience. throughout history even the most gifted and highly rare of individuals who on occasion grace our planet with such forward and advanced concepts will hit what i shall refer to as the consumer or market ceiling which inhibits the concept from entering everday life because it would be so drastic and volatile a change from what is currently accepted and already holds a more clearly understood meaning in society. our societies in essence breed what will be able to fit with what is familiar yet constantly in an amorphous-like state, ready for the next push of the boundaries, which i hope is the most beneficial and enlightened addition to the lineage of its kin. and in referring to the “best” product, i would like to clarify by calling the “best” as either a perception of reality for oneself or simply an illusion. in the end, most customers assimilate a group of desires, needs, wants, and external influences to form a decision to purchase governed by only what is attainable. in this sense we all have a mental notion of what urges us to purchase, inevitably making it the “best” choice satisfying the aformentioned requisites. the devil sitting on one side of the shoulder during this mental process is usually an influence of lesser integrity such as: deficiencies of self worth (id reaction) or internal dissatisfaction(sometimes fueled by materialism), excessively manipulative advertising, marketing ploys, and society’s role in shaping status symbols. dear God, if we could only eliminate the egregious role of these malefactors, would we be in such a healthier place. i like the site you directed us to and can relate the past comments to this oversaturation of products which the site makes mention. back to the issue of using a psychological approach to understanding the current state of affairs, i would like to recommend a book as an intro/overview of modern man’s proclivities. c.g. jung’s “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” is a highly provocative read in its characterization of the human psyche at large. we have indeed a spiritual nature, in many cases dormant, but one which can have an enormous desire for nourishment. with technology and the overall MASS of products, i can venture to say that we as a whole have used these products as spiritual substitutes. ouch, yeah, this is quite a factory of disillusionment we have built. but as in all things, there will be a reaction of the opposite. what must be realized is that no product will ever fill the void of the spirit. but as a synopsis of the book(although not finished) is this: the balance of human existance depends on equal parts spiritual and physical, with the psyche being the mode by which feeling and reasoning are perceived as co-dependant, offering a greater glance into what is most enriching for each of our lives.

In our situation the customers are Hospitals. This means the customers aren’t the users–a tricky position for designers and marketers who must understand the complexities of the decision making process.