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Beyond Traditional Models of Segmentation

Beyond Traditional Models of Segmentation

Some sixty years ago, Wendell R Smith developed the idea of segmenting consumers in a bid to better understand their purchasing patterns and motivations. Since then, the concept has become firmly entrenched in the fields of marketing and market research. As technology continues to revolutionize consumers’ shopping habits however, some are beginning to question whether segmenting consumers on the basis of demographics is still relevant today?

Traditional lines of segmentation typically include age, gender, income, etc. However, in today’s world, an elderly retiree has higher chances of being driven to purchase by the same motivations as a young college student. As such, some analysts believe that in order to better understand the modern consumer, frameworks must go beyond the typical lines of age, gender or income.

Research Live rather interestingly conducted a project to develop a framework that can improve understanding of the modern consumer. Its framework captures seven different mindsets that change across a person’s lifetime in response to different personal experiences as well as according to the sector in which they are purchasing. These mindsets are: 

  1. Conscious: Conscious consumers tend to opt for eco-friendly and sustainable products. Greater attention is likely to be paid to the value chain in order to ensure insofar as possible, an ethical purchase.
  2. Creative: Creative shoppers value beauty and aesthetics. Their purchases are generally driven by a desire to own unique and beautiful items.
  3. Fulfilled: Fulfilled shoppers typically purchase items as a way of rewarding themselves for their accomplishments, generally within a professional capacity. They are less likely to be influenced by others and seek enriching and positive experiences.
  4. Influential: Influential shoppers seek to stand out from the crowd, and typically are driven by a desire to improve their perceived standing in society.
  5. Knowledgeable: Knowledgeable shoppers buy with the aim of gaining knowledge, satisfying their curiosity and having learning experiences.
  6. Secure: Secure shoppers tend to appreciate stability and reliability. Price and convenience tend to be valued above most other factors.
  7. Sociable: Sociable shoppers value sharing and belonging to a group. Their purchases are typically motivated by a desire to win the affection of others and are seen as a way of honoring relationships with friends or family.

As can be seen above, these mindsets transcend conventional segmentation along age or gender. For instance, an elderly retiree may be just as likely to have a “sociable” mindset as a young college student. Additionally, as already mentioned above, these mindsets vary considerably depending on the sector people are shopping for. For instance, daily essentials such as groceries are likely to be driven by a “secure” mindset, whereas a growing number of consumers are likely to adopt the “conscious” mindset when purchasing cosmetics or personal care items.

Whilst adopting the mindset framework may serve as a helpful tool towards understanding the modern shopper, it should not necessarily be viewed as a substitute for segmentation across traditional lines. Ultimately, the specific purpose of the research project or marketing campaign will likely best determine the most suitable tool for understanding an increasingly complex pool of consumers.