Audience segmentation is an essential process to target consumers effectively.

Why? Today’s consumers are actively engaged in a multitude of conversations fragmented across time, location and an abundance of digital channels.

With a clear understanding of your audiences and how they spend their time, you can not only provide the best experience and influence the path to purchase, but identify new consumers.

Regardless of the type of marketing campaign or strategy, when segmenting an audience, it’s vital to consider the following five simple, but essential, steps.

How to Make Audience Segmentation Work

Audience segmentation is generally seen as the process of dividing people into groups defined by a set of shared characteristics. The most commonly used divisions occur across behaviors, demographics, psychographics and geographics.

1. Use detailed audience personas to guide your creativity.

Start with your audience’s core set of demographics, such as age, location, ethnicity or family size.

These indicators are a good foundation, but you need to build on this data with insights into behaviors, preferences and affinities.

This is a great way to create more detailed profiles and data-driven personas, reducing the chance of serving irrelevant content.  

Combining these personas with an understanding of the channels and platforms best suited to reach a particular group will help you drive more targeted campaigns.

STA Travel, for example, used a quiz to identify different travel tribes including Thrill Seeker, A-Lister, Free Wheeler, and Live like a Local.

The quiz had over 40,000 participants and gained STA Travel more than 10,000 potential new customers. This is an innovative example of how personas can guide your campaign’s creative solutions.

2. Get to know your audience needs with customer journey maps.

When choosing between different products and services, consumers select the ones that best meet their needs.

Understanding and responding to these needs is key if a campaign is to deliver the desired results.

Most audience segmentation tools focus on behavioral analytics, but going beyond historical data and expanding helps you anticipate the next step your consumer might take.

Armed with this understanding of what drives them, you can map out detailed customer journeys using data and insights to tell you how and where to deliver your message for greatest impact – channels, platforms and format.

By crafting specific content for each point along the journey, you will significantly increase your chances of guiding the customer along to the next stage.

3. Combine your data to get more personalized.

The in-depth data now available means audience segmentation can be refined to achieve far greater levels of personalization.

Combining qualitative personas with quantitative behavioral data, you can define highly actionable audiences. Being this targeted, your content has a far greater chance of resonating with the right people.

Not only this, consumer attitudes are changing – they expect a much higher standard from brands in terms of messaging, personalization and responsiveness to their needs.

Segmenting audiences to deliver tailored messaging and experiences for every customer at every stage is now an essential requirement.

4. Investigate usage and needs for more differentiation.

Usage and needs-based customer segmentation helps you get to the heart of what your customers want and how to differentiate your offer.

Most brands have multiple offerings for different types of consumers and determining the different uses customers may have for your products or services is a great way to carry out this segmentation.

This approach also helps to identify new audiences who share similar needs.

5. Find out what really engages your audience for more reach.

To increase your reach, you need to know what really engages your customer segments, but also how their behaviors differ across channels.

Within industries like travel and consumer goods, for example, peer recommendations and reviews prove highly influential.

When it comes to different audiences, finding out what works for them is key. Our latest statistics show that when targeting mothers, for example, incentives like free delivery and customer reviews act as the most effective purchase drivers.

Using these insights to deliver more engaging campaigns will bring your reach to new heights.

What’s more, tracking targeted content will allow you to see when and how different audiences are activated – an insight that can be built into further segmentation and incorporated into future campaigns.

Case study: Using smart segmentation to win a pitch

First & First is a consultancy with data at its core. 

It aims to help brands and agencies bridge the gap between analytics and strategy, ultimately driving new business. 

This example from First & First highlights the value brands place on audience segmentation.

The brief


First & First have a number of agency clients, one of which was pitching to a beauty brand looking to launch a new product. 

The agency tasked First & First with providing recommendations on the beauty brand’s target audience, offering insights into “who they are and what they care about,” says Devon Zdatny, CEO of First & First Consulting.

With little information about the brand beyond the three core pillars it centered itself around, to do this pitch justice, they needed more: 

“We leveraged GlobalWebIndex to uncover which consumers would care about these pillars. This helped us pinpoint and define our target audience.”

The action


First, the team gathered insights into the consumers they should be targeting. GlobalWebIndex offers the most in-depth data on digital consumers across 46 countries, enabling them to go as global or local as they needed to. 

Using the wealth of survey data available, they could identify, analyze and profile each target group using over 40,000 data points. 

This not only helped them to segment by demographics and behaviors, but by attitudes, perceptions and world views. 

Here’s how they went about it: 

  1. They built out an audience which met the criteria associated with the brand’s core pillars of social-first distribution, eco-friendly ingredients and promotion of healthy eating.
  2. They analyzed the audience demographics in order to shape the target profile. 
  3. They constructed a target audience that balanced scalability with precision.

The result


The agency were successful in their pitch and, as part of the kickoff, hired First & First to conduct a full segmentation study, for which they heavily relied on GlobalWebIndex data. 

“GlobalWebIndex has been core to our continuous efforts to streamline the path to insights,” says Devon.

“The ability to pull such compelling data in ever-tightening timelines has been vital in helping many of our agency clients win pitches.”

Replacing many of their primary surveys, the team says integrating the platform in their process has resulted in substantial cost savings across the business. 

“The platform has economies of scale that custom research does not, making this a tremendous return on investment.”

People say good/fast/affordable isn’t possible, but GlobalWebIndex proves that wrong.”

Your targeting is only as good as your segmentation 

Audience segmentation is at the heart of good marketing, and if not carried out with enough detail, companies run the risk of becoming too broad in their targeting and turning potential customers away.

Taking the time to segment your audience with the most up-to-date, in-depth data pays off in the long term. Your profit margins and your audience will thank you for it. 

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Originally published May 24, 2017. Updated October 10, 2019.

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