Segmentation is one of those customer insight and marketing terms which divide opinion. Leaders have their favourite approaches. Boards can be ardent fans of the need for a segmentation, or complete unbelievers in what is perceived as marketing “spin“. One of the reasons for this appears to be, the mixed fortunes of implementing segmentations. Some companies extol real benefits, and focus that have come as a result, whilst others bemoan wasted spend with consultants and agencies.
My own experience is that appropriate segmentations can add real value and enable a clearer understanding to focus on appropriate target audiences. But a few misconceptions need to be addressed.
The chief misconception I would cite is, the belief that any company or market only needs one segmentation. One of the guiding factors for selecting the most appropriate segmentation approach is the purpose for which that model will be used. A segmentation to guide market participation strategy, is a very different challenge, to one for new proposition development, or to target different customer treatments. For this reason, it can be beneficial for a company to have more than one way of segmenting it’s customers (even if one is considered primary when seeking to embed in culture of organisation). One analogy for this is the benefit of having a Rubik’s cube set of segmentations for decision making.
Once the challenge of identifying the purpose of a segmentation is overcome, using incisive questioning, then a CI leader needs to select the most appropriate tool for the job. Here there does appear to be a degree of fashion influencing choices over the years. Many years ago, simple demographic segmentations were popular and can still perform a useful function. At the height of influence from market research teams, attitudinal segmentations were favoured and are also more viable than many believe. Since the success of Dunn Humby and others, behavioural segmentations took centre stage. Directors, particularly finance directors can favour value-based segmentation and operations directors can favour simpler life stage/“needs based” segmentations.
As all these segmentations have had their day, and still have their advocates, it is not surprising to find more organisations these days with hybrid segmentations. Popular combinations for hybrids appear to be value + life stage or behavioural/trigger + value based segmentations. Having once achieved developing a rich attitudinal segmentation, from substantial quant research and then producing predictive models to overlay this onto a data warehouse for targeting – I regret how much attitudinal segmentations are dismissed nowadays.
However, my guidance to customer insight leaders is, to be aware of as many potential approaches as possible, and then to focus your efforts on being clear as to the purpose for any one segmentation. At the end of the day, it is not a ‘universal truth’ about customers, it is just a model to enable appropriate action.
I was struck by this graphic published by Visually that was trending on Twitter a couple of days ago. Although about marketers, it set me pondering about today’s hybrid Customer Insight leader.
Apart from being an eye catching infographic and ringing true as to the challenge for modern marketers, it prompts an equal or bigger challenge for insight leaders. Over the years this role has evolved into one requiring CI leaders to have an even more hybrid mix of talents than their marketing peers.
It may seem like one of the curses of modern corporations but org design and regular reorganizations are now a fact of business life. I’m sure as an insight leader you will have seen your fair share.
As you’ve risen up the hierarchy you’ve probably changed in your role with regard to these events; from recipient to author. If you haven’t experienced this then I would encourage you to seek to be an author of such change.
From my experience two major opportunities exist for customer insight functions in this regard.
The first is to bring together the different technical areas who can best collaborate to provide deeper and more actionable insights. These include teams that are often located in different functional “silos”.
In line with my definition of Customer Insight, I would recommend bringing together: Customer Data, Analysis & Modelling, Research and Database Marketing teams. Suitably integrated and with an outcome focussed culture, these teams can together for an ‘Insight Engine‘ that produces not just technical output but actions that result in both commercial impact and improved customer experiences. (more…)
I believe in the importance of data visualisation, both because most people can more readily understand a visual representation than tables of numbers and because it is a useful language with which to communicate not just analysis but story. In other words, the challenge to appropriately visualise data or analysis, encourages the analyst to get closer to insights.
Anyway, I’ll blog more on that wider topic another time, for now I just wanted to share links to two agencies whose work on infographics have impressed me. If you’ve not come across them before, see if these spark any creative ideas…
There is always a risk that fashion obscures function, so I am aware of the risk that some people now equate data visualisation with infographics, which would also be a mistake in my book. So, as promised, more on data visualisation to following a later post, with the obligatory reference to Edward Tufte.
For now, please do feedback with your experience of infographics. Any tips?