What is the purpose of market segmentation?

Image of the post author Jodie Shaw

Market segmentation studies help businesses understand the distinct groups of people that make up their market. They work by grouping customers with similar attributes. This allows companies to identify and target the segments with most value to the business.

What is the purpose of market segmentation?

One of the big questions we get asked about this type of research is “what is the purpose of market segmentation?”

It’s not uncommon to hear people asking:

  • “What’s the value of focusing in on specific segments rather than trying to appeal to the mass market as a whole?”
  • “Surely, my best chance of success comes from targeting anyone and everyone that could buy my product, rather than on particular groups?”

In short, we don’t believe it does. Market segmentations can be powerful tools for any business. Targeting specific high-potential segments makes commercial sense and boosts the bottom line. Why?

First of all, not all customers are of equal value to your business. Imagine you’re a charity. Not everyone gives equally. They’ll be those that donate small amounts every now and again. They’ll be others that consistently contribute bigger sums, driven by a connection to your cause. It makes business sense to understand the latter segment. That way you can better appeal to these people and actively target them in your fundraising and marketing campaigns.

The second is that customers are different and have different needs. This is important to recognise for a whole host of business activities – from product development to marketing to customer service. By understanding who you are targeting and shaping your strategy around their needs, you can cut through and create a better experience for your customers.

(Take a look at our guide to market segmentation for more insights on how to better understand your market).

How market segmentation studies can inform your strategy

The results of a market segmentation study can guide strategy development in the following areas:

Designing more successful products and services

Successful product and service design relies on meeting customer needs. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, focusing on specific segments allows you to really understand the pain points your target customers face. You can use this to inform product and service design, helping you to create solutions that really delight.

Developing more effective marketing campaigns

Segmentation studies help you understand who to target. They can also reveal how to speak to your target customers. The result? You’re able to spend your marketing dollars more wisely and achieve greater cut through with your comms.

There are numerous ways for marketers to segment their audiences and tailor marketing easily. Email marketing to granular digital advertising to name but a few. Against this backdrop, a one-size-fits-all-approach is not enough. Segmentations allows you create sophisticated marketing strategies based on the principle that different consumers respond to different messages.

Offering more relevant customer service

Segmentations don’t just benefit marketers. They can have impact right across a business. We’ve worked with companies to empower their customer service reps by helping them understand the different type of customers that exist. For instance, we worked with a dating app to build a segmentation and integrate it into their CRM system. That way, when a customer interacted with the brand, it was easy for the customer service team to see which segment they belonged to. This approach can be really valuable. It helps customer service reps to react in the most appropriate manner to meet the customer’s needs and the company’s corporate objectives.

Using your resources most effectively

Segmentation studies can be really useful in helping businesses understand where to focus their time, money and resources for maximum effect. Insight from a segmentation study can inform how you spend your marketing budget, determine where you focus your sales staff or how you deliver your customer service.

Whether the applications of segmentations are made to product development, marketing, service or resource / budget allocation, ultimately they help businesses to better understand their target audiences and become more customer centric. The result (and the ultimate purpose for conducting a segmentation)? You’re able to create superior customer experiences that meet and exceed your customers’ needs.

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What does a typical market segmentation study look like?

Like all of the market research projects we work on, each segmentation is designed around our client’s needs. That said, most segmentation projects involve the following stages:


The first step in any successful situation is immersion. This is where the agency tasked with creating the segmentation works closely with key stakeholders in a series of workshops. The purpose of these sessions is to understand the existing knowledge within the business. This can allow you to begin developing hypotheses for potential segments. Immersion sessions align key project stakeholders, ensuring that the segmentation delivers for the business. The immersion stage also has a role in establishing buy-in to the project early on. This will encourage greater adoption of the segments in the long term


Next comes the fieldwork itself. This allows the business to understand more about its customers and gather the data needed to create the segments. The fieldwork stage will typically involve a quantitative study for collecting this data. However, the research that takes place around it can differ from project to project. Some segmentations we run involve a qualitative stage up front to test hypotheses. Other involve omnibus studies to determine the incidence of customers and non-customers in the wider population.

Creating the segmentation solution

After the data has been collected, data analytics allow us to find the survey variables which best define the segments. We work closely with stakeholders to create a segmentation solution that is:

  • Actionable (allows you to target the segments at both a tactical and strategic level)
  • Future-proofed (will stand the test of time)
  • Intuitive (easy to understand)

This stage of a segmentation also typically involves understanding the current and potential value of the segments and detailed analysis to understand the individual characteristics of each segment. It’s also when the all-important segment naming takes place. Giving segments memorable names shouldn’t be underestimated. This allows people across the business to instantly grasp what that segment is about. This can be crucial for helping embed and encourage adoption of the segments.

Bringing the segments to life

After you’ve settled on your segmentation solution, the next stage is to bring the segments to life. A lengthy PowerPoint might give the insight or marketing team the information they need. But it’s likely to be too detailed for other functions. Developing impactful deliverables that allow people to easily understand the segments should be high on your priority list if you’re leading a segmentation. This could be anything from posters through to infographics. One of the key deliverables we see many organisations investing in is short documentary videos that bring segments to life. It’s human nature to be able to remember stories and characters better than numbers or data points. That’s why videos like these can really help segments live on in an organisation, ensuring the segments are front of mind when making business decisions.

Activating the segments

It’s not enough to hope that stakeholders will embrace and use the segments. This process needs to be actively managed. One way to do this is by running activation workshops. This is where you work closely with individual functions to help them understand the segments and what they mean for their department and their role. These sessions are action orientated, focused on understanding the opportunities and implications for strategic planning.

Segmentations can be powerful tools for businesses. Find out more about our capabilities in this area or get in touch to discuss a specific project.