Beyond Demographics: Motivation Segmentation

The concept of segmentation is not new. Wendell Smith first wrote about segmentation in 1956. In fact, segmentation is fundamental to much of marketing. Identifying homogeneous groups of people within a more heterogeneous population created great efficiency for developing and selling products and services. Often, these segments were defined demographically by gender, ethnicity, income, education or age. Later marketers moved to behavioral segmentation (e.g., heavy vs. light users, daypart users) as well as attitude and lifestyle segmentation.

But at the end of the day, we always reverted to demographics to describe the segments. “I need Moms aged 35 to 54!” “This product is for college-educated men between the ages of 22 and 30.” “The urban Hispanic consumer needs this product.”

However, there are those who posit that demographics are no longer enough. With technology, social media, nearly constant change, and increasing demand for experiences over things, we need a new way to identify consumers.

Chris Cooper, head of planning at U.K.-based smp, conducted research combining Victor Schwab’s 40 emotional states and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to determine if there was another segmentation base that could be used to explain shopper behavior better. The research found that, when people are shopping, they are subject to seven different possible motivations:

  1. Consciousness: These shoppers enjoy helping others and our planet, and making ethical choices. The products that reduce guilt, and are ethical and sustainable products.
  2. Creative: These shoppers appreciate beauty and search for aesthetics. They buy beautiful and innovative things that they enjoy.
  3. Fulfilled: Fulfilled shoppers want to be the best possible version of themselves and to live a satisfying life. They buy products to improve themselves, and as a reward for their accomplishments.
  4. Influential: The influential shopper values expressing their identity. They buy to improve their self-confidence and social status.
  5. Knowledgeable: These shoppers are well-informed, and value satisfying their curiosity and having journeys of discovery. They buy to gain knowledge and learning from their experiences.
  6. Secure: These shoppers seek protection and reliability. They avoid risks and want to be safe and secure above all. They buy products that increase their comfort level and will look for chances to save time, money and effort as well.
  7. Sociable: Sociable shoppers want to connect with others and to belong to a group. When they buy, it is to win the affection of others and nurture relationships with family and friends.

None of these motivations are the province of any specific demographics. Men and women can be social shoppers. A 16-year old and a 61-year old could both be secure shoppers. But how retailers and brands treat these differently-motivated shoppers is potentially very different.

Let’s assume your product is a book about traveling and sold in a bookstore in a mall. How would you treat these different shoppers?

  • The conscious shopper may prefer the book printed on recycled paper, or better yet downloaded into his/her e-reader.
  • The creative shopper may want the book to have beautiful photographs or content about fascinating places.
  • Fulfilled shoppers want to know how this book is going to improve them or help them reach their goals.
  • The influential shopper wants your book (or perhaps your store) to increase their social standing and status.
  • The knowledgeable shoppers want to gain knowledge from your book or from the experience of buying your book.
  • The secure shoppers want to get the book easily and at a good price. A money-back guarantee probably would be attractive as well!
  • For the social shopper, offer times to meet the author, book-signings, or a discussion group about the book.

Understanding what is motivating your customer can help you re-think your market and unlock new and exciting promotion and product opportunities. If you don’t sell travel books in stores, never fear. Simply ask yourself, “What does my customer accomplish or gain by buying my product?” “What job is my product going to perform for my customer?” You might just see your customer – and your products – in an entirely different light!

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