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What is psychographic segmentation?

Psychographic segmentation is the research methodology used for studying consumers and dividing them into groups using psychological characteristics including personality, lifestyle, social status, activities, interests, opinions, and attitudes.

What is the difference between demographic segmentation vs psychographic segmentations?

Psychographic segmentation’s emphasis on characteristics like personality and values differs from demographic segmentation, which uses a specific trait (like gender, age, income, etc.) to categorize potential audiences. 

Market researchers use psychographic characteristics to help develop and position their products and marketing messages for different target groups.

Marketers use both demographics and psychographics in their market research to create their marketing strategy. This information adds detail to buyer personas that guide brand positioning, product development, and marketing messaging.

Why is psychographic segmentation important?

Psychographic marketing enables you to engage with multiple target audiences in the ways that will make the biggest impact for each one. This approach saves time and money on approaches that might fall flat and makes it easier to relate to the groups you care about.

You can use psychographics for market segmentation to understand:

  • How consumers really perceive your products and services
  • What consumers really want—and why
  • Gaps or pain points with your current products or services
  • Opportunities for future engagement 
  • How to better communicate with your target audience
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How to use psychographic segments for your target audience

One type of psychographic segmentation involves buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional profile of a potential customer that might include their title or role at work, their personal preferences, their challenges, or aspects of their lifestyle. 

The buyer persona represents both the facts and reasons for behaviors. Buyer personas are a first step in understanding your potential customer’s journey, or the steps they take before, during, and after they purchase your product.

You can also use psychographic research to develop different marketing strategies, services, experiences, and even product offerings for each of your segments. 

For instance, it is common to offer the same product or service with fewer features to price-conscious customers. Customers who don’t care about price but like more features can buy the same product, with more features, at a higher price.

You might find that some of your customers value convenience while others care about customer support. If you divide these into segments, you can adjust your marketing and services to cater to those motivations.

How to collect psychographic segmentation data with surveys

Surveys are a cost-effective and efficient way to collect psychographic information about your target audience. A variety of questions are used to help understand your ideal customer’s personality, lifestyle, social status, activities, interests, opinions, and attitudes.

Open-ended questions use a qualitative approach. “What is your biggest challenge with…” will provide a deeper understanding of the respondent's problems.

Likert scale questions show how much they agree or disagree with a statement, like “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” to let you know how important it is to them.

Semantic differential scale questions ask people to rate a product, brand, company, or other attribute, helping you understand their attitude.

The 5 types of psychographic segments

For effective market research, you need to understand the five types of psychographic segmentation variables.

Personality. People make buying decisions based on personality all the time. Personality covers a broad spectrum of characteristics, from being open and conscientious to being an extrovert or introvert.

Attitudes. Cultural background, family-of-origin, and other factors will influence a buyer’s attitudes.

Lifestyle. Marketers search for feedback from people to better understand problems they encounter in their life. Athletes, business professionals, students, race car drivers, and soccer moms all have different lifestyles and unique challenges to solve.

Social Status.  A person's social status, often associated with their income, will influence if they buy basic items, luxury goods, or anything in between. Understanding the social status of your customers will influence your pricing, messaging, distribution channels, and marketing mix.

Activities, Interests, and Opinions (AIO). What do your customers like to do in their free time? Are they political, a movie binge watcher, or a night owl? Their AIO will influence how you position your products and attract their interest.

When combined, these variables create unique psychographic segments that make up specific target audiences. We’ll break down each of these characteristics in the following sections.

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The personality OCEAN

There are many ways to describe a personality, but one of the easiest to remember and most commonly used is OCEAN.

OCEAN describes 5 aspects of a personality. Each aspect has a range from high to low that describes that trait. Psychographic segmentation marketing studies these aspects to understand how they influence a buyer’s behavior.

Openness. People who are very open to new ideas like to explore and be creative. People who are less open resist change or new ideas and are less imaginative.

Conscientiousness. Also known as mindfulness, people who rank high in this category like to plan ahead and take other people into consideration. People who are less conscientious don’t like structure or schedules, and are less considerate of others.

Extroversion. People who are extroverts are outgoing, like to be the center of attention and enjoy interacting with others. Introverts like solitude, talk less, and stay in the background.

Agreeableness. Cooperation and kindness are traits of someone who is highly agreeable. People who are distrustful or have little interest in other people have a low degree of agreeableness. 

Neuroticism / Emotional Stability. This trait refers to how emotionally stable a person is. A person with a high degree of neuroticism will be moody, anxious or irritable. On the other end of the scale is someone who is more stable, relaxed, and has less stress.

Marketers use surveys, the OCEAN Five Factor personality test, and other methods to understand their target audience’s personality characteristics. 

Companies use consumer personality traits to design product messaging for their target audience.

Attitudes reveal motivations and preferences

Even if two people have the same personality, they often have different attitudes towards life. Consumers will behave differently based on their attitudes. Attitudes might include aspects like optimism or pessimism, or might be tied to a specific belief or value the people have. 

To assess attitudes, you can include questions about consumers’ beliefs and attitudes, or use Likert scale questions to ask people to rate characteristics on a graded scale “not at all important” to “extremely important.”  

More complex research will reveal deeper subconscious motivations. However, even a single survey administered to your target audience will produce actionable insights that can be quickly implemented.

Do you know what resonates best with each of your audiences? Try SurveyMonkey’s Audience panel for detailed insights.

What’s in a lifestyle?

Lifestyle could include occupations, hobbies, or ways of living. Whether it is volunteering at a local church, living in an apartment, working at an office, or traveling, these activities show what consumers like to do to enjoy their lives.

Habits are also part of a person’s lifestyle. What they do each day, from waking up at the same time to getting their morning coffee at McDonalds are habits that create patterns in their lives. These habits help marketers to create apparel for early morning runners or design fast food menus for busy moms who need coffee on their way to work. 

Loyalty clubs that offer rewards for frequent purchases are a great way to support a habit that benefits the consumer and the brand.

Once you understand your target audience’s lifestyle, you can better position your products and services to appeal to your ideal customers. 

How do marketers collect information on lifestyle patterns? They conduct surveys to understand consumer habits and activities. Once they find the lifestyle patterns that closely fit their products and services, they can better position their brand and messaging.

Companies can also create a “lifestyle brand”, a product that is an important part of a person’s daily life. Starbucks coffee, Nike running shoes and apparel, and Apple iPhones and Mac computers have become a daily part of people’s lifestyles. 

Social status drives buying behavior

People like to identify with a group, including their social class. Their income level is a key part of determining their social group. An individual’s social status has a direct impact on their buying behavior.

Demographics, such as income level, are a common way to classify people into a social class. Five categories that are typically used  include upper class, upper middle class, middle class, working class, or lower income. Each of these US income classes each has their own beliefs and behaviors that influence their buying preferences.

Activities and interests show where customers spend time and money

Where do people spend their time and money? Their activities will influence what kind of products they buy. 

Sports, hobbies, community events, entertainment, and other categories are just a few of the activities that people pursue. As you find out more about your audience’s activities, you will find what products and services they need or if there are market gaps where no one currently offers a solution. Interests work the same way.

Netflix is a great example of catering to their audience’s interests. The combination of enjoying a variety of video entertainment in the comfort of your own home has made them a pioneer in the video streaming business.

Surveying your ideal audience about their hobbies provides a deeper understanding of their passions and interests. It can also help you refine your brand messaging.

Your customer’s hobbies may also provide an opportunity. For instance, a growing number of Millennials like to brew beer as a hobby. As a result, the home beer brewing industry is expanding at a double-digit rate because they make it easier and more fun to pursue this hobby.

Opinions are strong indicators

People hold strong opinions about themselves, social and political issues, business, money, education and other topics. 

While you are not in the business of changing opinions, you can use surveys to understand how strongly they feel about a subject. This information will help position your brand and messaging to support their opinions.

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Psychographic segmentation examples

Tropicana - “Let’s make breakfast 100%.”

Targeting health-conscious individuals, Tropicana orange juice explains that it offers a healthy alternative to soda and sugary drinks. 

Tropicana likes to educate consumers about health. Tropicana takes a community approach to health, partnering with blogger “Tropimamma” to offer health advice to a large, young mom audience. Tropicana actively gets customer feedback from their social media channels and shares health advice.

BMW - “The ultimate driving machine.”

BMW caters to people at the height of their careers, who have upper-class social status, and appreciate a quality masterpiece automobile. High technology and exclusivity appeal to BMW owners.

BMW drivers enjoy an identity of not just driving, but experiencing an automobile. Known the world over for its premium brand, BMW combines status and pleasure to offer buyers to own the #1 premium automobile in the world.

Harley Davidson - “American by birth. Rebel by choice.” 

Harley Davidson appeals to the motorcycle rider who wants a lifestyle brand for the outsider, the rebel. Buyers can customize their bikes and enjoy the technology that comes at a premium price. Harley is growing its market not just in the US, but expanding to developing nations who like the image and attitude of the rebel.

Their Harley Owners Group (HOG), is a strong collection of people who identify not just with the brand, but the lifestyle it offers. Love of the open road with an attitude of “born to ride”, these consumers are passionate about their bikes and typically range from age 25-40 from an upper middle income status with disposable income.

Customer interviews can be used to expand psychographic segmentation data collection

While surveys are used to get a quick response from a large population, sometimes you need to dig deeper to understand buyer motivations.

Customer interviews help you find out the motivations, problems, and reasons why people buy. Whether they are one-on-one interviews or focus groups, they will provide detailed information on buyer behavior. 

Panel surveys conducted over time, such as ApartmentList's monthly surveys, will provide additional information on customer motivations.

In addition to structured questions, open-ended questions are also used for customer interviews. Marketers want to get at the root cause of a customer’s problem to find the reason why they first looked for a product to solve their problem. Understanding the customer’s problem, and if other people also have that problem, will lead to improved market segmentation.

What to do after you collect your psychographic data

Once you have collected survey and interview data, you will have great information on who your customer is and why they buy.

The next step is to work with your teams to identify which customer insights match with your product and services. Use your insights to update your buyer personas, product roadmap, brand positioning, and marketing materials. You may even find an opportunity to test new concepts for products and services. 

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Psychographics offer great insights that add to your brand positioning and marketing messaging. SurveyMonkey offers a breadth of market research solutions to ensure your products, packaging, logo, and website attract your ideal audience.

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