Welcome to the September Highland Business Research Newsletter

Article: Say hello to segmentation

Say hello to segmentation

Cow or camel anybody? How about goats, sheep or the odd mare? All produce milk but it would be a brave cheese-maker who tried to farm such different animals in a single flock.

While I'm not claiming your customers are camels or cows, businesses do often fall into the trap of thinking of their customers or website visitors as a homogeneous group.

But the reality is that your website visitors are not a single mass, all sharing common goals. Instead, there are sub-sets of visitors trying to achieve very different things – look for a job vacancy for example, or find pricing information about a specific service. They are looking for different information to achieve the purpose of their visit.

Assuming all the visitors have the same needs means that you cannot fully satisfy anyone other than the fictional average customer. Yet completely personalising the site content for every individual is beyond the scope of most budgets.

So say hello to segmentation.

At its most basic this means identifying subsets of website visitors or customers that share common characteristics with each other, characteristics that set them apart from other sub-sets. These could be based on location, whether they are repeat or first time visitors, their connecting device type or even visitor hair colour.

The point is that you can improve both the targeting and the analysis of your marketing activities by relevant segmentation. Just look for characteristic that are both identifiable in the data you have and meaningful to you business.

While many of the segmentation exercises we undertake involve primary research and data analysis, there are some activities you can do yourself that will have an impact on results. Segmenting your website traffic is a good place to start.

Many web analytics products, including Google Analytics, allow you to quickly break the whole population view of your website traffic down into discreet chunks based on factors such as visitor location, specific pages viewed, spoken language or browser type.

Why bother with segmenting your website traffic?

1. First you can stop wasting budget marketing to people who will not or cannot, ever be your customers. For example, if you sell a service that is only available in Europe, website visitors from the USA cannot buy from you. If most of your traffic comes from the US you need to make your content clearer about the markets you operate in. Counting visitors that can never convert into customers gives you an unrealistic view of how your site is performing.

2. You can see which market segments represent better prospects and target your efforts where you will get the best rewards. You may, for example, find that website visitors who connect by iPhone may only represent 0.5% of your traffic, yet account for 5% of conversions. It is definitely worth investing to ensure your site is promoted to and optimised for this small group.

3. You can see where you are under-performing and where small activities are having big impacts. Differences in drop out rates, conversion rates and return on investment between different segments can highlight where problems are occurring. But you can also see how a minor referrer is having a big positive impact on a specific group. Again, this lets you target spend where it is most needed or can have the biggest results.

4. Finally, segmenting your web traffic into meaningful groups, rather than treating it as a single mass means you get closer to seeing your "real visitors" in action. Behind those page views are real people trying to solve specific tasks – if you can target your efforts into helping them achieve their goals, your business will reap the rewards.

Segmentation allows you to refine the detail in which you see your website visitors, meaning you can better target your content, tactics and your marketing efforts to deliver maximum results. And of course, it can also help you determine whether your best prospects lie in farming camels or cows.

The latest picks from the Tracking Tourism blog:

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Upcoming speaking events

October 14-15: Social Media Strategies for Travel conference, Munich

October 17: Scottish Enterprise Online Strategies, Gretna Green

October 20-23: eMetrics Summit, Washington DC