By Ashley Graves
DraftFCB CMO Michael Fassnact said in his Ad Age editorial, "The Death of Consumer Segmentation," earlier this month that the traditional way of segmenting customers is most likely dying, or at least becoming less useful.
Segmentation is still important to the analysis of huge customer databases, but it is what to do with the segmentation schemes that should be looked at differently. As Fassnact argues, marketers can’t simply segment customers and then leave them in those segments for life. A company’s segmentation scheme should allow for customers to migrate between segments in order to maximize their lifetime value to the business. Self-selection into segments is even better.
Many companies are doing a fantastic job at self-segmentation-ahem, Amazon.com, anyone? This idea of having customers initially segment themselves allows for more targeted messages, and also allows customers to move to a different segment based on a variety of events.
Let’s take swimsuit shopping as an example. For many women, including me, shopping for a swimsuit is a dreaded yearly event. You generally are far from being tan and forget that certain swimsuit cuts look awful until you put them on. Wouldn't it be great to skip the trial-and-error step?
Many retailers are doing a fairly good job of letting customers self-segment online when shopping for swimsuits. Both Macy’s and Nordstrom have “Swimsuit finder” sections in their websites that allow for customers to sort and view swimsuits that are flattering to their self-selected body type. If I’m pear-shaped, I’m directed towards different styles than if I were hourglass-shaped.
This concept of dressing to your body type is fairly common within fashion, but there is a big opportunity for retailers to better apply this idea to segmenting their customers. Macys.com also allows you to shop for dresses by body type, but it is difficult to find. You have to choose your shape again instead of having the site carry over your selection from swimsuit shopping.
Why can’t retailers like Macy’s save your self-segmented preferences in order to provide an entirely new level of personalized shopping? If customers could provide information in their profiles about things like body type, retailers like Macy’s could provide clothing recommendations in any department.
Self-segmentation strategies could provide consumers with more relevant, targeted and effective communications, thus increasing their value to the company over a longer period of time.
Ashley Graves is the Editorial Director at Vitamin IMC and a student in the Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Swimsuit shopping stresses her out. She can be reached at email@example.com.