Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Segmenting Like a Journalist

What can analysts learn from writing good stories?

Besides having a beginning, a middle and an end the basic tenets of journalism include addressing the key questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.  A story isn't complete if any of these go unanswered.  The same can be said of segmentation schemes.   In the age of channel blur and interactivity we need to know more than the fundamental of who did what.  In fact, we need to know a whole lot more.  

The key questions from Journalism 101 serve as a good guide:
  • Who - this may in fact be a set of segment schemes rather than a specific individual; particularly in the digital realm.  Site visitors may be browsers or purchasers; customers may be loyal or not. 
  • What - while typically framed in terms of products, it can be categories or characteristics, e.g. sustainable or value-priced.
  • Where - the location of activity often provides insights into intent.  Consumption habits 'at home', 'at work' or 'on the move' form a basis of segmenting consumers but so does what sites, publications, messages were hosting the content served.   An informational product review site  could have very different influences on the speed and direction of the consumer journey than an aspirational magazine site. 
  • When - this is both temporal, e.g. hour of the day, but also can refer to life-stage changes and where the consumer is in their journey to a decision.
  • Why - this is likely the most difficult since there isn't explicit data relating to intent.  Things to think about: What is the individual trying to accomplish? Why are they consuming content or doing things?  Are they conducting research or are they seeking support?
  • How - content consumption habits by device is the final piece of the puzzle.  Which screen is involved for what purpose?
The goal of segmentation is to identify a homogenous group of people whose needs or behaviors are similar enough that we can satisfy or leverage them.  In classic segmentation schemes like RFM and path analysis we try to understand the behavior of people typically along two or three dimensions outlined above using existing data   The digital world continues to create new opportunities.  First, we need to think in the six dimensions of a consumer's journey.  Second, we must work more with clues, breadcrumbs and inference than deterministic facts.

The order in which the segments are implemented probably depends on the nature of the business, but the story isn't complete without them.

This suggests we hire journalists to develop personsae along with traditional database marketers for our digital teams.

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