Understand your customers based on their behaviours

Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019

Segment consumers by behaviour, not demographics

Every marketer knows that great customer experience begins with knowing as much as possible about whom you’re selling to. Yet despite having access to heaps of data about consumers, many companies rely too heavily on the blunt instrument of demographics. If you’re identifying people by age, location and race rather than also analysing what they do and think, you’re missing an opportunity to get much closer to them.

PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey shows that shoppers share behavioural and attitudinal attributes across different industries. Overlaying these traits with demographics can yield a more richly detailed consumer profile than looking at demographics alone. And understanding behavioural types can reveal opportunities to interact in a more meaningful way, for instance by helping marketers quickly devise personalised offers and engage people when and where they’re ready to buy.



How behavioural data helps with targeting

Some consumer cohorts are willing to pay premium prices for certain goods, and analysis of behavioural data reveals that this tendency isn’t simply correlated to age and gender. The premium crowd often own smart home devices and use voice assistants to listen to podcasts and make calls. They try to live a sustainable lifestyle, and sustainability guides their purchasing decisions. They make frequent “microtrips” of five minutes or less to grocery stores but do much of their shopping online using mobile devices. And they’re enthusiastic advocates for brands and products on social media. Knowing this, marketers can more precisely target offers — for, say, organic food produced by companies following sustainable practices — and present those offers on these customers’ favoured platforms.

But regional and cultural idiosyncrasies can play a part in influencing a cohort’s characteristics. This is where layering behavioural segmentation with demographic data can help provide deeper understanding.

Claude Sarrailh, CEO of Metro JinJiang Cash & Carry, the China division of German wholesale company Metro Cash & Carry, was struck when he took his position at the company by the markedly different behaviours of his customers in Asia versus those in Italy, where he’d been based before. In a January 2019 interview with PwC, he said that in China, consumers adopt habits and change suppliers more quickly than their counterparts in Italy and Western Europe. “A big part of the dynamism in China is they’re always seeking something else,” he said.

Sarrailh also noted that Chinese consumers are technologically sophisticated. “It’s a country of gamification. Chinese customers love games, and commerce is a game here, so it’s all about games when you work or shop,” he said. “It’s really this creativity which companies like us have to integrate inside the organisation, to sustain consumer interest and get employees to want to work with us.”


Characteristics of shoppers

Industry-specific approaches to segmentation

In the past few years, healthcare providers have embraced behavioural segmentation. Before then, physicians doled out one-size-fits-all care for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, based on basic demographic data. They had little understanding of the wants, needs and habits of individual patients. This caused providers to miss opportunities to engage with people through social media, for instance. Almost 30% of consumers in PwC’s survey — including 35% of consumers ages 55 to 64 and 39% of consumers ages 65 and older — say social media has influenced their purchases of health and wellness products and services.

With better segmentation, healthcare providers can now work into their approaches an understanding of things such as the social and environmental conditions in which patients live, work and play. More precise segmentation might help healthcare providers around the globe tailor treatment for local populations, having a meaningful effect on outcomes and expenses.

Other industries lend themselves to different approaches. One consumer products company, for example, sometimes segments people by the type of benefits that products deliver so it can target customers seeking those specific advantages. “Some products deliver psychological benefits,” said the company’s e-commerce director in a January 2019 interview with PwC. “Others deliver physical benefits, like reducing sensitivity or protecting the gums. That’s probably the most meaningful way of segmenting for our oral care category.”


Contact us

John G. Maxwell

Global Consumer Markets Leader, Partner, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (646) 471 3728

Oz Ozturk

Global Advisory Consumer Markets Leader, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7703 563 054

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