Behavioral Segmentation

In behavioral segmentation, buyers are divided into groups on the basis of their knowledge of, attitude toward, use of, or response to a product. Many marketers believe that behavioral variables—occasions, benefits, user status, usage rate, loyalty status, buyer-readiness stage, and attitude—are the best starting points for constructing market segments.

^ Occasions. Buyers can be distinguished according to the occasions on which they develop a need, purchase a product, or use a product. For example, air travel is triggered by occasions related to business, vacation, or family, so an airline can specialize in one of these occasions. Thus, charter airlines serve groups of people who fly to a vacation destination. Occasion segmentation can help firms expand product usage, as the Curtis Candy Company did when it promoted trick-or-treating at Halloween and urged consumers to buy candy for the eager little callers. A company can also consider critical life events to see whether they are accompanied by certain needs. This kind of analysis has led to service providers such as marriage, employment, and bereavement counselors.

^ Benefits. Buyers can be classified according to the benefits they seek. One study of travelers uncovered three benefit segments: those who travel to be with family, those who travel for adventure or education, and those who enjoy the "gambling" and "fun" aspects of travel.21

^ User status. Markets can be segmented into nonusers, ex-users, potential users, firsttime users, and regular users of a product. The company's market position also influences its focus. Market leaders (such as America Online) focus on attracting potential users, whereas smaller firms (such as Earthlink, a fast-growing Internet service provider) try to lure users away from the leader.

^ Usage rate. Markets can be segmented into light, medium, and heavy product users. Heavy users are often a small percentage of the market but account for a high percentage of total consumption. Marketers usually prefer to attract one heavy user rather than several light users, and they vary their promotional efforts accordingly. Repp's Big & Tall Stores, which operates 200 stores and a catalog business, has identified 12 segments by analyzing customer response rates, average sales, and so on. Some segments get up to eight mailings a year, while some get only one to three mailings. The chain tries to steer low-volume catalog shoppers into nearby stores, and it offers infrequent customers an incentive such as 15 percent off to buy during a particular period. Repp gets a 6 percent response to these segmented mailings, far more than the typical 0.5 response rate for nonsegmented mailings.22

^ Loyalty status. Buyers can be divided into four groups according to brand loyalty status: (1) hard-core loyals (who always buy one brand), (2) split loyals (who are loyal to two or three brands), (3) shifting loyals (who shift from one brand to another, and (4) switchers (who show no loyalty to any brand).23 Each market consists of different numbers of these four types of buyers; thus, a brand-loyal market has a high percentage of hard-core loyals. Companies that sell in such a market have a hard time gaining more market share, and new competitors have a hard time breaking in. One caution: What appears to be brand loyalty may actually reflect habit, indifference, a low price, a high switching cost, or the nonavailability of other brands. For this reason, marketers must carefully interpret what is behind observed purchasing patterns.

^ Buyer-readiness stage. A market consists of people in different stages of readiness to buy a product: Some are unaware of the product, some are aware, some are informed, some are interested, some desire the product, and some intend to buy. The relative numbers make a big difference in designing the marketing program.

^ Attitude. Five attitude groups can be found in a market: (1) enthusiastic, (2) positive, (3) indifferent, (4) negative, and (5) hostile. So, for example, workers in a political campaign use the voter's attitude to determine how much time to spend with that voter. They may thank enthusiastic voters and remind them to vote, reinforce those who are positively disposed, try to win the votes of indifferent voters, and spend no time trying to change the attitudes of negative and hostile voters.

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