Commentary

A Smorgasbord Of Segments

When speaking at an industry event this fall, when asked how many different online audience segments existed in the realm of digital marketing to date, the average answer was around 200, with the highest answer being 500. It surprises many marketers that in reality, the number of different segments is closer to 70,000.

This journey first began with segmentation, which was closely followed by hyper-segmentation. But have we now reached a new degree of segment variety? Digital marketers are starting to recognize thousands of extremely specific, targeted groups of buyers. It’s easy to equate this process with laundry -- just when you thought you had completed the process, there's already more to be done.

In fact, marketers could spend the next 50 years doing the laundry, so to speak -- figuring out which segments best target the right prospects based on their interests and behavioral attributes. This leads to a few bigger questions: how many segments can a marketer truly track and care about? Is there an inflection point where there are too many segments to consider, where the quantity becomes overwhelming and therefore loses its value?

The answer is that the number of segments matters -- a lot. While the numbers may be daunting, there are a few different ways to figure out what type of segment to target in a time when there are so many different choices:

1.  Move away from manual: If you were to go about the arduous process of manually selecting audience segments, there wouldn’t be enough hours in your life to wade through the various possibilities. To tackle the magnitude of available data, recent advancements in computing technology have made automation and presenting marketing insights in a straightforward and comprehensible platforms possible. This allows marketers to gain a wealth of insight from information that had once yielded little to no insight -- giving marketers the information and understanding required to create sophisticated mapping and modeling techniques.

2.  Use your current segments as a benchmark: To determine whether there is a large conversion attribute (a behavior or type of buyer) you’re missing, make sure to closely examine the segments you’re currently targeting. Look for similar types of audiences to target, and then delve a little deeper into their behaviors. Be sure to note important factors including when and where they go online. If your audience segments are not converting, then you may need to narrow or broaden your target audience. In order to take advantage of the vast number of segments, it is imperative to learn from the past and evolve with analysis.

3.  Continue evaluating segments: The primary segments that your company needs to focus on are constantly changing because the people you analyze are constantly changing, per human nature. Factors like weather, time of year/holidays, social trends and the economic factors all alter online behavior. The reality is that this is a dynamic and fluid process, and you always need to be looking at who you’re targeting and why. Even when you think that you have the segments right, the list you have will be irrelevant in a few months.

With the abundance of segments today, it’s impossible for a brand to fully reach all relevant segments that they have discovered. However, it's undeniable that marketers need to be more focused and measured than ever. The most successful way to do this is with the help of powerful computing tools and discerning audience targeting experts that can help you find the right audiences for your ad campaigns.

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