Segmentation vs Segments

Patti RennerInteresting how the same word can mean different things to different people. I realized this when having a discussion with a few industry analysts yesterday. The idea of Segmentation and the concepts of Segments can mean one thing to marketers and another thing to those engaged with analytics and modeling. As the use of big data snowballs into a significant tool for enhanced interactive marketing, let me do my best to explain the distinction between the two.

Campaign Segmentation

Traditional segmentation is the practice of dividing up an audience or customer base into specific groups based on demographics or other relevant characteristics. Segmentation for marketers means using whatever information you have to narrow your approach so your message is more relevant to the audience targeted. Years ago, that might mean dividing a mailing list by region or other demographics available, such as household income. Today’s digital marketers have an easier time. Message delivery platforms offer the ability to automate the segmentation of message content based on “rules” or conditions that must be met in order for the individual to qualify to receive that specific information.

For instance, you can build a segment based on gender, age, search history, site visits, page views, purchase history, etc. But to do the really cool stuff – like pulling activity details across multiple channels to inform your next send – you have to have a data environment and messaging platform to support it. Master your segmentation and you can significantly boost campaign ROI. Because you have a better picture of who is receiving the campaign, brands can do a better job of establishing and nurturing more profitable relationships.

Analytics Segments

The use of segmentation for analytics is for study – not for sending. To explain “segments” as they relate to analytics, you first need to understand “dimensions.” A dimension by definition is an attribute of a visitor to you site. One dimension might be the URL they came from, their search history, their browser or device, their interests, their purchase history, etc. A segment is made up of one of more of these dimensions. Once you establish the segment and its dimensions, you can then pull the data into reports to better understand KPIs (key performance indicators) and how specific metrics track to your overall goals and strategy. Such segments help analysts track specific factors to outline strategies for continuous improvement, but these shouldn’t be confused with the segments created for marketing campaign targeting.

While the two concepts of segmentation and segments may at times overlap, it’s important for marketers – especially those working with analytics professionals – to understand that you may not always be talking about the same thing. Better to ask for clarification to make sure you’re on the same page.

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