Most websites serve more than one audience. Your visitors may differ in age, interest, location, current customer vs. new, domestic vs. international, etc. Many websites try some form of audience segmentation in order to better meet the needs of their diverse audiences. The goal is to divide the audience into distinct subsets (segments) that behave in the same way or have similar needs.
Banking websites often employ a segmentation strategy. They have different products for different audiences so their homepages often present those options immediately, basically asking the visitor to identify themselves as a member of a segment. See Vanguard.com for an example.
Next time you're at the magazine stand, notice how the magazines are arranged. It's usually not done alphabetically. Nor by price or publisher. Usually the magazines are arranged by topic or interest. Cosmo is near Elle and Vogue in the fashion section. Business Week is near Inc. and The Economist.
But often it doesn't don't stop there. The fashion magazines are grouped with decorating, cooking, celebrity gossip and other "women's interests." Sports, business, outdoors, and technology magazines are in a "men's interests" section. Puzzles, coloring, games and cartoons are in a "kids" section.
The photo to the right shows an example of this. The upper rows are more "men's interests" with women's interests and "kids" magazines on the lower levels. This is audience segmentation based on assumed interest. The shelves in this example would also correspond to being at the average height of the intended audience. (Men are on average taller than women who are taller than most children.)
So the segmentation is serving to present items that may be of interest to a particular audience and make it easy for that audience to find things. Importantly, this type of segmentation doesn't prohibit users from crossing the shelf lines and buying a magazine from a different section. A man may want a puzzle book from the bottom shelf and a woman may want a business mag from the top.
In my experience with segmentation on websites, where it doesn't work is when users think they are missing out on choices by identifying themselves. Imagine how you would feel if a bookstore tried to get you to self-identify as a man, woman or child and then only showed you magazines it deemed relevant for you.
Ultimately audience segmentation is something that many sites need to do well. But you should employ a segmentation strategy, not merely to market more targeted messages, but to improve your customers' user experience and serve them better. If your customers understand why they are being segmented and see value in being served differently, your strategy will be a success.
Labels: segmentation, web strategy