6.2 Market Segment

It's a commonly-observed rule that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. But how do companies find and focus on that lucrative 20%? The usual recommendations are:

1. Listen in to Sales telephone conversations and note customer responses/questions.
2. Visit Internet discussion forums.
3. Set up a product advisory council of existing customers, on- or off-line.
4. Include detailed (but not intrusive) questionnaires in newsletter etc. sign-ups.
5. Make sales copy more focused, experiment and monitor results carefully.
6. Employ traffic analysis software.
7. Use funnel analysis.
8. Identify market segments by code snippets added to selected pages, and then guide those segments through web pages specially written to appeal and/or close the sale.

Surveys

Recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 5 are straightforward. For recommendation 4, companies can analyze customers' requirements more closely with online surveys: consider SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Survey Gizmo and/or Key Survey. Smaller companies often use a 'squeeze page' where a free report, newsletter or coupon is provided in exchange for an email address and answers to a brief questionnaire.

Companies employing social media will want to identify who and what is influencing their consumers' choice, whether these influencers be bloggers, forum leaders, or just conversationalists with lots of friends on the social networks.

Market Sales Copy More Focused

What works, works. Each market is slightly different, and companies have to demonstrate their credentials by using a language that conveys honesty and knowledge. Testing is essential. Companies need to see what others are doing, make an educated attempt to go one better, and then test, test, test, monitoring carefully.

Often they analyze with the "5W1H" formula:

Who are we advertising to?
What does our product do for them?
Why is it superior to alternative products?
How can we prove our case?
Where should we advertise to reach prime prospects?
When is the best time to reach them?

Dotcom Copy Types

Several years ago, Creativity Works (now another company) identified eight types of Internet shopper, and the grouping is still useful:

1. Dotcom colonists: mostly male with a wide age range and low household income: ecommerce cautious.
2. Progressers: generally young male using Internet for personal and career interests.
3. New comers: new to the web and expect everything to be free.
4. Mouse masters: male, median age under 30, been on Internet for 3+ years, technically-minded.
5. Party animals: median age under 35, sociable but low disposable incomes.
6. Career surfers: organized, limit Internet time to essentials, stick to information.
7. Nice'n'eazees: older users, savvy but comfortable with purchasing online.
8. Scouts: share information, want the clear facts, dislike jargon.

Web traffic and funnel analysis (suggestions 6 and 7) are described under customer tracking.

Undertake Segment Analysis

It will be wise, if sufficient information is available, to undertake proper segment analysis, both in the planning and 'improving the business' stages. Segmentation is commonly grouped as:

1. Demographic: age, ethnicity, religion, etc.
2. Behavioral: how potential customers track through the web site.
3. Physiographic: common interests, values and opinions.
4. Contextural: associations and the larger picture: rich retired folk may be interested in cruises, etc.
5. Technical: specifically gathered by technology installed on the website.
6. Search: topics potential customers search under.

Capturing the Customer

There are three steps:

1. Identify market segments by code snippets added to selected pages
2. Guide those segments through specially written-web pages, and
3. Design the appropriate website.

Identifying Market Segments

Traffic analysis programs (Google Analytics and commercial services) allow companies to define customer segments and track their progress through a site. Typical customer segments might be those which 1. have made several purchases in the last year, 2. made a single purchase, 3. get to the shopping cart but don't purchase, 4. subscribe to the newsletter, 5. come from north America during evening hours, etc. User-defined visitor types are created by the program, which generates the required code. This code is added to webpages, a cookie given to visitors, and the visitor tracked by such cookies thereafter. The traffic analysis 'dashboard' presents the results, usually in graph form to the detail required.

Page Navigation

Companies cannot forcibly drive visitors through their sites, but they can (and do) design their pages to attract the desired behavior. If funnel analysis has shown, for example, that guarantees and returns policies are vital elements in customer confidence, then these will be stressed in the preferred path to the shopping cart.

Appropriate Website

Just as retail outlets, ebusiness sites have to meet customer expectations, and adopt common appearances. Consider what the language (words, sentence structure, tone), the color scheme and graphics suggest in these different cases.

Pharmacy
Drugstore.Com. Clean but friendly interface: professional attitude supported by detailed health guide.
Pharmacy.Org. Basic listings, not attractive, not selling anything: academic but well-ranked and useful.
PHRA. American professional association: note impersonal image fostered by graphics and quiet writing.
Health Foods
Green People. Purely functional listing: supplying information but not predisposing surfer to buy anything.
Nutra Ingredients. Cool, professional and concise: scientist's language on dietary supplements.
Solid Gold Health. Flagship site for pet food products: friendly style emphasizing community commitments and integrity.
Sun Organic Farm. Attractive logo, clean layout and 'honest to goodness' pictures: small, friendly business.
Vegetarian Restaurants. Listing of US and Canadian restaurants: 35,000 visitors/month. Not selling: supported by Google ads and contributions.
Financial Advice
UK Financial Services. Sober, government site: mostly text.
Charles Schwab. Leading financial services company: friendly 'in your face' presentation.
Moneyweek. UK investment advice: page crowded with tips and best buys.
Forbes. Big business America: snappy journalism but still with sponsored links: 'everything has to pay its way'.
Best Investing Advice. New York Times: busy newspaper layout but with wide text spacing, graphics and links.
Home-Based Business
Alberta Rose. Portal site packed with box ads: 'something for everyone, just take your pick'.
Kleeneze. Door-to-door selling updated: note company turnover but little salesman figures.
Scam Busters. Upfront advice in friendly format: income from Google ads and affiliate schemes.
Wire Sculpture. Hard sell of courses and materials but poses as a friendly amateur site.
Work From Home. Part of the successful SiteSell hosting service. Plain format but persuasive statistics.
Computer Hardware Sales
CNet Reviews. Respected, in-depth reviews with customer ratings: works (probably) on a commission basis.
Dev Hardware. In depth articles almost overwhelmed by banner ads and promotions.
Geeks. Functional: extensive listings of computer hardware: selling point is range on offer, not expertise or advice.
Hardware Central. Plain techie format and no-nonsense price compare facility: in fact selective but friendly.
Tom's Hardware Guide. Friendly techie's site supported by advertising.
Lifestyles
Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles. Advertising glossy magazine: elegant format and quality graphics.
Thomas Cook Cruises. Clean and elegant: bright colors set off with abundant white space.
Desire Resorts. Elegant and expensive: for open-minded couples: open text and prominent guarantees.
New LifeStyles. Catering for senior citizens: note the font colors and soft-focus graphics.
Pioneer Thinking. Home and family: crafts, cooking, dollar savers: uncrowded, friendly copy with homely graphics.
Hotels
Gold Coast Directory. Banner graphic to set mood and then extensive listings: some very stylish.
London Hotels. Compact search and booking site, with format carried through to (modest) hotels featured.
RedRoof. Standard format: adequate graphics, excellent location maps: crisp, detailed and businesslike copy.
World Hotels. Handsome color scheme, dynamic graphics, understated elegance: top end of the market.
FiveStarAlliance: Paris. Elegant and restrained, providing booking and hotel information without overcrowding the page.
Dales Holiday Cottages. Directory: fresh color scheme and bold, clean text suggest similar accommodation.
National Trust Holiday Cottages. UK's leading heritage association: site has 'restrained quality' feel.
Corporations
General Motors. Flagship site: clean and lean: limited copy, hard-edge flash and graphics to emphasize craftsmanship.
GlaxoSmithKline. Human angle stressed with graphics, mission statements and friendly display font colors.
Philips Electronics. Minimalist site: gray-blue colors, much white space and mix of photos and hand-drawn graphics.
RioTinto Plc. An extended Annual Report, dense with factual information but little personality.
Walmart. Cheap, brash and simple: 'what you see is what you get'.

Allegiance to market sector comes first, a niche then being carved by selective appeal to customer groupings. Health food companies are miles away from sites aimed at computer geeks, for example, and even the last vary widely: the personal recommendation site, the enthusiast, for the busy professional, the corporate buyer. Each is 'professional-looking' in its own fashion, therefore, and 'good design' is not simply aesthetics. What matters is the image conveyed, and that can only be appraised by extended analysis and comparison of competitor sites — most of whom will have conducted the very same exercise.

Questions

1. What is market segment, and how may it be found by Internet-based businesses?
2. Explain, with three examples, how you would modify your ad copy to target a market segment.
3. What the two major ways of targeting a market sector with the company website?
4. Take three common market sectors and find two new website examples. In your opinion, in what ways do they succeed and/or fail?

Sources and Further Reading

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