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What is 'Market Segmentation'

Market segmentation is a marketing term referring to the aggregating of prospective buyers into groups, or segments, that have common needs and respond similarly to a marketing action. Market segmentation enables companies to target different categories of consumers who perceive the full value of certain products and services differently from one another.

BREAKING DOWN 'Market Segmentation'

Three criteria can generally be used to identify different market segments: homogeneity, or common needs within a segment; distinction, or being unique from other groups; and reaction, or a similar response to the market. For example, an athletic footwear company might have market segments for basketball players and long-distance runners. As distinct groups, basketball players and long-distance runners respond to very different advertisements.

Market segmentation is an extension of market research that seeks to identify targeted groups of consumers for the purpose of tailoring products and branding in a way that is attractive to the group. The objective of market segmentation is to minimize risk to the company by determining which products have the best chances for gaining a share of a given target market, and determining the best way to deliver the products to the market. This allows the company to increase its overall efficiency by focusing its limited resources on efforts that produce the best return on investment.

Markets can be segmented in a number of ways: geographically by region or area; demographically by age, gender, family size, income or life cycle; psychographically by social class, life style or personality; or behaviorally by benefit, uses or response. The objective is to enable the company to differentiate its products or message according to the common dimensions of the market segment.

Examples of Market Segmentation

Examples of market segmentation can be found in the products, marketing and advertising that people use every day. Auto manufacturers thrive on their ability to correctly identify market segments, and then create products and advertising campaigns that appeal to those segments. Cereal producers market actively to three or four market segments at a time, pushing their traditional brands that appeal to older consumers and their healthy brands to health conscious consumers, while building brand loyalty among the youngest consumers by tying their products to popular movie themes.

A sports shoe manufacturer might define several market segments that include elite athletes, frequent gym-goers, fashion-conscious women and middle-aged men who want quality and comfort in their shoes. In all cases, the manufacturer's marketing intelligence about each segment enables it to develop and advertise products with high appeal more efficiently than trying to appeal to the broader masses.

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