Segmentation is a step, individualism is the goal

I’ve been thinking about segmentation recently and was asked to provide some comments on the issue for an article.

Most mobile services are still not structured in a way which reflects customer’s behavioural patterns. One of the biggest challenges operators face when trying to effectively segment their customer base is evolving their approach from one predicated on technological segmentation to a model built around behavioural understanding. This is an inherently difficult task because the very concept of ‘segments’ is incompatible with the random and often illogical ways in which customers identify themselves.

While an operator may find it useful for their own purposes to divide the market into neatly ordered segments with particular usage requirements, customer behaviour often transcends these boundaries and, far from improving the customer experience, a poorly implemeneted segmentation approach can actually lead to additional frustration and lower overall satisfaction.

In the long-term, operators will need to focus on providing a personalisation architecture which enables customers to define their own requirements – from tariffs to mobile multimedia services. To achieve this, the industry will need to evolve from the view that handing more control to the customer poses a threat to revenue and recognise future growth will be directly proportional to the freedom with which subscribers can build their own mobile experiences.

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  1. 1
    Richard Linington

    This is a very interesting area. I am an anthropologist and carry out ethnographic research to understand the everyday lives of consumers. This approach to research allows project teams to gain a deep understanding of the socio-cultural context which impacts upon the usage of products and services. It can be used to help build new segmentation or service models or frameworks of user behaviour which reflect their needs, motivations etc. I also believe that customers can help to ‘co-create’ their own mobile experiences and ‘co-creation’ will become an increasingly important element of future business models.

  2. 3
    Lee Gilbert

    While I agree that operators need to align their services with subscriber behavior rather than abstract market segments, the research I have read shows that users aren’t very good at defining their needs for new services such as mobile data services. Our work (see link) suggests that tracking user behavior, then using these results to build profiles, appears to be a more robust solution.

  3. 4
    Marek Pawlowski

    Thanks for sharing your views on this Lee.

    I see a role for both enhanced operator understanding and providing users with more freedom to create their own experiences. Operators can improve their approach by using research techniques which more effectively capture the randomness of human behaviour – e.g. video interviews and immersive exposure to users for the product developments teams.

    At the same time, users should be provided with the tools, freedom and incentive to unleash their own creativity. For every product developer in the operator community, there are countless thousands of expressive, talented individuals who want to create and share their own mobile content.

  4. 6
    Subash Mandanapu

    I agree with the statement “Segmentation is a step, personalization is a goal”. I am working towards the goal in giving personalized mobile service, where i took segmentation into considaration, The biggest challenge i am facing right now is “The users who belongs to different segements”,and The user who turns from one segment to other segment. Did any one had any decent approches towards these issues.

  5. 7
    Marek Pawlowski

    Thanks for your comment Subash. My view is that the industry needs to provide users with the freedom to define their own mobile experience. In broad terms, the operator’s role should be to identify certain characteristics about the user and suggest possibilities, but ultimately provide simple tools for the user to personalise their own experience. Some users will choose to personalise only the most basic aspects of their mobile service, others will want to unleash their creativity and experiment – either way, they will feel more in control and more satisfied with their experience.

    You may also wish to read a related article I wrote entitled: “Why value is slipping away from operators:”

    This will also be a key topic of conversation at our MEX conference in May 2007 – you can read the conference manifesto at:

  6. 9

    the basic problem in segmenting mobile users is the fact that the sector is very dynamic in nature, however, usage behaviour could be the single most important criterion in segmenting the users.
    conventional demographics might fall flat on account of the degrees of freedoms involved in defining a segment of mobile users.

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