How to use psychographic segmentation in market research

Audience segmentation is one of the most fundamental practices for brand marketers to position their products in the most accurate and cost-effective way for their target audience. While there are many ways to segment any given audience, psychographic segmentation is used to uncover the motivations, values, and desires influencing buying decisions—offering a substantial amount of insight into the drivers of consumer behavior across demographics.

How to use psychographic segmentation in market research

What are psychographics?

Psychographics are defined as the market research or statistical classification of groups according to psychological characteristics and traits such as values, goals, interests, and lifestyle choices.

In market research, psychographics hold a wealth of actionable information that can be used to influence buying behaviors. Not only does this information help businesses better target the people most likely to use their products or services, it also helps inform better ways to promote them. 

Psychographics, and demographics, and behaviors (oh my!)

Demographics are the factual pieces of profiling information like age, gender, and household income that divide your market into broad strokes. By itself, demographic data can be a great place to start collecting more detailed information—but it’s incredibly common for people who fall into the same demographic profile to act radically different when presented with the same circumstances. 

If demographics explain who your buyer is, behaviors explain their past, present, and anticipated future actions. Yes, demographics alone won’t always provide a complete profile of your ideal target audience. But likewise, behavioral data can also be limiting without more information. 

Enter psychographic research—sometimes referred to as “attitudinal research.” Psychographic research is often performed alongside demographic and behavioral research to build a comprehensive understanding of target audiences.

This type of research, however, is far less straightforward than demographic or behavioral research, and can reveal a window into the “why” of a target audience—offering insight into what motivates certain behaviors from several different angles.

Examples of psychographics

Armed with these psychographic data points, marketers and researchers can infer not only what products or services a consumer might buy, but also why they would buy it, and how to make their entire buying experience as impactful as possible. Here are five different examples:

Activities, Interests, and Opinions (AIO)

AIOs are common parameters for psychographic segmentation. During a typical AIO survey, a researcher asks the respondent to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with a number of statements pertaining to their daily routine, hobbies, interests, passions, and opinions about brands, products, stores, and more.

Personalities

Personality types can often be correlated to buying habits. They describe the collection of traits that someone consistently exhibits over time—commonly measured through the big 5 personality traits, including extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

Lifestyles

Any lifestyle brand will attest to the power of tapping into the interests and attitudes of a specific group or subculture to become a recognized social phenomenon. Lifestyle is the collection of someone’s day-to-day activities: their associations, where they live, where they spend their time, etc. 

Attitudes and beliefs

Attitudes and beliefs can be measured as distinct psychographic categories.They can also be grouped together because they tend to be strongly correlated. Generally speaking, many beliefs such as religious or political beliefs can often predict general worldview, and vice versa.

Values

Someone’s values describe their enduring beliefs that a given behavior or outcome is desirable as well as its relative importance, their sense of right and wrong, and often guide behavior across situations over time.

Incorporating psychographics into your market research

Psychographic segmentation is a market segmentation technique that categorizes respondents based on the psychological traits outlined above.

Adding a psychographic perspective to your audience segmentation efforts can unlock the ability to target and deliver communications that resonate more effectively and increase the likelihood of behavior activation.

While demographics are typically considered quantitative, psychographics can be substantially more subjective and complex and are typically considered more qualitative in nature. That said, there are a lot of interesting ways to capture psychographic data both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qualitative psychographic research methods

Focus groups

A focus group brings together a carefully selected, diverse set of consumers for a guided discussion about a product or service. They’re a great tool for when you want to expose your product or campaign to a target group of consumers and gather their reactions. The group dynamic is ideal for this purpose but has some significant limitations when trying to capture individual stories and experiences. There’s also very real potential for discussions to be led astray and responses influenced by strong personalities within the group.

Interviews

In-depth interviews can be a great source of qualitative insights. You can interview internal subject matter experts within your business, customers, and consumers who fit your ideal profile. By asking the right questions, you can discover what they do for fun, their personal and professional goals, what motivates them to take action—and perhaps most importantly, how all of that relates to your products or services.

Quantitative psychographic research methods

Third-party data

Website analytics, browsing data, review sites, and social media engagements can be a great source of understanding how people are interacting with your brand, products, and services. Using social listening, opinion mining, and sentiment analysis can reveal even more insights.

Surveys

Questionnaires are normally inexpensive to create and can be distributed online or in-person. Since psychographics can be complex and multi-dimensional, most surveys will require multiple questions to ensure you’re capturing psychographics with higher precision. For example, if your company is considering making a product focused on sustainability, you’ll likely need to ask more than one question about that—you may want to explore their attitudes and beliefs about climate change, their interest in natural ingredients, their desire for recyclable product packaging, or other aspects of sustainability to get a complete psychographic profile. 

Ready to try it yourself?

While the world of psychographic segmentation is vast, it’s actually quite easy to get started. Download our free e-book, “Leveling up your DIY powers: A guidebook for better survey design” and see how you can leverage what you’ve learned in your next survey.