Marketing is all about knowledge. Knowledge about the scenario, the competitors, the technologies, the customers. That is the reason why marketers love data: They help us to understand what the others are doing, and how we can improve and respond to them.

Today, customers get the center stage, and all brands are busy trying to understand who they are and what they want. We have all the data to do it, and yet there is one side of the customer that is often overlooked: Psychographics.

When creating a buyer persona for your marketing and customer experience campaigns, the first thing you look at is the demographic information, the basic parameter used for segmentation. Demographics, though, only tell you ‘who’ your customers are. You still miss something important.

The missing key is the ‘Why’. Why do they buy that one product? Why do they prefer a brand to another one? We often say that a proper management of the experience starts with the recognition of the most profound motivations behind the purchase. You will never gain this type of insights if you just look at the demographic and behavioral patterns.

Demographic and behavioral information only give marketers part of the story they need to effectively segment a customer base. The problem with both of those types is that they do not tell us why people are doing things, which, as marketers, is the most important thing for us to know.” (Susan Baier)

What you do not know is often more critical than what you already know. It can be extremely harmful, especially in a world where the customer has become more demanding, and the average attention span has fallen to 8 seconds. You need the full picture to tap into your customer’s heart and mind.

The development of a successful customer experience strategy relies on three keywords: Discover, Engage, Monetize. The first one is mandatory if you want to reach the next two steps. Psychographic segmentation is the ultimate piece you need to complete the puzzle and make sense of all the data about your customers.

Psychographics can be defined as the study and classification of people according to their beliefs, values, interests, aspirations, attitudes and other psychological criteria related to lifestyle.

The use of psychographic data in marketing is not a brand-new idea but is has gained a lot of momentum in the recent years, due to the advancements in technology (i.e. facial emotion recognition, considered the next big thing in retail market research).

Over the past decades, psychologists have studied personality applied to marketing. In the 90’s The Big Five personality traits - also known as the five factor model (FFM) - has reached a major consensus, and is still today considered a benchmark.

This theory suggests that individual differences in personality and psyche can be categorised into five major factors: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). Each global factor contains a number of correlated and more specific primary factors.

As always when discussing theories, over the years the Big Five model has been subject to several criticisms. Regardless of your opinion about the OCEAN, what is really important is to highlight that the personality traits have shown to predict behavior and preferences, from brands and products to tone and content of the communication strategy.

The technology works together with psychological studies to improve your knowledge, help you create a better segmentation of your customer base, and personalize your contents and products. As a result, you will become more relevant and - hopefully - sell more.

One of the reasons for the slow permeation of the psychographic research is that, compared to demographics, this information is much harder to obtain. You have to get your hands dirty because working merely on assumptions only leads to useless results.

  • First, you need to understand what you want to discover;
  • Second, you need to choose the method and technologies you want to use;
  • Third, you have to set up objective criteria to gather and analyze the data.

It takes time and effort to understand customers from a psychological perspective. You must talk to them, listen to their voice (i.e. through surveys, social media, focus groups), and cross the results with the data gathered through the analytics and all other sources, online and offline (i.e. Chatbots and customer service).

When you do put efforts in it, however, you will truly understand the single customer’s personality and the way in which he/she views the world, your world. This will provide you with actionable insights that can be implemented to make your experiences engaging and relevant.

Getting the psychographic data is important but it is how you apply data to your strategy that will make them really effective. The understanding of the personality drivers becomes a game-changer when it is blended with the knowledge about the purchase behaviors (customer journey maps) and environmental information.

This integration of data shapes the context to which you have to tailor your content. You will know who is buying; what kind of journey he/she goes through; which are the most relevant touch points for each customer; what motivations/fears/assumptions drive them to take specific purchase decisions; what are the key elements that trigger his/her loyalty.

Everything you do is influenced by the psychographic dimensions of your customers: your website, your advertising formats and contents, your mobile app engagement, your in-store experience. Understanding the inner motivations enhances not only the way in which you engage with customers but also the timing.

We know that the main traits of an amazing customer experience - personalization and relevance - are influenced by the timing. The right content at the right time on the right device creates a deeper, more meaningful connection with your customers.

They will get the idea that you understand them better than themselves, and you can address their needs better than your competitors. Then, you would finally tap into their heart and mind.

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