4 Steps to find human insights from your audience segmentation

The inspiration for this tutorial is originally from Thinking with Google.

On the street at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Imaxtree

Data is important. It can reveal a lot about your target core audiences, like demographics, habits, and trends.

However, there’s something data cannot tell you. It is what makes us human — needs, insecurities, emotions, and fears. These ideas can’t be measured with numbers and stats, yet they are fundamental to further develop a brand.

When you understand how to tap into human insights, you help your brand to protect your core audience, making sure they see what they expect your brand to deliver. At the same time, you can build a new audience, with different pieces of content that might serve the core audience as well.

Ask yourself, what is the fundamental truth that’s motivating people’s behavior and how do I notice these insights?

Let’s check what Cenk Bulbul and Netta Gross suggested to us:

Step 1: Create an audience sample

Your core audience, even if it’s already narrow, can include different types of people on it. Subgroups that have different desires and needs. For example, at Zalando, we would segment our Women Textile audience into Classic, Core, Youg Fashion and Special Sizes.

Within this audience segmentation, you could find even more specific segments. For example, a Young Fashion customer could identify herself with lifestyle brands, another with a sexier one or even a trendier brand.

As soon as you divide your audience into segments, chose one to focus on. Let’s stick to the young fashion women that are buying on an online e-commerce for example.

Find a selection of people who represent your segment, called a sample audience. This should include at least 15 people who cover a broad spectrum of your customer segment. This fashion online retail brand might include young fashion buyers for lifestyle brands (Ivy Park), sexier brands (Missguided), and trendy ones (Topshop).

Step 2: Observe your audience

Watch how your sample audience uses your product in their natural environment. For instance, how would this young fashion sample audience use your app? Is it at home, at work break, or on their daily commute? This is an incredibly important research step, as it can reveal subconscious behaviors.

When you see some eye spark, sharing laughs, a passionate reaction, or even a moment of disappointment, probe it. Ask specific questions about what made them happy and what turned them off.

The online fashion retail brand, for example, might notice a moment of euphoria when one client clicks on a still life photo of a bomber jacket with an affordable price, but she might be disappointed to notice that the jacket is not shown in a way that she would use it herself. She even feels insecure while seeing this product images shot in the model.

By probing and asking pointed questions, the brand may unveil a deeper emotional connection to online shopping for fashion that can shape its marketing and content creation approach.

Step 3: Find the tension

Look for an issue or desire that your products haven’t fulfilled yet. Start by using your audience observations to discover what your customers care about and where your category factors in.

For example, a woman that identifies herself with lifestyle brands would perhaps feel more comfortable seeing a model with less makeup and pairing that beautiful bomber jacket with sneakers instead of high heels.

The brand’s sample audience might care about being authentic, not using too much makeup and feel more at ease while wearing sneakers.

Think about what your audience wants your brand to help them achieve and what emotions this might stir in them. That’s the tension.

The online fashion retail brand might land on this tension: young girls that identify themselves with lifestyle brands want to feel free to be themselves, feel appreciated by who they are and enjoy their time with friends without worrying about using high heels or heavy makeup. But feel annoyed that the clothes they loved are being presented into a way that has nothing to do with her real life.

She even feels inadequate and uncomfortable after seeing such images.

Step 4: Create and test hypotheses

Next, form hypotheses on how your product, service, or marketing can help ease this tension for your audience.

The brand’s category of young fashion could change the styling approach, for example. Should we pitch our art buyers and styling team to think about this particular girl in mind while styling and photographing the models?

The brand hypothesizes that changing its styling and hair and makeup strategy for the young fashion lifestyle audience segment will give them inspiration by styling and product suggestions that resonate with their lifestyle.

Test and refine your hypotheses with focus groups, surveys, data insights such as AB tests for the same products. Is the conversion rate better? Are you more engaged with the audience?

Let’s say the fashion online brand tested its more real product shots. But it was surprising to hear focus groups become frustrated and say changing the styling and makeup of the models wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

The brand discovers that women’s’ annoyance with buying these clothes online has deeper root: They often feel they have no identification with the model. So, by including real-life casting and supporting body positivity, you can create a moment where your audience feels understood and beautiful. This greatly boosts their mood. There’s your insight.

From this, the brand can zero in on a solution that might give clients that moment of acceptance and community building: by embracing different body shapes, ethnicities, hairstyles, that shows the clothes in a more approachable way. They can also develop a marketing strategy that’s fundamentally about street casting and inviting real-life characters, with a history to tell, as models.

By observing a sample audience, finding a source of tension, and testing your hypotheses, you can land on a true human insight.

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Camila Weirich

I am a Creative Director & Strategist. Here I share what caught my attention these days.