Difference between behavioral and psychographic segmentation

Marketing students often confuse the difference between behavioral and psychographic segmentation. The reason is the word “behavioral” – as it suggests how consumers behave, so how can that be different to their psychographic equal lifestyle behavior?.

Good question, so let’s explore the differences in this article.

What is psychographic segmentation?

Psychographic segmentation is defined as dividing a market into related consumers based upon their lifestyles, interests, values, and/or personality characteristics.

In other words, psychographic segmentation considers how the person lives, thinks and feels – rather than understanding them purely as a consumer.

The purpose of psychographic segmentation is to first understand the person and then connect that back to why and how they make their consumer purchase decisions.

When using psychographic segmentation, the typical variables considered include:

  • Social class or social economic status
  • Key personality traits
  • Key values and outlooks on life
  • How they spend their time = activities and hobbies and interests

A common market research segmentation approach in this regard is VALS (values and lifestyles), which is often included in marketing textbooks as an example.

What is behavioral segmentation?

The word “behavioral” here is slightly misleading – as it does NOT refer to the behavior of a person, but rather refers to the measurable behavior and actions of a consumer in the marketplace.

In other words, how does the consumer interact and engage with products and brands of interest to us.

The variables that are often used in behavioural segmentation include:

  • Key benefits sought
  • User status = current/ex/non-user
  • Usage rate = heavy user, light user
  • Degree of brand loyalty or degree of brand switching
  • Attitudes towards brands = positive, neutral, negative

A nice simple way of thinking about behavioral segmentation is that a lot of the information could be captured through in-store loyalty cards. By capturing sales data via a loyalty card, a retailer is able to determine how the consumer “behaves in-store”.

For example, do they buy new products? Do they switch when brands are on special? How many brands are they typically loyal to? Which product categories do they buy regularly or occasionally?

As you can see, we have a very precise measure of consumer behaviors and actions if we are able to capture this data effectively. Some of the data can be also captured through market research surveys, where we could ask about brand attitudes and key benefits sought.

Summary of differences between psychographic and behavioral segmentation

behavioural versus psychographic segmentation

It is important to note that these are two distinct approaches to segmentation.

Psychographic segmentation refers to the consumer as a person and seeks to understand them and their lifestyle and key values and activities. It tries to uncover what is important to them in their life and what drives them to act in certain ways = what is their motivation?

Our goal as marketers to effectively design suitable product positioning and supportive marketing mixes to tap into their motivations and to become an accepted part of their lifestyles and activities.

Behavioral segmentation is a measure of their actions and thoughts as a consumer. It is typically measured observation methods (such as loyalty programs and even in-store video surveillance) and is supplemented by surveys from time to time.

It allows marketers to fine tune and improve marketing mix offerings, primarily through conducting marketing experiments. For example, we run a special sales promotion, which allows us to work out which consumers/segments are responsive to that offering.

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Author: Geoff Fripp

Geoff Fripp is an experienced marketing practitioner, university lecturer and textbook author based in Sydney, Australia. He has been an adjunct lecturer at the University of Sydney since 2002 and is the author of several marketing textbooks. For more information, please refer to the 'About' section or 'Contact' section of this website.