Jul 23, 2019

Psychographic Segmentation: Beyond “Who” to Understand “Why”

Historically, marketers have relied on demographic data to develop strategies that target the right audience. Age, gender, urbanicity and income are all standard ways of segmenting consumers. Other characteristics like ethnicity, marital status, children, education level and occupation may be used as well to add context.

This information is important, as it helps you paint a picture of who you’re targeting. But demographics don’t go nearly far enough, especially in today’s saturated, highly fragmented marketplace. This is where psychographics come into play. Retailers and brands can utilize psychographic segmentation to understand what drives consumer behavior. In other words, get beyond “who” and dig deeper into “why.” 

What Are Consumer Psychographics?

Psychographics is the study of people’s lifestyles, attitudes, interests, beliefs, emotions, values, and aspirations. More specifically, consumer psychographics helps retailers and brands better understand the consumer, create precise profiles, and inform targeted marketing efforts to influence consumer purchase decisions.


Psychographics + Demographics

If someone buys an organic product, it’s helpful to know the person’s age, location, marital status, and household income. But if you really want to understand and connect with that individual or household, you need to look beyond demographics, and dig deeper into psychographic variables.

Why does this person buy organic and how much are they willing to pay for it? How do they feel about environmental issues? Do they recycle? Are they healthy eaters? Psychographics add texture to demographics, creating a 360-degree view of the consumer. This brings you closer to the consumer and provides the insights you need to develop marketing strategies that resonate with them.

For example, demographic data such as household size and children’s age could explain why someone went to the store to buy baby formula. But why did that shopper buy the more expensive organic option? Psychographics helps you answer these kinds of questions so you can market to real people, not just demographics.

Psychographic Segmentation

It goes without saying that if you try to market to everyone, you’re not going to be relevant or desirable to anyone. You have to define and target your ideal customers. This brings us to how psychographics ties in with segmentation.


Suppose your brand is launching a plant-based burger. Psychographics can help you segment consumers who are on the vegan, vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’ diets. Perhaps they are simply health-conscious or just curious eaters.

By understanding the size of each of these groups, as well as other beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors within each group through psychographic segmentation, you can determine the best way to market your latest menu item. You can also determine if it would be worthwhile to develop secondary messaging for healthy eaters who may be curious about plant-based products, but not as motivated by specific dietary restrictions.

Who are your primary and secondary target audiences? What do they care about most? Based on your consumer profiles, what levers do you need to pull to convert your primary audience and that secondary group of folks who might be on the fence? Using psychographic data to answer these questions and inform your marketing strategy can lead to more relevant, effective messaging and more successful commercial efforts. 

How to Find Reliable, Useful Psychographic Data

Psychographic data points are typically collected via survey. The key is to use a consumer panel that’s large enough and engaged enough to consistently provide you with ongoing profiling data. For example, brief microsurveys performed in the moment, integrated into the panelist experience, give you the ability to identify hundreds of psychographic attributes over time.

Issuing frequent, but brief microsurveys (no more than three questions) increases the likelihood for high participation rates and accurate, reliable data. Lengthy questionnaires, on the other hand, tend to have a negative impact on participation and can age quickly.

Topics that you could uncover through microsurvey questions include (but are certainly not limited to): 

  • Media consumption habits and influences (TV, social, print, audio, technology, etc.)
  • Perceptions of advertising and its influence on behavior
  • Cooking habits and drivers of dining behavior
  • Views on health and sustainability issues, such as nutrition and recycling
  • Attitudes on shopping and opinions on various products

How to Use Psychographic Data

The use cases are virtually endless when you have a large, engaged panel of consumers who are continuously providing you with information about what is driving their shopping behavior. For example:

  • An oral care brand can determine which brand of toothpaste is most popular with dentists
  • A BevAl brand can profile the attitudes and behaviors within the LGBTQ+ community
  • A snack manufacturer can assess the value of potential partnerships by sport or even specific teams
  • A brick-and-mortar retailer can add context to how much of a threat eCommerce represents to specific consumer segments
  • An emerging CPG brand can paint a picture of the type of shoppers they attract to convince a major retailer for additional shelf space

Psychographic Segmentation Will Drive Personalization

One of the biggest changes in the marketplace during the past 10 years has been consumer demand for personalized experiences. Targeted ads on Google, YouTube, Facebook, TV, streaming audio platforms and more have already become a standard expectation, while irrelevant ads increasingly struggle to resonate with audiences.

Retailers and brands can only deliver on the promise of personalization if they use psychographics to understand what’s in the heart and mind of a specific target market. The days of advertising to reach broad demos like 18-34 year old males are drawing to a close.

Advertising is likely to become even more granular and hyper-targeted. You may even end up with various versions of the same ad to deliver to different household segments based on the behaviors, influences, and preferences of each segment.


It’s no longer about reaching an audience. It’s about connecting with that audience, and doing so requires a deep understanding not just who they are but what they care about.

That’s what psychographics provides to retailers and brands. And that’s the key to winning in today’s marketplace.


Did you know that Numerator maps more than 1,500 psychographic attributes to the shopping behavior of more than 100,000 shoppers? Drop us a line and we’ll show you new ways to understand and connect with your brand’s consumers.