What is the Difference Between Personae and Segmentation?

For the past several years, we’ve followed a personae-driven approach to customer experience design.  This approach has been critically important as we work with our clients to design experiences that naturally fit with… and influence… the “mental model of the customer.”   (See: Personae-Driven Customer Experience Design)

With virtually every client, we get questions about how personae (plural of persona) compares to segmentation.  In short, the development of customer personae complements rather than replaces segmentation.  The two tools are:  used for different problems; incorporate different information; and are derived using different methods.

Here are a few highlights of the differences: 

  • Personae are used for designing experiences that get the customers’ attention, fit with the way they think about what they’re trying to accomplish, and map easily onto their natural set of behaviors…  segments are used for making strategic focus and prospect targeting decisions – based on the attractiveness and accessibility of different types of customers.
  • A persona is a vivid description of a single archetypical customer… a segment is an abstract group of customers that share certain characteristics.
  • A persona includes a rich description of how that specific customer thinks, acts, and experiences the world…  a segment typically includes descriptive or situational information about the group of customers.
  • A small set of personae can be used to illustrate the fundamentally different types of customers that exist in the marketplace…  segmentation is used to create a comprehensive mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive (MECE) representation of an entire marketplace.
  • Personae are qualitatively derived based on observation and in-depth elicitation interviews…  segments are quantitatively derived from large samples including demographics, situations, behaviors, and attitudes.

Hope that helps…

One Response

  1. […] 1. Who are our Customers? a. Who are our best Customers (the Pareto Principle—the 80/20 Rule—applies.) b. Segmentation: Demographic, Geographic, Psychographic profiles c. “RFM” — “Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value.” RFM analysis is a technique for segmenting Customers into groups based on their buying behaviors. d. Personas: A detailed, vivid description of an archetypical Customer. (For a nice article to explain the important differences between Segmentation and Personas, see Frank Capek’s post “Customer Innovations: Driving Profitable Growth”: What is the Difference Between Personae and Segmentation? […]

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