Optimization glossary

Visitor segmentation

What Is visitor segmentation?

Visitor segmentation is the process of dividing your visitors to your website, viewers of digital ads, marketing email recipients, etc. based on a specific criteria, such as demographics or user behavior.

Since segmentation organizes individuals into consistent groups, it is possible to present that segment with a customized experience—rather than presenting a single, broad experience for every individual—that the particular audience will respond to more positively.

Why is segmentation important?

Many consumers appreciate experiences that are tailored to their needs, and are increasingly expecting and positively responding to personalized experiences. Segmentation offers companies the opportunity to define the specific audiences that matter to them and surface unique experiences to each of those groups.

Visitor segmentation also allows you to focus on your most valued prospects and customers. In particular, segmentation can be very beneficial to outbound marketing efforts, as it will help you target and focus on those high-value prospects and customers. Rather than creating advertising campaigns that have weak appeal to a broad audience, it will likely be more productive to create campaigns with strong appeal to your most-valued audience. See below for examples:

Segmentation examples

  • Bluebird Farms is a vegetarian food wholesaler and is building an advertising campaign for it’s new line of meatless chili. Rather than displaying online ads to everyone, it is much better off identifying segments that would be interested (vegetarian restaurant owners, vegetarian chefs, etc.) and advertising to those segments.
  • Attic & Button is an online store that sells men’s clothing and accessories to customers worldwide. Rather than providing each visitor to its homepage with a single experience (e.g. a winter coat promotion), Attic & Button can choose segments based on geographic location and, using personalization, provide each segment with a specific homepage experience (e.g., visitors from hot locations see a promotion for bathing suits while visitors from cold locations see a promotion for winter coats).

Types of segments

Depending on your business and industry, there are a number of ways you may want to define your segments. They include:

Demographic attributes:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographic location (City, State/Province, Country, etc.)
  • Job title/position
  • Role (buyer vs. user)

Behavioral attributes:

  • Recent purchases
  • New vs. returning visitors
  • New vs. repeat purchases
  • Power user vs. casual user

Technology used:

  • Browser type
  • Source type
  • Mobile vs. desktop, or by device

Details specific to your company:

  • Logged-in vs. logged-out visitors
  • PPC/SEM campaign
  • New vs. already-submitted leads
  • Plan types or loyalty program levels
  • Current, prospective, and former subscribers

Visitor segmentation & split testing

Visitor segmentation is an essential component of A/B testing because it allows you to take a deeper look at your test results. Segmenting your results gives you valuable insights about different groups of visitors, instead of simply analyzing the results across your entire visitor base. Figuring out what experiences work for different audiences will form the basis of your personalization strategy.

Segmentation expands the opportunities to explore different site variations and then quickly refine those variations with specific types of site visitors in mind. Having access to data on how any two segments of visitors performed for a specific variation—for example, mobile versus non-mobile visitors—gives you much more granular insight into how those individuals interact with your website.

For example: Your company has just produced a demo video. You want to measure what impact including that video on the homepage has on sign-up conversions.

So you run an A/B test across all of your visitors pitting the original homepage without a video, against a variation with the video prominently displayed on the homepage. You measure whether the presence of a video increases, decreases, or has no impact on sign-up conversions. The test results say that overall conversions increased in the video variation.

However, as you examine the results, you use segmentation to see how specific segments of visitors reacted to the video variation and notice that conversions from visitors on non-mobile devices increased. But conversion rates from visitors on mobile and tablet devices decreased. It’s possible that the video didn’t resonate with mobile visitor or the file format failed to play on mobile devices.

You can follow up that running tests exclusively for your mobile visitors to see if your hypotheses about why the video underperformed for mobile visitors is correct. This is the refinement and iteration stage to find the optimal video treatment for mobile visitors.

Through a cycle of exploration and refinement with segmentation and targeting, you are able to take a huge pool of website visitors, slice them up into segments and deliver a unique experience to each type, personalized to the ways each of them will be most likely to convert.