In Customer Experience Work, Segmentation or Personas?


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Segmentation divides a large, aggregate, and seemingly homogeneous marketplace into clearly and quantitatively defined groups of buyers.  Customer needs or desires, ability to buy, and locations are some of the variables that can be used to segment a market. More advanced models include detailed psychographic variables like lifestyle and values. Segmentation is a quantitative breakdown of a market.

Segmentation work is something often done to help answer the question: Who do we serve?  Sometimes referred to as a way to “divide the market in order to conquer it,” segmentation helps a business decide which groups to target with what products and services, and how to reach them. Segments help businesses win.  

Personas are a set of fictional individual archetypes of the target consumer. They are representative individuals, not “averages” of any group or segment. Informed by qualitative research, personas bring an individual’s goals, motivations and behaviors to life. Personas are a qualitative analysis of customer behavior.

Why have personas?  Personas guide the design of any product or service experience. They allow business leaders to step into an individual customer’s point of view, using their motivations, usage habits, and goals as a litmus test for decisions about design or how customers will use or experience a product or service. Personas help leaders help consumers win.

Our answer to “In customer experience work, do you use segmentation or personas?” is it depends. We create a single target customer by leveraging any work already performed – be it segments or personas. 

The target customer in an ideal customer experience is a composite character, made up of the demographic, behavior and attitudinal characteristics shared by the customers that drive growth and sustainability for a business. The target customer is informed by quantitative data and a meta synthesis of existing voice of customer and performance data.  The target customer exists in some portion of all of the target segments a business chooses.   The target customer is broad enough to include all segments and personas.

Why define a target customer? Defining the target customer helps you know how you can best solve their needs.  What you choose to solve for your target customers can be (and should be!) a “front domino” against which every subsequent decision can be aligned.  (You can download an excerpt of my customer experience book, Domino, which talks further about the “front domino” here.) Target customers help leaders understand those who have a problem or need the business can solve, and define smart operating decisions.

Customer experience is an operating strategy – the “how we will deliver value” section of a company’s playbook. For this reason, two things — a clearly defined target customer and the need a company can solve for them better than anyone else – are fundamental ingredients to every decision a company makes to design and execute a customer experience.   After all, every experience starts with a person, who has a problem or need they would trade something of value to have solved.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.




    This is a false dichotomy. You should use both. You should segment customers by their jobs-to-be-done, then you should select the customer segments you can profitably serve, then you should develop personas for each segment-to-be-served to guide future development.

    This empathetic has been developed over many years by the service design community. See Service Design Tools ( for an example of how to use personas and other related tools.

    It really is that simple.

    Graham Hill


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