Divide and Rule: Types of Segmentation in Web Anaytics

In order to analyze traffic to your website you need to segment it. A lot of times, possibilities for segmentation will depend on the analytics system you use and the data you track. In this article, I will outline how you can create segments using the data commonly provided by analytics software. I will also evaluate, to what extent you can make use of the created segments.

First group of segments: user-based

Geo and tech characteristics of users belong to this group. If you have a way to find out the gender or the age of your users (registration, dialog windows), you can segment visitors even more granularly.

user-based-segments
User-based segments: by device type.

Geo-segmentation includes segmenting by cities, regions, countries as well as browser languages.

Geo-data is usually collected based on user IP. Although this information seems to be interesting (often presented in form of maps), it is only relevant if you offer a location-based product/service (e.g. only available in a few cities) or if your website is localized for several countries and you want to make sure that international users are routed to the correct country site.

Tech segments are based, for example, on device type or browser name and version, as well on as the user domain. From my experience, these parameters are not going to be used extremely often either. If you get a significant number of visitors from a certain device or a certain browser,  you should better make sure that your site works on them. Other than that, it useful to group sessions where an HTTP or a JavaScript error occurred (if an error is recurring and you can reproduce it, a fix is needed).  Additionally, IP address or user domain name are used to exclude internal traffic (i.e. the traffic from your company).

Second group of segments: content-based

As can be guessed from the name, such segments relate to the content of the site. In other words, by applying this segmentation, you can see what happens on certain parts of your website or on groups of pages. If set correctly, this gives a structured and precise insight into the website performance.

Some ways to apply this segmentation are:

  • By product (if you have a few products, e.g. 1-5)
  • By brand or by product type (if your website showcases a lot of products)
  • By department/division (if this is how your site is organized)
  • By content for different customer groups (gender, age, type of customer: business or private…)
  • By site component (forms, product description, FAQ…)
  • By country site (if the data is not split in the database)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. By looking at your site, you may come up with a more suitable (for you) way to segment content. Then you can use the grouping, for instance, to compare how different products perform or to create a product ranking by popularity/engagement.

Third group of segments: traffic-based

This type of segments will contain general break-up of traffic, without precise description of particular users. The most common segments will include: by traffic source, by referring domain, by time of visit (day of the week, hour).

New vs repeat/returning visitors segment is based on the cookie set on a visitor’s device (however, as a growing number of visitors do not accept cookies or delete them regularly, the data from this segmentation should be treated as an approximation).

Such segments are extremely useful in order to analyze how the performance changes depending on the type traffic flowing to the site. What is more,  traffic type will most probably have a larger impact on performance rather than user-based characteristics,

Fourth group of segments: interaction based

This is a large group of segment that describes how visitors interact with the site.

You can create segments by number of page views per visit (page depth), by bounce rate, by time on site, etc. For the majority of these parameters, you will need to come up data ranges, e.g. number of page views per visit may be split into the following segments: 1 view, 2-3 views, 4-6 views, 7 or more views. Besides, you can include events – such as forms submission,

This type of segmentation will enable you to start the analysis “from the other end”, e.g. what are the traffic sources or pages in best performing segments.

As you can see, applying correct segmentation to site traffic will provide you not only with more data but also with more insights into what influences the amount of traffic and its performance over time. But what if you feel that besides segmenting you need to group and generalize traffic somehow? This would be a clear case for cohort analysis, which I may talk about in one of the next posts.

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Two Types of Online Users: Simplifying the Segmentation

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics.

There are numerous approaches to customer segmentation, some of which include a lot of hard and soft factors and fracture the customer base down to “a segment of one”. However, this micro-marketing is hard to apply in practice: modern online marketing is largely data-driven and the problem is rather to generalize and structure the massive amounts of user data and to incorporate it in simple procedures that you can actually manage and apply.

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics. All users can be subdivided into two groups. There is empirical data by Yandex proving the existence of these two user types, as well as some surveys  such as the one by Novomind  introducing the subdivision of online users/buyers into two main types.

Let us see how the theory can be applied to understanding the user behavior and conversion on a website.

Segment 1: “Experimenters”

Type 1 users, “experimenters”  or “synthetical” type are driven by emotions rather than reason.

  • They tend to “skim” through the page or read it “diagonally” paying attention to the parts that stand out or create a structural break in the page.
  • They are more likely to click on a CTA that is three-dimensional, large or made in contrasting colors.
  • They seldom read the text attentively and are not moved by detailed explanations.
  • If offered a choice of products, they make their decisions rather quickly without much scrolling and clicking, though having a lot of choice is important for them.
  • They tend to break off if prompted to type in extra data, or if forced to do extra clicks.
  • They leave the page rather quickly if they do not find what they want immediately.
  • They are often on the lookout for new, innovative or exclusive products.
  • They are prone to do spontaneous purchases if offered a good deal on the spot.
  • They seldom make repeat purchases and have less customer loyalty to an online shop.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be male or younger users.

Segment 2: “Readers”

Type 2 users, “readers” or “analytical” type tend to be more consistent and methodical when navigating a page.

  • They normally navigate the page “top to bottom” thus paying attention to less “visible” elements
  • They make less spontaneous clicks.
  • They react to CTA’s that match the background design of the page, as this makes them more “trustworthy”.
  • They tend to look thoroughly through the website and need time to make a final purchase decision.
  • They get irritated if the website lacks a clear structure or if there is too little information about the products or services.
  • They often  break off the buying process if feeling insecure about their personal data or feel pressed for decision (“limited offer, buy now!”).
  • If satisfied with service and products, they are likely to return and even become permanent customers.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be female or older users.

Implications of the Segmentation

Having in mind these two customer types helps to explain why the same conversion optimization measures yield completely different if not contradictory results when implemented on different websites (as their customer base may predominately have users of type 1 or type 2).

While the first user type require interactivity, large print and colors to attract their attention and reacts negatively to the informational overload, the second type, on the contrary, require clear and detailed information and dismiss anything that seems suspicious to them or resembles advertising.

If one is not quite sure what type of users a website has or if there seems to be a good mixture of both, balancing off the interests of both groups (e.g. additional information is easy to find, but can as well be skipped through) or even designing several types of interfaces for different landing pages may serve as a solution.

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