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Marketing - segmenting the market

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Marketing - Segmenting the market

There are several important reasons why businesses should attempt to segment their markets carefully. These are:

Better matching of customer needs

Customer needs differ. Creating separate products for each segment makes sense and provides customers with a better solution

Better opportunities for growth

Market segmentation can build sales. For example, customers can be encouraged to "trade-up" after being introduced to a particular product with an introductory, lower-priced product

More effective promotion

By segmenting markets, target customers can be reached more often and at lower cost

Gain a higher share of the market

Through careful segmentation and targeting, businesses can often become the market leader, even if the market is small

There are many ways in which a market can be broken down into segments.

A very popular method of “demographic” segmentation looks at factors such as age, gender, income and so on. These are described briefly below:


Businesses often target certain age groups. Good examples are toothpaste – look at the variety of toothpaste products for children and adults) and toys (e.g. pre-school, 5-9, 10-12, teen, family)


We all know that males and females demand different types of the same product. Great examples include the clothing, hairdressing, magazine, toiletries and cosmetics markets


Many companies target rich consumers with luxury goods (e.g.  Lexus, Bang & Olufsen). Other businesses focus on products that appeal directly to consumers on low incomes (e.g. Aldi and Lidl (discounted groceries) and fast-fashion retailers such as TK Maxx)

Social class

Many businesses believe that a consumers "perceived" social class influences their preferences for cars, clothes, home furnishings, leisure activities and other products & services

Another approach is known as “geographic segmentation”.  This tries to divide markets using:

  • Regions: e.g. in the UK these might be England, Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland or (at a more detailed level) counties or major metropolitan areas
  • Countries: perhaps categorised by size, development or membership of geographic region
  • City / town size: e.g. population within ranges or above a certain level
  • Population density: e.g. urban, suburban, rural, semi-rural

It would be nice to think that market segmentation is the answer to an entrepreneur’s problems. By spotting a clear niche market using segmentation, the start-up business can focus all its efforts on reaching the target customer base.

Limitations of segmentation

If only business life was that simple.  It isn’t.  Here are some key limitations with market segmentation:

  • Lack of information and data: some markets are poorly researched with little information about different customer needs and wants
  • Difficulty in measuring and predicting consumer behaviour: humans don’t all behave in the same way all of the time. The way that they behave also changes over time!  A good example is the “grey generation” (i.e. people aged over 50).  The attitudes and lifestyles of the grey generation have changed dramatically in recent years.
  • Hard to reach customer segments once identified: it is one thing spotting a segment; it is another finding the right way to reach target customers with the right kind of marketing message

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Starting a Business

Sources of Finance for a Startup
Cash Flow Forecasting for a Startup
Creating & Protecting Business Ideas
Startups and Understanding the Market
Market Research for a Startup
Locating the Startup Business
Choosing a Legal Structure for a Startup
Employing People in a Startup
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making


Breakeven Basics
Costs, Revenues and Profits
Business Costs
Using Budgets
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making
Investment Appraisal Basics
Financial Strategies
Measuring and Improving Profit
Improving Cash Flow
Working Capital
Balance Sheet
Income Statement
Financial Efficiency Ratios
Profitability Ratios and ROCE
Liquidity Ratios


Products & Brands
Place (Distribution)
Price Elasticity of Demand

Business Organisation

Basics of Business Growth
Business Activities
Legal Structure Basics
Sole Traders and Partnerships
Limited Companies
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Organisational Structures


Working in Teams
Communication Basics
Communication Methods
Workforce Planning
Recruitment, Selection & Training
Employee Motivation
Organisational Structures


Operational Objectives
Critical Path Analysis
Scale and Resource Mix
Lean Production
Capacity Management
Customer Service Basics
Managing Quality
Operational Decision-making
Using Technology in Operations
Working with Suppliers

Economic Environment

Economic Sectors
Government Spending & Taxation
Interest Rates & Monetary Policy

Business Strategy

Leadership styles
Business Culture
Change Management

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