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A Lesson Health Care Must Learn from Retail in 2014

retail lessons for healthcareCustomer-centricity is the name of the game in the retail industry. Retailers have long since abandoned the old school “one size fits all” approach to marketing as ineffective, finding greater returns through targeting their campaigns to increase the value and context. But simple demographics are not enough.

Retailers use shopper data, tracking purchase behavior through loyalty cards, to market through relevant couponing and promotion. However, shopper data only tells WHAT customers are doing, not WHY they make these purchases. This is where psychographics come in — uncovering the motivations behind behavior — and retailers are beginning to supplement their shopper data with these insights to greatly enhance their marketing effectiveness.

And with consumerization taking root in the health care industry, it's time that health care marketing took a page out of the retail hand book. Segmenting consumer markets is a tactic that providers can use to enhance health initiatives and engage their patients on a new level.

What is Market Segmentation?

Market segmentation divides a broad target audience into subsets. Typical consumer segments may include a combination of the following data:

  • Geographic
  • Demographic
  • Socioeconomic
  • Behavioral
  • Lifestyle
  • Motivational

The more categories you include, the more targeted your message can be. For example, a sporting goods store may create campaigns that appeal to the working soccer mom or a 30-something single father — each of whom has their own behavior drivers that lend greater appeal to specific images and messages.

Health Care Marketing

The segmentation of health care consumer markets is similar to retail platforms. The health care industry deals with a broad consumer base, from babies to senior citizens, each with a variety of concerns, behaviors and motivations.

In this age of health care reform, many patients will care more about lifestyle and wellness, as access to physicians decreases with the newly insured coming into the system. However, there are also many patients who are hard-wired to be reactive with their health, and could further tax an already-strained system if they do not make efforts to be healthier. Segmentation can help you identify these different patient types and engage them in ways that are personally motivating.

Consumers are becoming more cognizant in their personal health care plans, too, and segmentation offers a way to direct marketing towards the patient’s diversified desires and preferences. The purpose is to delineate segments that share common characteristics and formulate campaigns based on their needs.

Going Deeper with Psychographic Segmentation

Psychographics is the study of conceptual criteria like interests, attitudes and opinions — what marketing professionals call IAO variables. When applied to marketing, psychographic segmentation allows marketers to take into account the motivations of health care consumers and target specific groups of consumers by using a variety of parameters:

  • Lifestyle
  • Values
  • Activities
  • Interests

Taking a Page Out of the Retail Handbook

Let’s consider marketing scenarios for sneakers, or athletic shoes. Retailers don’t just carry sneakers for women or men anymore. They carry shoes designed for high school boys who live on the basketball court. There are shoes made for bike riders, joggers and even walkers. How about cross trainers for the active person who likes to diversify the workouts? Each shoe type comes with its own marketing platform segmented by behavior traits and preferences.

Health care can take that same approach to segmenting consumer markets. Providers group patients by their health literacy, lifestyle and behaviors that put them at risk for chronic illness, for example. The passive patient requires a different plan than one who actively manages his or her own health. Market segments might be based on:

Broad lifestyle behaviors:

    • Serious about sports
    • Busy professional who makes it to the gym two or three times a week
    • No time for exercise

Attitudes towards health:

      • Fastidious about a healthy diet
      • Particular about food choices
      • Wants to eat whatever and still feel good

Habits and rituals:

      • Shops at organic stores and farmers markets
      • Looks at the nutrition label before buying
      • Hits the drive through on the way home

This kind of detail can easily translate into the health care industry, allowing health care professionals and marketing agencies to reach their audience even at a subconscious level. The athletic couple that shops at organic stores may not find information about controlling diabetes as appealing as, say, a tip sheet on how to enhance their performance or deal with common runner's injuries.

That said, two people may be very active, but for different reasons. c2b solutions has identified five distinct psychographic segments in their approach to health and wellness.

That athletic couple may consist of a Self Achiever woman who is very purposeful in her exercise and knows exactly how many calories she’s burning, and a Balance Seeker man who loves exercise as a way to disengage from daily responsibilities and have fun. Both psychographic segments behave the same way, but with different motivations.

Segmentation provides targeted content to improve health behaviors.

Today, like it or not, health care is as much about business as it is medicine. Providers and marketing agencies can take advantage of consumer attitude by engaging groups with similar motivations and beliefs. Segmenting consumer markets is something the retail industry has mastered, and it is time for health care marketers to apply this approach and reach patients at a targeted level.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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