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Segmenting by Geography

19 January, 2016 - 17:13

Where will your customers come from? Suppose your great new product or service idea involves opening a local store. Before you open the store, you will probably want to do some research to determine which geographical areas have the best potential. For instance, if your business is a high-end restaurant, should it be located near the local college or country club? If you sell ski equipment, you probably will want to locate your shop somewhere in the vicinity of a mountain range where there is skiing. You might see a snowboard shop in the same area but probably not a surfboard shop. By contrast, a surfboard shop is likely to be located along the coast, but you probably would not find a snowboard shop on the beach.

Geographic segmentation explains why the checkout clerks at stores sometimes ask you what your zip code is. It’s also why businesses print codes on coupons that correspond to zip codes. When the coupons are redeemed, the store can then find out where its customers are located—or not located. Geocoding is a process that takes data such as this and plots it on a map. Geocoding can help businesses see where prospective customers might be clustered and target them with various ad campaigns, including direct mail, for example. One of the most popular geocoding software programs is PRIZM NE, which is produced by a company called Claritas. PRIZM NE uses zip codes and demographic information to classify the American population into segments. The idea behind PRIZM is that “you are where you live.” Combining both demographic and geographic information is referred to as geodemographics. To see how geodemographics works, visit the following page on Claritas’ Web site:

Type in your zip code, and you will see customer profiles of the types of buyers who live in your area. Table 5.4 An Example of Geodemographic Segmentation for 76137 (Fort Worth, TX) shows the profiles of buyers who can be found the zip code 76137—the “Brite Lites, Li’l City” bunch, Home Sweet Home” set, and so on. Click on the profiles on the Claritas site to see which one most resembles you.

Table 5.4 An Example of Geodemographic Segmentation for 76137 (Fort Worth, TX)


Profile Name


Brite Lites, Li’l City


Home Sweet Home




Upward Bound


White Picket Fences


The tourism bureau for the state of Michigan was able to identify different customer profiles and target them using PRIZM. Michigan’s biggest travel segment are Chicagoans in certain zip codes consisting of upper-middle-class households with children—or the “kids in cul-de-sacs” group, as Claritas puts it. The bureau was also able to identify segments significantly different from the Chicago segment, including blue-collar adults in the Cleveland area who vacation without their children. The organization then created significantly different marketing campaigns to appeal to each group.

City size and population density (the number of people per square mile) are also used for segmentation purposes. Have you ever noticed that in rural towns, McDonald’s restaurants are hard to find? But Dairy Queens are usually easy to locate. McDonald’s generally won’t put a store in a town of fewer than five thousand people. However, this is prime turf for the “DQ”—for one, because it doesn’t have to compete with bigger franchises like McDonald’s.

Proximity marketing is an interesting new technology firms are using to segment buyers geographically and target them within a few hundred feet of their businesses using wireless technology. In some areas, you can switch your mobile phone to a “discoverable mode,” while you’re shopping and, if you want, get ads and deals from stores as you pass by them. And it’s often less expensive than hiring people to hand you a flier as you walk by. 1