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Customer Segmentation in the Big Data Age: Where Banks Find Value

February 8, 2017

Customer segmentation helps banks get to know their customers on a more granular level. Segmentation reveals specific intelligence that could otherwise be obscured by the sheer volume of data. These insights, in turn, inform messaging strategies for marketing and customer service strategies. Segmentation can also help banks better understand the customer lifecycle and predict customer behavior.

Examples of common customer segmentation criteria:
  • Customer value – How many products & services customers purchase and what kind of revenue that generates for the bank – past, current, and predicted for the future
  • Demographics – Age, geography, gender, generation (e.g. Millennials and Baby Boomers), income level, marital status, and other “vital statistics”
  • Life stage – Slightly different from age, focused instead on customers’ journeys through various milestones and markers; for example, graduating college or starting a family
  • Attitude – Customers’ subjective stances on things like the financial industry as a whole, online and mobile banking, the economy, and their satisfaction with their bank
  • Behavior – Interactions and transactions between customers and their bank, which channels they use and how often, and which products they adopt

Similar criteria can be applied to banks’ business customers – profitability, number of employees, “life” stage (start-up, established, legacy), and so forth.

These are the traditional ways that customers have been segmented for decades. However, relying just on these categories is not going to yield many actionable insights.

In the age of Big Data, you sometimes have to think small. The real power of segmentation is not the quantity of data you can collect – which, with today’s technology and methods, is virtually infinite. It’s in the ability to drill down to the information that actually teaches you something about your customers.

Often it’s not the segments themselves, but where they overlap, where you’ll find the most valuable intelligence.

customer segmentationSome examples: unmarried, home-owning, degree-holding women under 45; middle-income married parents of high-school-age children in a particular school district; and minority Millennials who are starting their own digitally driven businesses.  Any of these micro-segments may prove valuable customer niches for banks to prioritize. But first, you have to conceive of their existence. Second, ask the right questions. And third, conduct the relevant research to answer those questions.

To understand how this can come in handy for banks, just think about the sometimes bizarre categories that show up in your Netflix queue based on what you’ve been watching lately. Vintage sci-fi with a strong female lead? Critically acclaimed British nature documentaries? Criminal investigation murder mysteries based on books? The more they know your tastes, the more likely you are to keep using their service based on their recommendations.

The options for how segments can overlap are nearly limitless.

Nearly. There is a bell curve to the usefulness of segmentation. Too broad, and the results are less than insightful. Too narrow, and the value of the insights gained will have minimal bottom-line impact.

This is where it helps to have experienced data scientists on your side. The purpose and advantages of segmentation are easy to enough to grasp, but the farther you get into analytic methodology, the more highly technical it becomes, and the more you need to understand about mathematical models and formulas. If things like our guide to data visualization make your eyes glaze over, chances are that the nuances of segmentation will put you right to sleep, too.

But you’re in luck, because CSP’s customer experience & research experts are passionate about getting you the insights you need out of the wealth of data we can gather. So if you are interested in getting to know your customers down to the niche level that segmentation empowers, give John Berigan a call at (800) 841-7954 ext. 101 or contact us by email to start a conversation.


More articles on using data to your advantage:

What Baby Boomer & Millennial Banking Customers Have in Common

July 30, 2015

Though born decades apart and into very different circumstances, Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964) and Millennial (born 1980-2000) customers show a surprising amount of overlap in their preferences and priorities for the customer experience at their banks.

Baby Boomers are Aging Youthfully

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Baby Boomers came of age during the wild 1960s and 70s, and while they might not be able to rock’n’roll all night and party every day anymore, they’re not ready to resign to their rocking chairs just yet.

Here you can begin to see some of the commonalities between Boomers and Millennials. Both generations entered adulthood against the backdrop of oversea war, economic depression, and social unrest. The 2008 recession hit their wallets hard: Boomers watched their retirement funds wither, and Millennials worry if they’ll earn enough to pay off their immense student loans. To varying degrees, both groups know the value of doing more with less and balancing their desire to make purchases against the risks of running out.

It’s Not Just About Retirement

Sure, retirement is a pressing issue for Boomers exiting the workforce and preparing for a new phase of life, but it’s not the only thing they’re doing with their money.

Despite the setbacks of the recession, Baby Boomers earn about 47% of all income in the United States, totaling $4 trillion. [Source] With their adult children leaving home and establishing their own families, instead of settling in, Boomers are active and adventurous. They want to be able to keep up with their grandkids and are using their spending power to catch up with all the dreams they may have put off during their parenting years.

That might mean new car purchases, home renovations or relocations, or even starting a business – all things they’ll be looking to their banks to help them finance and navigate. These products aren’t just the territory of young adults getting established.

As we’ve reported previously, Millennials, too, are entrepreneurial adventurers who tend to value experiences over material goods. So while they may be renting a while longer before they purchase a house and putting off traditional milestones like marriage and child-rearing, they see that as freeing up capital to pursue their dreams while they still have youth on their side.

They’ve also absorbed their parents’ concerns about funding their retirements and, according to the Transamerica Retirement Survey, 74% of Millennials have begun saving for retirement a full 13 years earlier in life than Baby Boomers.

This knowledge should lead banks to carefully consider how and to whom they are promoting their small business, retirement, and home equity products and services.

Linked In with Technology

A major slice of shared territory between these two generations can be found online, and in particular, on mobile.

Millennials and Boomers alike are early adopters of new tech products and are comfortable navigating the world through the lens of their smartphone or tablet. 71% of Boomers bank online at least once per week, and their use of mobile is expected grow exponentially over the next few years.

So by prioritizing a streamlined, personalized, and mobile-optimized experience, banks can satisfy both sets of customers.

Where they differ, though, is in their concern about the security of their financial information. Millennials, who have largely grown up with tech, tend to be more trusting; Boomers are willing to adapt and learn, but remain suspicious about the trustworthiness of devices, networks, and data banks.

61% of Boomers believe the risk of their financial data being compromised will rise within the next three years, compared to 45% of Millennials. [Source] Adults who are not already using online banking options are even more suspicious and unlikely to be converted, no matter how slick the user experience. Nothing will send customers of any age on the hunt for a new bank like finding that their personal information is at risk, for which they unforgivingly hold the institution responsible.

With data breaches making headlines on a regular basis, banks who want to promote their online and mobile services must communicate a strong message of security, not just convenience.

Want to know more about the demands of different demographics within your target market? CSP can deliver all the intelligence you need and offer solutions to meet your specific goals. Contact us today with your questions and concerns.