Consumer Profile: Defining the Ideal Customer

Smiling female shopper with credit card paying cashier at grocery store cash register
•••

 

Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Profiles describe consumers categorically so they can be grouped for marketing and advertising purposes. By target advertising to a specific market segment, companies and marketers can find more success in selling a particular product and increase profits. As a shorthand way of talking about consumers, market segments often are represented by consumer profiles.

Category Basics

Before even starting to market a product to potential customers, it's important to take the time to carve out the ideal consumer profile for your products. By defining your ideal customer, you can begin to notice patterns that may prove useful in target advertising.

To start, consumers can be identified by many different categories, such as:

  • Preference
  • Lifestyle
  • Stage of life
  • Attribute
  • Trait

Assigning categorical tiers to consumers can be useful. The first tier includes the most common categories for describing consumers, such as demographics, socioeconomic status, and product usage. The second tier extends the concepts of the first tier and includes psychographics, generation, geography, geodemographics, and benefits sought. Consider how these concepts impact how consumers might be categorized:

  • Demographic: Age, city or region of residence, gender, race and ethnicity, and composition of the household
  • Socioeconomic: Household income, educational attainment, occupation, neighborhood, and association memberships
  • Brand Affinity/Product Usage: Product engagement on the basis of their behavior
  • Psychographics: Lifestyles, life stage, personality, attitudes, opinion, and even voting behavior
  • Generation: Specific identifiable generation cohort group
  • Geography: Geographical area in which consumers reside and work
  • Geodemographics: Combines geography and demographics, which may cluster into identifiable groups
  • Benefits Sought: Benefits consumers seek when they shop for products and services

Market researchers may develop proprietary consumer profiles, or they may use panels of consumers who have been classified according to their common attributes. Market research provider firms often make their consumer profiles available for discrete market research projects that are conducted for their market research clients at large companies.

Category Examples 

By obtaining information from potential customers, you can start to get a clear picture of likes, dislikes, and buying behaviors. There are several different examples of classification categories that market research firms often use.

ABC1 is a common grouping strategy based on the professional job role of an individual, a person designated as the head-of-household, or the main contributor of income to a family. The term ABC1 is shorthand for the first three socioeconomic groups in the taxonomy, which is as follows:

  • A = Senior or higher managerial, administrative, or professional
  • B = Intermediate managerial, administrative, or professional
  • C1 = Supervisory or clerical, and junior managerial, administrative, or professional
  • C2 = Skilled manual workers
  • D = Semiskilled and unskilled manual workers
  • E = Everyone entirely dependent on public support (Chronically ill, unemployed, elderly, disabled, and other reasons)

Lifestage and other special groups are mostly categorized according to proprietary consumer research or census-based research. Different countries associated specific percentages with each of the life stages groups. The standard taxonomy for life stage groups is:

  • Pre-Family or No Family = People younger than 45 who are not parents
  • Family = People of any age with at least one child younger than 16 still at home
  • Third Age = People aged 45 through 64 with no children younger than 16 still living at home
  • Retired = People older than 65 with no children younger than 16 still living at home

ACORN: The basis of ACORN categories is geodemographic segmentation. Relying on census data primarily, the taxonomy uses residential areas to categorize consumers. Postal codes can be associated with specific ACORN categories. Because people who live in neighborhoods tend to share a good number of attributes, the ACORN method of classifying consumers may be more powerful than a more generic classification based only on demographic, economic, or socioeconomic factors. The ACORN categories and their associated components include:

Wealthy Achievers—Category 1

  • A = Wealthy executives
  • B = Affluent greys
  • C = Flourishing families

Urban Prosperity—Category 2

  • D = Prosperous professionals
  • E = Educated urbanites
  • F = Aspiring singles

Comfortably Off—Category 3

  • G = Starting out
  • H = Secure families
  • I = Settled suburbia
  • J = Prudent pensioners

Moderate Means—Category 4

  • K = Asian communities
  • L = Post-industrial families
  • M = Blue-collar roots

Hard Pressed—Category 5

  • N = Struggling families
  • O = Burdened singles
  • P = High-rise hardship
  • Q = Inner-city adversary

Using the Data

Creating a consumer profile or persona is a much easier task once you have collected the relevant information from current and potential customers. Profiles that describe specific segments allow you to envision a person interested in your product and give you a better understanding of what would motivate them to find your business. Start simple:

  • Describe your potential client(s) using categories and create a named persona.
  • Create a specific profile for each client group.
  • Consider buyer behavior, preferences, and traits when creating each persona.

Once you have a clear picture of the type of customers your business should be targeting, you can create a marketing strategy. Your ideal customer profile will help you pinpoint the who, where, and how to reach potential consumers interested in what your business has to offer.