Girl camping showing good use of customer segmentation in the outdoor retail industry.

Customer Segmentation Rules

Do you know your customer well? How do you define them? Is your target customer base women, ages 40-65 or men, ages 21-27? Is your customer a homeowner? A fisherman? A fisherman wealthy enough to own a home? In today’s evolving marketplaces, are demographics like these offering a worthy enough definition of your customer? Depending on your business, I’d argue probably not.

Demographics like those above describe who your customer is, but psychographics defines why they buy. The truth is, you need both to grasp your customer’s persona adequately.

Easier access to options and well, MORE options in general, have given significantly more power to buyers to pick and choose the option that works best for them. And what might work for the “fisherman wealthy enough to own a home” that has been fishing every weekend for ten years, may not work for the “fisherman wealthy enough to own a home” that has just begun to learn how to fish.

In today’s customer-driven markets, you must understand the power of customer segmentation to capitalize on the opportunity you have.

For an example of actual customer segmentations, let’s stick with our analogy of the outdoors-person. But let’s go a bit more broad to define potential customer segmentation within the outdoor retail space and discuss four possible personas.

1. The Native

The Native outdoorsperson doesn’t understand what the word “outdoorsperson” even means. To them, the outdoors is life. Just, life. In fact, the majority portion of their life has been spent in the outdoors. They camp regularly, backpack all the time, climb peaks, start campfires with barely anything, most likely know how to tie a figure 8 into a harness, and they are no stranger to the “squat and squeeze” maneuver (if you don’t know, don’t ask).

The Native comprises about 12% of the US population, but closer to 16% of spending in the outdoor retail space according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

When it comes to buying gear, The Native trusts only the opinion of someone with at least as many hours logged in the backcountry as them. And they won’t even venture outside of the most time-tested brands like Patagonia, Arcteryx, Osprey, Outdoor Research & Smartwool. To speak to a Native, you have to speak LIKE a Native. And good luck trying to fake it.  

2. The Weekender

If The Weekender didn’t have their damn day job, they’d be in the mountains or on the river every day. But sadly, they do. So instead, The Weekender goes hard on weekends. Nevermind the couch or Netflix for relaxation. They live for spending time in nature, even if that means hucking a 35 lb pack for 25 miles through rocky terrain in a thunderstorm. If it’s outside, they’re in.

The Weekender accounts for 10% of the population, according to OIA and 17% of outdoor retail spending.

When it comes to buying gear, The Weekender pays attention to publications like Outside Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, and buys the durable, yet affordable stuff: Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, & REI. To speak to a weekender, give advice. But stay away from the basics. They’re way beyond that.

3. The Urbanite

The Urbanite is purposefully not TOO outdoorsy. But they buy A LOT of outdoor gear for specific activities like CrossFit, or a Malibu day hike. They are intent on training for, and maybe competing in, say, an urban triathlon or running a 5k+. They may just be buying that climbing brand to look legit at the climbing gym, while they’re getting in a good workout.

Still, The Urbanite represents a HUGE Market. 20% of the population and  a whopping 33% of the buying power in the outdoor industry.

So even if your target market is the seasoned climber, you can’t ignore The Urbanite. They look to fitness magazines like Men’s Health & Shape and they appreciate gear that isn’t “too outdoorsy”.  They pay attention to brands like: Under Armour, Nike, FiveTen, & North Face. To speak to The Urbanite, point out function – and don’t ignore fit. After all, The Urbanite’s gotta look good.

4. The Leisurist

The Leisurist is the gardener, the backyard bbq’er, the weekend bike rider, the once-a-week yoga’er. In other words, The Leisurist is immersed in the outdoors, but not in a way that requires peak-level performance – literally like performance for climbing the peaks.

The Leisurist is 20% of the population and 12% of outdoor industry spending – again, according to OIA.

If you can appeal to practicality, you’ll have The Leisurist. They appreciate brands like L.L. Bean, Coleman, Teva, & Deuter. Look for an emphasis on comfort and forget everything technical you know about anything. They don’t care that much.

Why Customer Segmentation is Key

We talk so much about our “target customer” and try to fit them neatly into a single persona. By doing so, however, we’re ignoring potential customers and leaving products and services on the proverbial shelf. Break your entire customer base down not only by demographics but by psychographics as well. It may even help to create profiles similar to those I outlined above for the outdoor retail industry.

No matter what market you’re a part of, you’re a part of a buyer-driven market, and they have the power. Be sure to understand who your customer segments are, and define each one – not only with your marketing efforts but with your product/service offerings.

Knowing more about your customers’ interests and hobbies will help you know what prize to choose for your next contest, what content to write, and what images to use in your next ad. Before you know it, you’ll have embraced a whole new customer base you didn’t even realize existed.