Choosing a set of primary audiences
Learn the most important criteria for choosing your business’s primary audiences, a core concept that will anchor your rooted personalization approach.
Now that you understand the basics of a rooted personalization approach, it’s time to dig into the core concept you’ll need to put this approach into action: primary audiences.
Primary audiences are core audience segments that should inform your rooted personalization strategy and reflect your main consumer groups. Primary Audiences will simplify your rooted personalization program without sacrificing effectiveness, making them an easy way to scale your efforts.
In this article, we will:
- Review the inclusion criteria for primary audiences
- Review the steps you should take to identify your primary audiences
- Share examples of commonly used primary audience types
What are the criteria for primary audiences?
If you have a CRM or some other way of tracking and grouping your customer data, then you’ve most likely realized you can build quite a large number of distinct audience groups with this information.
While these groups are no doubt useful for certain short-term personalization efforts—for example, a limited-time offer you’d want to promote to returning customers on Black Friday—when it comes to primary audiences, there are certain evergreen criteria that define core segments of your visitors.
Once chosen, your primary audiences won’t change frequently, even if your business does. So, it’s important to be thoughtful and take your time when identifying these core groups.
Primary audiences have two pieces of criteria:
1. There can only be 3-4 primary audience segments in total, and they cannot overlap with each other.
Why? Limiting the number of primary audiences to 3-4 ensures scalable, repeatable segmentation, which is crucial to building and institutionalizing learnings for the long term.
Therefore, it’s also important that your site visitors qualify for only one primary audience segment at a time, which is why these segments need to be mutually exclusive (zero overlap). When put together, they should account for 100% of your site traffic.
If it sounds like it might be difficult to narrow in on these mutually exclusive groups, know that it gets easier when you consider the second piece of criteria:
2. Primary audience groups are defined by a single segmentation principle (an attribute or concept).
This segmentation principle is up to you, and we’ll walk through tips for choosing it in the next section. But it should cleanly break down into 3-4 groups and cover all site traffic. For example, a common segmentation principle for primary audiences is the attribute of intent. A business’s primary audience groups, if defined by intent, might look like: High Intent, Medium Intent, and Low Intent.
This would be the only segmentation principle relevant to the primary audiences. You wouldn’t, for example, further segment by intent and loyalty, or by intent and mobile app visitors.
Why? Adding in another segmentation principle would further fracture your audience groups, and you would quickly expand beyond 3-4 without guaranteeing exclusivity. Adherence to a single segmentation principle creates both consistency and clarity in your primary audiences. It ensures exclusivity across 100% of your site traffic (criteria #1) and always gives your personalization program a baseline to return to.
Putting the concept into practice: choosing your primary audiences
Now, it’s your turn. Let’s walk through this process together and brainstorm your business’s primary audience groups.
First, ask yourself: what is your business’s primary site KPI? Is it number of conversions? New accounts opened? Average order value? Chats with an agent? Applications to a credit card? Loyalty or membership program sign-ups?
Your KPI will vary depending on your industry and particular business goals, so take some time to think this through.
Next, dig into some data. Find out which users have already completed the main KPI event. What can you observe about the behavior of these users? For example, did most of them come from a single traffic source? How many times did they visit your page, and which pages were viewed? Do they have accounts? Have they achieved particular milestones?
As you look at the behavior history for this group of users, keep your main KPI in mind. What type of behavior is the most common with this group, which may make it an indicator that the KPI is likely to occur? For example, if your main KPI is conversions, you may find that the behavior number of page views is a solid indicator of a customer’s likelihood to convert.
After analyzing the data, select the user behavior that is the most likely indicator of achieving your KPI.
Now, use your chosen behavior to build 3-4 primary audience groups defined by a single segmentation principle.
This step is where general advice becomes less practical than an example, as the logic here will depend heavily on your particular business. So, let’s continue the example from above. Say that this is your business:
- Your main KPI is number of conversions
- You determine that the main behavior leading to conversion is page views
- So, it’s reasonable to say that page views indicates a visitor’s intent to convert
- Therefore, intent is your segmentation principle for your primary audience groups, and we’ll use page views to break down traffic into 3-4 main intent-based segments.
Helpful tip: don’t forget to consult other people during this brainstorming process. Finding the right primary audiences isn’t always a straightforward path, but we promise the business insights are well worth it in the end.
Once you know your segmentation principle and what behavior you’ll use to break down your groups, you can start actively building your audiences in your personalization tool.
We recommend starting with the smallest group first and working your way through the rest of the site traffic from there. In this example, perhaps the first primary audience group is “high intent,” and it is defined by “visitors who view page X, Y, or Z at least 3 times within a 30 day period.”
Once you’ve done the segmenting, review approximately how much of your site traffic falls into this primary audience group. While not all primary audience groups will be the same size, remember that you only have 3-4 groups to cover all of your traffic—so a good rule of thumb is that no segment should be less than 10%. Try to avoid any segments with less than that, as they likely won’t have enough traffic for useful insights.
It’s okay if your primary audiences aren’t perfect on the first try. Remember, there is no single “correct” answer, and you can refine your segments as you gain more business insights.
Some common examples of primary audience types
Working with many different businesses across industries, we’ve noticed some trends in primary audience types. Here are some common examples for your inspiration:
- Intent — common segments include Low, Medium, and High Intent
- Stage of Funnel — common segments include Browser, Researcher, Decider
- Customer Type — segmented by pre-determined profiles such as Trend, Budget, Luxe
- Level of Knowledge — common segments include Beginner, Enthusiast, Professional
- Affinity Audiences* — segmented based on site engagement
*Affinity is a calculation about what a visitor is interested in based on real-time and historical site browsing data. Find out more about Dynamic Yield’s approach to affinity, or if you’re a user already, read about how to build affinity-based audiences.
While intent is the most common segmentation principle for primary audiences, there is no single correct answer for any business or industry. Trust your customer insights and unique business point of view to find the primary audiences that work best for you.