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What is psychographic segmentation?

Psychographic segmentation is the research methodology used for studying consumers and dividing them into groups using psychological characteristics including personality, lifestyle, social status, activities, interests, opinions and attitudes.

Psychographic segmentation’s emphasis on characteristics such as personality and values differs from demographic segmentation, which uses a specific trait (such as gender, age, income, etc.) to categorise potential audiences. 

Market researchers use psychographic characteristics to help develop and position their products and marketing messages for different target groups.

Marketers use both demographics and psychographics in their market research to create their marketing strategy. This information adds detail to buyer personas that guide brand positioning, product development and marketing messaging.

Psychographic marketing enables you to engage with multiple target audiences in the ways that will make the biggest impact for each one. This approach saves time and money on approaches that might fall flat and makes it easier to relate to the groups you care about.

You can use psychographics for market segmentation to understand:

  • How consumers really perceive your products and services
  • What consumers really want, and why
  • Gaps or pain points with your current products or services
  • Opportunities for future engagement 
  • How to better communicate with your target audience

Gain insights about people you’re trying to serve and how to reach them.

One type of psychographic segmentation involves buyer personas. A buyer persona is a fictional profile of a potential customer that might include their title or role at work, their personal preferences, their challenges or aspects of their lifestyle. 

The buyer persona represents both the facts and reasons for behaviours. Buyer personas are a first step in understanding your potential customer’s journey or the steps they take before, during and after they purchase your product.

You can also use psychographic research to develop different marketing strategies, services, experiences and even product offerings for each of your segments. 

For instance, it is common to offer the same product or service with fewer features to price-conscious customers. Customers who don’t care about price but like more features can buy the same product, with more features, at a higher price.

You might find that some of your customers value convenience while others care about customer support. If you divide these into segments, you can adjust your marketing and services to cater to those motivations.

Surveys are a cost-effective and efficient way to collect psychographic information about your target audience. A variety of questions are used to help understand your ideal customer’s personality, lifestyle, social status, activities, interests, opinions and attitudes.

Open-ended questions use a qualitative approach. “What is your biggest challenge with…” will provide a deeper understanding of the respondent's problems.

Likert scale questions show how much they agree or disagree with a statement, such as “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”, to let you know how important it is to them.

Semantic differential scale questions ask people to rate a product, brand, company or other attribute, helping you understand their attitude.

For effective market research, you need to understand the five types of psychographic segmentation variables.

Personality. People make buying decisions based on personality all the time. Personality covers a broad spectrum of characteristics, from being open and conscientious to being an extrovert or introvert.

Attitudes. Cultural background, family of origin and other factors will influence a buyer’s attitudes.

Lifestyle. Marketers search for feedback from people to better understand problems they encounter in their life. Athletes, business professionals, students, racing car drivers and football mums all have different lifestyles and unique challenges to solve.

Social Status.  A person's social status, often associated with their income, will influence whether they buy basic items, luxury goods or anything in between. Understanding the social status of your customers will influence your pricing, messaging, distribution channels and marketing mix.

Activities, Interests and Opinions (AIO). What do your customers like to do in their free time? Are they political, a film binge-watcher or a night owl? Their AIO will influence how you position your products and attract their interest.

When combined, these variables create unique psychographic segments that make up specific target audiences. We’ll break down each of these characteristics in the following sections.


Develop your target audience’s psychographic profile with SurveyMonkey’s Audience panel.

There are many ways to describe a personality, but one of the easiest to remember and most commonly used is OCEAN.

OCEAN describes five aspects of a personality. Each aspect has a range from high to low that describes that trait. Psychographic segmentation marketing studies these aspects to understand how they influence a buyer’s behaviour.

Openness. People who are very open to new ideas like to explore and be creative. People who are less open resist change or new ideas and are less imaginative.

Conscientiousness. Also known as mindfulness, people who rank high in this category like to plan ahead and take other people into consideration. People who are less conscientious don’t like structure or schedules and are less considerate of others.

Extroversion. People who are extroverts are outgoing, like to be the centre of attention and enjoy interacting with others. Introverts like solitude, talk less and stay in the background.

Agreeableness. Cooperation and kindness are traits of someone who is highly agreeable. People who are distrustful or have little interest in other people have a low degree of agreeableness. 

Neuroticism/Emotional Stability. This trait refers to how emotionally stable a person is. A person with a high degree of neuroticism will be moody, anxious or irritable. On the other end of the scale is someone who is more stable, relaxed and has less stress.

Marketers use surveys, the OCEAN Five Factor personality test and other methods to understand their target audience’s personality characteristics. 

Companies use consumer personality traits to design product messaging for their target audience.

Even if two people have the same personality, they often have different attitudes towards life. Consumers will behave differently based on their attitudes. Attitudes may include aspects such as optimism or pessimism, or they may be tied to a specific belief or value the people have. 

To assess attitudes, you can include questions about consumers’ beliefs and attitudes or use Likert scale questions to ask people to rate characteristics on a graded scale from “not at all important” to “extremely important”.  

More complex research will reveal deeper subconscious motivations. However, even a single survey administered to your target audience will produce actionable insights that can be quickly implemented.