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Segmenting the online consumer market

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Purpose ‐ The internet has become mainstream in everyday communications and transactions. This research aims to provide a segmentation analysis for the online market based on the various uses of the internet. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A review of the online consumer segmentation literature is first conducted. Survey method and cluster analysis techniques are used in the empirical study. A sample of 407 participants that belonged to a large consumer panel adequately responded to an online survey and provided their pattern of internet use, internet experience, and psychological characteristics. Findings ‐ The analysis shows that the online consumers form three global segments: the basic communicators (consumers that use the internet mainly to communicate via e-mail), the lurking shoppers (consumers that employ the internet to navigate and to heavily shop), and the social thrivers (consumers that exploit more the internet interactive features to socially interact by means of chatting, blogging, video streaming, and downloading). Subsequent ? 2 and ANOVA tests illustrate that consumers from these segments exhibit significantly divergent demographic and experience profiles. Research limitations/implications ‐ The results indicate that online consumers differ according to their pattern of internet use. The results have external and ecological validity; however, they lack the control provided in a laboratory experiment. Future research should examine if the findings can be replicated using behavioral measures. Practical implications ‐ Practitioners that plan to follow a resource-based approach should consider the distinctive characteristics of the online market segments for an optimal allocation of marketing expenditure. Marketing and advertising strategies can be developed according to the customer's online segment. Further, online marketers can use the demographic and experience profiles to predict their customer's segment. Originality/value ‐ This paper is the first to perform a segmentation analysis to the online consumer market according to internet use pattern. The results show that usage can reliably be used as a segmentation base. Managerial and theoretical implications are furnished.
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Keywords: Consumer behaviour; Electronic commerce; Internet; Internet use; Internet use pattern; Market segmentation; Online access; Online consumer profiles; Online consumer segmentation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-06-21

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