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Target group analysis: How to avoid target group conflicts on your website

Conducting a target group analysis lets you define who your websites and campaigns should be aimed at.
Image: ©hakinmhan / Adobe Stock

Can you get by without doing a target group analysis?

The short answer is no. Without a target group analysis, you run the risk of your website failing to reach your potential customers or your ads being displayed to the wrong audience. The result will be high levels of wasted coverage for your ads and costs per click, as well as high bounce rates for your website. Potential customers won’t get to see your advertising and your marketing measures will fail to hit the mark.

It’s essential that your marketing reaches the appropriate people for your product or service. To accomplish this, you have to be familiar with their needs, lifestyle, and buying behavior, and you need to know how to trigger certain emotions in them. This is where a target group analysis comes in – and you can conduct one in just three steps.

Step 1 of the target group analysis: Determine the target group

Start by deciding whether your marketing is aimed at companies (B2B) or consumers (B2C). If you want to reach consumers, you can use the following attribute template to classify them:

  • Demographics: Define general characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, place of residence, and household size.
  • Socioeconomics: Research the level of education, income, and scope of your target group, as well as their profession.
  • Psychographics: Motivation, opinions, wishes, values, hobbies, lifestyle, and daily routine are important factors when defining your target group.
  • Buying behavior: How does your target group make purchases? What are its characteristics in terms of price sensitivity, satisfaction, purchasing scope, media usage?

If your target group focuses on companies, use this template to assign attributes:

  • Organizational: Determine the company’s size, location, industry, and market share.
  • Economic: Research their fixed and current assets and the use of financial resources.
  • Buying behavior: Try to establish when the company makes purchases and whether it has a regular supplier base.
  • Modernity: What do you know about the company’s attitude to innovation and the level of its digital transformation?

Once you've assigned these attributes and established a specific type, define it using the following characteristics: goals, needs, priorities, and problems.

Your marketing will only be successful if you can offer your target group added value. Your campaign will only deliver results if your target group has a reason to buy your products or book your service. It’s important that you make your target group feel that it’s in the right place, and to achieve that, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Whose problem/problems can I solve?
  • Whose needs can I meet?
  • Who can I make happier, better, richer, stronger, healthier, or more satisfied?
  • Who else do I offer added value to?

Once you’ve assigned all the attributes and answered all questions, you can create a target group that is as homogeneous as possible. If your target group research identified several potential customer groups, aim your strategies at the group that you believe is most likely to complete a purchase or make a booking.

Step 2 of the target group analysis: Analyze buying behavior

Once you’ve defined your target group for your marketing, you should then analyze this target group and their buying behavior in more detail. This is an important step so you can

  • identify the right pricing and price models (subscription, scale of prices, etc.),
  • find the right way to address them,
  • design the right media strategy,
  • select the right marketing strategy, and
  • use the right marketing and sales channels.

Think about the needs of your customer group. How can you positively influence their decision to make a purchase? Use the answers to both these questions to shape the design of your website and how you address your potential customers. To put it another way: you wouldn’t sell a Mercedes in the same way as a Dacia.

To determine the right pricing and price models, your target group analysis needs to determine the household income of your target group, how often they make purchases, and the prices that they are prepared to pay. Another important question is: When does your target group make purchases? Once you have that information, you can set prices or run campaigns based on timing.

Step 3 of the target group analysis: Generate even more data

You’ve found your target group and analyzed their buying behavior. But how can you actually reach them? Ask yourself where the people in your target group are active online, what appeals to them, do they still read things or do they now simply scan though content. Find out which social networks they use, whether they like reading text, and what kind of images they enjoy. Which channels do they use to make purchases and what advertising/marketing strategies appeal to them?

There’s no shortage of information for your target group analysis: you can use surveys, interviews, and statistics, and plenty of research on this topic is available online. But as already discussed, the most important sources are definitely surveys that you conduct yourself. Ask your customers and targets – and listen to their answers! Evaluate their responses to newsletter and social media campaigns, use that information to keep refining your target group, and make sure that your information is always up to date.

How can you avoid target group conflicts on your website?

If you want to use your website to reach companies and customers at the same time, that can definitely cause uncertainty about which strategies are the right ones. Should you keep these two target groups separate? And if so, how? And how can you avoid target group conflicts between B2B and B2C.

We asked three experts questions on these topics, and they gave us detailed answers: Jasmin Fayad, Senior UX Design at ui/deation, Alexander Ginter, Strategic Design Lead at ui/deation, and Paul Zentner, Head of DCX Consulting at digital agency schoene neue kinder GmbH.

Conducting a target group analysis will help you avoid target group conflicts.
Jasmin Fayad, Senior UX Design at ui/deation, Alexander Ginter, Strategic Design Lead at ui/deation, and Paul Zentner, Head of DCX Consulting at digital agency schoene neue kinder GmbH.

Many companies need to address both a B2B and B2C target group at the same time. How can they successfully reconcile both on one central website? Are there best practices for this?

Paul Zentne: Yes, there are. If a company wants to address both target groups using the same touchpoint, we recommend designing the channel primarily for B2C users and then addressing B2B users in a separate, clearly defined area. B2C users tend to be more volatile and less interested in long-term relationships, while B2B customers and partners prefer to take their time navigating content that is relevant for them.

In practice, that means posting content and teasers – both horizontally in the navigation system and vertically on the pages – aimed primarily at B2C and then subsequently at B2B users. This approach means that end users are automatically addressed and don’t need to seek out the content that is relevant to them. B2B users will habitually look for various navigation points, labels, and elements, which trigger them to act – for example, “For business customers”, “Products for professionals”, or “B2B solutions”. The homepage in particular also serves as a guide that quickly signposts B2B users to the content that is relevant to them.

Jasmin Fayad and Alexander Ginter: The company’s website is the central landing area for visitors. Making sure that it meets the needs of all B2B and B2C target groups can mean that the amount of work involved varies greatly. Depending on the size of a brand, company, or institution and the portfolio of products and/or services they offer, the needs of B2B and B2C target groups could be very similar – or they could also be completely different.

To give an example, the B2B and B2C target groups for automotive brands are ultimately all interested in mobility services/products, so they are fundamentally comparable. That means that there isn’t a huge gap between B2B and B2C. It’s a completely different situation for diversified conglomerates, on the other hand; the gap in content between refrigerators for the B2C market and offshore wind farms for the B2B market is insurmountable, so it makes sense that there is a significantly wider gap between the different content and thus also between the target groups.

Reconciling the various target groups on the same website therefore means finding solutions that are tailored for various degrees of separation between specific content, from minor to major.

The following tools can help with this:

1. Information architecture:

Search filters and tags can help to unobtrusively separate out target group-specific content. Creating separate page trees, separate navigation elements, landing pages, and private areas can guide different target groups in different directions. Having a separate website for each target group will create the maximum separation between them.

2. Controlling traffic:

The best practice – and what we would recommend – would be to identify the touchpoints for the respective target groups; in other words, the places where they intersect with the brand. We often find that B2C target groups actively aim for the information they want and use a search engine to find the company website. Customized landing pages are a good way of reaching these target groups.

In contrast, it’s often the case for B2B that either the sales department aims straight for the target group and delivers targeted content, or the target group requests specific content from the sales department. It’s worth checking here which of the areas on a website are particularly relevant for B2B (e.g. detailed pages sent by the sales department to provide further information as a deep link) and then optimizing them to reach the B2B target group.

How can companies avoid target group conflicts in terms of tone if they want to address one of the target groups formally and another one informally?

Paul Zentner: If companies want to make a distinction between how they address different groups, they can do that by clearly separating the areas for B2C and B2B. They should then avoid mixing content, e.g. with teaser elements on a page. Generally speaking, we don’t recommend using different tones to address two user groups on the same channel, as this can confuse customers as well as content creators/editors/teams. A brand should be consistent in how it presents itself.

Jasmin Fayad and Alexander Ginter: This issue is becoming increasingly common, since here in Germany we are seeing a general social shift from formal to informal, although more conservative industries are still firmly on the side of formal.

But even people who are open to change can stumble across pitfalls. Companies that use both informal and formal tones seem to find it difficult to implement a uniform strategy and rules on how to address people. In 2018, Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences examined how DAX companies address the different target groups in recruiting processes, from students through to experienced professionals. What they found was chaotic situations and uncontrolled confusion between formal and informal.

So, what’s the best way to handle the situation? Two projects have demonstrated that, in general, the formal tone is used for the main products, websites, and apps, while chatbots are allowed to use the informal tone. Despite initial reservations from the customer side, this was also very well received by users. We specifically focused on the topic of addressing people in advance of our research, during user surveys and prototype tests.

We therefore now recommend seeing this topic as an opportunity. This will allow companies that want to switch from a conservative to a more modern corporate culture to make a specific contribution to addressing new target groups.

Authenticity is key here; if you choose an informal form of address, it needs to be credible from the target group's perspective.

Are there ways of designing a website to allow different forms of address for different target groups; if so, what are they?

Paul Zentner: There are both obvious and subtle ways of doing this. An easy way is to use color coding for specific user groups, such as for calls to action or navigation elements. Another option is discreet signals such as visuals. Photos and graphics used for B2C purposes tend to be more emotional and joyous, while images for B2B focus more on specific product benefits or values such as partnership, trust, and professionalism.

Jasmin Fayad and Alexander Ginter: If the aforementioned options for creating separate website areas (e.g. landing pages) for different target groups are used, these areas can be designed to focus on individual target groups as much as possible. And the full range of options is available here, from color, imagery, and typography to graphics, language style, and much more.

Be aware that website areas like the homepage still need to be suitable for all target groups, so their design requirements are more stringent. If you want all details to be a good fit for all target groups, then you should choose a neutral design – although this often means that none of the target groups feel genuinely engaged. A better alternative is to make clear decisions on which content elements are intended to convert a specific target group, and then to create a sensitive design for the homepage with elements that are customized for the main target groups. Make sure that this doesn’t end up as a chaotic design by commissioning experienced designers to create these heterogeneous pages.

When should companies have multiple websites for their different target groups, and when is it better to focus on having one cohesive website? What are the pros and cons here?

Paul Zentner: Unfortunately, it’s difficult to give a simple answer to that question; instead, let’s explore a couple of points for both scenarios. The main argument in favor of separate websites is that this approach creates clarity with regard to how it addresses customers and in the user experience. B2C and B2B users usually have markedly different expectations and requirements, so a digital marketing and sales channel that focuses on those is generally more effective.

A joint website for both target groups is an option if the products and services are largely similar. Only presenting the portfolio once avoids the risk of duplicating content, plus operating just one website tends to involve much less work. As always, we recommend putting yourself in the users’ shoes. A user research phase involving interviews, user tests, etc. takes relatively little effort and will establish which option is best for your company.

Jasmin Fayad and Alexander Ginter: The underlying question is really how companies can channel their energy so that the main target groups feel engaged.

If companies want to answer that question, they need to consider and evaluate a range of aspects. For example, how diverse the target groups are, how comprehensive their own content and range of products/services are, and what resources are available for website maintenance. Websites tend to grow over time as companies add information on an ongoing basis but find it hard to delete existing content. It only takes a few seconds for visitors to the website to decide if the page they’ve accessed is useful to them and whether they want to stay or move on – in the worst case, to a competitor.

We therefore advise you to scrutinize your website regularly to make sure that it’s fit for purpose. One example of this is the redesign of the website for a German Federal Office. We were approached because user surveys had indicated that the office’s website had become confusing and overloaded. The challenge for this office was that the audience it needed to address among German citizens covered a diverse range of target groups. However, our initial redesign of the website to focus on specific target groups failed to deliver the desired result. Further investigations revealed that office staff also use the website frequently, which meant that we had an additional target group that had never been explicitly identified before.

Following this discovery, the question was whether it would actually make more sense for the office staff to have their own area of the website with the interfaces they needed. This would involve something completely different to a well-structured, organized website and the office didn’t have the resources to create – and above all to maintain – an additional website area. That meant setting some strict priorities. While office staff would continue to use the website for their in-house operations, making the website accessible for the relevant target groups would take priority in terms of website design.

Splitting one website into several makes particular sense if the needs of the target groups for a brand or company are too divergent.

Offering relevant content and using the appropriate form of address are key elements for a positive brand experience and user experience, so brands should be careful not to make too many compromises here. On the other hand, we would dispute that a website or a group of websites must always be homogeneous; if the goal is to use various strategies to address a range of target groups, then aiming for homogeneity is counterproductive. Instead, we would use coherence as a benchmark for quality; in other words, creating links that are as meaningful and interesting as possible

This sums up what we see as the pros and cons of one central website versus several different ones:

One central website

  • The company’s in-house processes, approvals, and technologies are homogeneous, which makes them more stable and consistent. The marketing and sales departments only have to coordinate, maintain, and communicate this one website.
  • The target groups have one landing area, so there is no danger of them ending up on the “wrong” website.
  • The more complex a website becomes, the more probability there is of structural deficiencies. This could result in something like access rights – i.e. systems for roles and permissions – becoming too extensive, or data models becoming confusing and unclear.
  • Once you reach a certain scope, it becomes harder to design a streamlined and targeted user guidance system, which increases the risk of a higher bounce rate.

Several different websites

  • The websites are less dependent on the company’s in-house processes, approvals, and technologies, which increases the potential for agility and speed.
  • There is more freedom for customized solutions with respect to brand experience and user experience, which is particularly useful when dealing with highly diverse target groups.
  • There are additional options in terms of tracking and targeting.
  • Independent websites involve more work on content management and technical administration.
  • More freedom could create more opportunities for unwanted deviations to creep in.

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