Consumer profiling

Knowing who your existing and future customers are helps drive company direction and unlock new sources of growth.

Introduction to consumer profiling

Consumer profiling is when you create a data-led profile of your organization’s ideal customers. The profile will present details about certain demographics, customers’ likes, dislikes, plus their purchasing habits.

What is consumer profiling?

Do you know who your customers are? Like, really know them?

Do you know where they shop, what they think and how they feel? And do you know the nuances between how different customer segments fit into categories like these? 

No? 

Guess what—consumer profiling is what you need! 

Consumer profiling is often the first step brands need to take in their research journeys to help understand their ideal customer profile (ICP). 

Learning about how your customers think, act and buy is crucial, not only to create things like an actual customer profile or persona, but it’s also the natural first step before carrying out other types of research. 

For example, you might want to run some new product development research. But who are you going to send your research to? To make sure you get the most valuable insights, you need to ask the right group of people the right set of questions. To find out who the right people are, you’ll probably need to run some consumer profiling research. 

Here’s our lowdown of the four essential types of consumer profiling that you should know about.

What’s the difference between consumer profiling and customer profiling?

Consumer and customer are used fairly interchangeably to refer to the broader topic of consumer profiling. 

In some cases, customer profiling refers more specifically to profiling research into a brand’s actual current or potential customers. While consumer profiling can refer more broadly to profiling research into a wider range of consumers (who you may not currently consider to be potential customers). 

And what about customer segmentation?

Customer segmentation is the process of grouping current and potential customers based on things like attitudes, behaviors or demographics. 

You might carry out customer segmentation before you create your actual customer profile. Segmentation helps you look at the potentially massive group of consumers you’re thinking about and see more easily digestible groups to analyze.

Is a customer profile the same as a persona?

Not quite.

Customer profiles usually focus on what defines an ideal customer for your brand. They pinpoint the characteristics your business should plan to target.

Personas—you’ll often hear these referred to as buyer personas—add more personalization to the profiles. For personas brands often create fictionalized characters that represent specific aspects of the customer profile, and they can get super specific and creative. It’s even common for brands to give their buyer personas names, to really help teams visualize and understand who they’re creating for.

Pro tip 💡

“You could end up with several buyer personas that encapsulate different aspects of your ideal customer profile (ICP).”
Alexandra Aquino
Customer Research Principal

Here’s an example of an ICP and buyer personas for a fitness food brand…

What types of consumer profiling are there?

There are a few ways to approach customer profiling. Here are some of the main types:

1. Demographic profiling

This is what a lot of people imagine when they think about consumer profiling. It’s where you’ll find some of the standard profiling categories, like age, gender, income, marital status, education level and so on.

The great thing is that there’s so much more you can overlay on top of this to deepen your understanding. After all, you don’t act or think in the same way as everyone who shares your birthday, for example.

2. Geographic profiling

This is another pretty straightforward type of customer profiling. Gaining an understanding of your customers’ location, right down to detailed city and town analysis, can help you target different regional groups effectively.

3. Psychographic profiling

When painting a picture of your target audience, psychographic profiling helps to understand things like their habits, hobbies, interests and life goals.

Psychographic profiling can be super helpful for finding out the types of content and communication that resonate with your audience, or how attractive your offering would be to them.

4. Behavioural profiling

Understanding your customers’ behaviour throughout their buyer journeys is crucial to giving them what they really need. You can analyse things like purchasing and engagement patterns.

It’s particularly useful for informing you about customers’ likelihood to churn, or even to spend more on your product or service.