A segmentation of technology shoppers

Marketers targeting technology shoppers can segment them based on age, gender, spending power and reasons for buying. The largest group of technology buyers look for technical specification and ease of use, making up more than 9 million people. 

A product’s performance and ease of use are the most important considerations for people shopping for electronic goods, new research shows.

The study by Kantar Media, seen exclusively by Marketing Week, segments UK technology shoppers according to seven different profiles, ranging from ‘prudent purchasers’ to ‘spontaneous spenders’. The population is split quite evenly between the profiles although ‘functionality focused’ is the largest group with 18 per cent or 9.3 million people.

The segments are drawn from Kantar’s TGI research panel. This surveys more than 25,000 British adults a year and incorporates demographic data, spending habits, leisure activities and attitudes. Kantar incorporated insights about buying consumer electronics in order to create the segmentation, although 17 per cent of the sample did not fit in to any profile and are hence unclassified.

Anne Benoist, director of Kantar Media TGI, says each profile has defining characteristics such as age, gender, spending power and reasons for purchasing. She believes these features could support technology brands and retailers as they strive to target shoppers more effectively.

“Consumer electronics is such a big market and is so competitive that we felt it would be interesting to split consumers according to different behaviours,” she says. “All [the segments] make sense in their own terms.”

Function-focused consumers

The functionality-focused segment is evenly split between men and women but has a greater weighting towards the 45-54 age group than the survey base. Consumers in this segment are more than twice as likely to select ‘technical specification’ and ‘ease of use’ as important factors when buying an electrical item.

These shoppers are also 26 per cent more likely than the base to score highly for cultural and economic capital. This means that people in this segment score higher than average on cultural interests and spending power, according to the TGI survey data.

“You can’t pull the wool over the eyes of these people with flashy advertising,” says Benoist. “This group isn’t shy about buying electronics equipment, but it’s important that the quality and benefits of products are made clear.”

People who shop spontaneously

By contrast, the research finds that 11 per cent of the British population are spontaneous spenders, meaning they are swayed by promotions, advertising and the availability of items. This segment has a higher proportion of women (57 per cent) than the survey base and the group is heavily weighted towards younger people with twice as many (31 per cent) in the 15-24 age bracket.

Spontaneous spenders are 77 per cent more likely to select availability as an important factor in their purchasing decisions and 28 per cent more likely to choose advertising. The segment is low on both economic and cultural capital although economic factors have a greater impact on how these shoppers spend their money.

Maplin’s Maplineers are trained to offer expert advice in stores, online and through telephone centres

“This is a key group for marketers to understand because they can offer quick wins if brands reach them effectively,” says Benoist. “[Marketers] just need to be conscious of their financial situation at the same time.”

Breffni Walsh, marketing director at Maplin Electronics, agrees that detailed shopper segmentation is a valuable tool for brands in the consumer electronics market. The retailer combines studies by third-party research groups with its own customer insights to further refine the categories.

“As a technology and electronics specialist, we’ve got to cater for the whole spectrum – from the bargain hunters to the high-spending tech enthusiasts,” she says.

Direct communications

Walsh confirms that a high proportion of consumers are concerned with the functionality of products – partly as a consequence of the economic recession and their desire to spend money as wisely as possible. Maplin invests heavily in one-to-one communication channels in order to support consumers seeking guidance and advice.

This includes direct mail and email sent to a database of more than 10 million customers, and social media channels such as Twitter. Maplin also encourages deeper engagement with customers by training its staff – or ‘Maplineers’ – to provide expert advice in store, online or via its telephone contact centre.

“The most technology-savvy customers are less interested in old-fashioned broadcast [communication channels] and more interested in a deeper relationship with brands that they want to trust,” says Walsh.

However, despite the rapid growth of new technology, a large proportion of the population has a limited interest in consumer electronics. According to the Kantar segmentation, 11 per cent of the population are prudent purchasers, meaning those who spend little on technology and buy products rarely.

The demographic bias in this group is female (63 per cent) and elderly, with people aged 65-plus accounting for 32 per cent of the group versus 21 per cent at the base level. This age group also accounts for 30 per cent of shoppers in the ‘accustomed acquirers’ segment, meaning people who are more likely to place a premium on a brand they trust when buying electronics items.

Older tech enthusiasts

Martin Lock, founder of Silversurfers.com, a lifestyle portal for people over 50, agrees that technology adoption among the over-65s is comparatively low but believes the trend is changing. The site, which launched at the end of last year, provides editorial content across a range of topics and access to an online community for older people. This includes a strong presence on Facebook, where Silversurfers.com already has more than 100,000 likes.

Lock believes that online activity, combined with the functionality of electronics products, is encouraging more people over 65 to explore new gadgets. He notes that many people of retirement age have the time and money to research purchases thoroughly.

“Our feedback shows that not only are people in their 50s using tablets, but many are buying their parents – who might be in their 70s and 80s – tablets as well because they find them far easier to use than a keyboard,” he says.

“There’s also a social aspect to this, given that there are now 6 million people aged over 50 [in the UK] on Facebook. When they find a technology product that works for them, they tell their friends about it. They’re probably more amazed by it than younger people.”


Kantar Media has created a new shopper segmentation based on the purchasing behaviour, attitudes, income and demographics of a sample from its TGI study, which surveys more than 25,000 British adults a year. The data is taken from the fourth quarter of 2013.

Marketers’ response


Breffni Walsh
Marketing director
Maplin Electronics

There are many different breakdowns of consumers in this space. This TGI study is a helpful start, but we always overlay research with our own knowledge of our customers. We have a database of over 10 million so we have a really strong understanding of our customers’ behaviour and can place them into further categories.

Our customer base will have, at one extreme, the incredibly passionate techies who build their own computers from scratch or who love things like the 3D printer, which we brought onto the high street for the first time last summer. At the other end, there are people who just need a booster for the Wi-Fi signal in their house. As a retailer, we have to ensure we cater for everyone.


Martin Lock
Founder and chief executive

Among the over-50s, there are almost two segments when it comes to technology: a 50-65 age group and an over-65 group, although the lines are obviously blurred. People in their 50s and early 60s are into technology in a huge way. They’re online, they’re buying online and they use technology a great deal in their professional lives.

Within the over-50 group you also have people at the height of their earning power if they are still working. As they get into their 60s, 70s and 80s, many people are both time and cash rich. That means they are often spending an awful lot of time on the internet, doing anything from shopping to lots of research, including for technology products.



When to believe the hype

Lucy Tesseras

Brands are starting to use the ‘hype cycle’ as a shortcut for expressing where new technologies are in their lifecycle and basing business decisions on what they find. How can marketers use this framework to help develop new products and services?