January 23, 2007, 12:00 AM

Consumers’ time-planning style a factor in segmentation, study says

Pleasure-seeking shoppers respond to entertainment options while utilitarian shoppers go straight for the buy. How web users use personal time is one more segmentation tool, says a report from University of Missouri-Columbia College of Business.

Though two consumers may go online to shop for the same item, what constitutes the ideal online experience will differ depending on how each personally values time. So concludes a new study that asserts that time management style is a key dimension for marketers to factor into segmenting online audiences.

“Time planning style is an important construct for marketers to consider since it impacts the specific benefits sought from web usage,” asserts the study, “Pleasure or Utility? Time planning style and web usage behaviors,” from researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Business, the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario, and Quinnipiac University, published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing.

In terms of time management, researchers categorized web users as “hedonistic,” or those who use the Internet for pleasure or leisurely purposes, and “utilitarian,” or those who go online for specific reasons or tasks. The study found both groups go online to shop and argues that because their motivations differ, so should the web experience served up by retailers out to capture either type of shopper.

Web marketers catering to customers who are utilitarian shoppers should be less concerned with bells and whistles and offer a more means-end driven interface. By contrast, a spontaneous time planner might respond to online experiences offering sounds, entertaining hyperlinks and ways to share the site experience with others.

And time-planning style isn’t the only lesser-examined individual attribute that could be of value to online marketers in segmenting the web audience, suggests the study report. “Further work that identifies other relevant individual-different variables and clarifies their links to the benefits sought from web use and actual web behavior should provide an ever better basis for marketer to customize web site content and behavior,” it says.


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