The Customer Segments Building Block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve. Customers comprise the heart of any business model. Without (profitable) customers, no company can survive for long. In order to better satisfy customers, a company may group them into distinct segments with common needs, common behaviors, or other attributes. A business model may define one or several large or small Customer Segments. An organization must make a conscious decision about which segments to serve and which segments to ignore. Once this decision is made, a business model can be carefully designed around a strong understanding of specific customer needs.
Customer groups represent separate segments if:
• Their needs require and justify a distinct offer
• They are reached through different Distribution Channels
• They require different types of relationships
• They have substantially different profit-abilities
• They are willing to pay for different aspects of the offer
For whom are we creating value?
Who are our most important customers?
There are different types of Customer Segments.
Here are some examples:
Business models focused on mass markets don’t distinguish between different Customer Segments.
The Value Propositions, Distribution Channels, and Customer Relationships all focus on one large group of customers with broadly similar needs and problems. This type of business model is often found in the consumer electronics sector.
Business models targeting niche markets cater to specific, specialized Customer Segments. The Value Propositions, Distribution Channels, and Customer Relationships are all tailored to the specific requirements of a niche market. Such business models are often found in supplier-buyer relationships. For example, many car part manufacturers depend heavily on purchases from major automobile manufacturers.
Some business models distinguish between market segments with slightly different needs and problems. The retail arm of a bank like Credit Suisse, for example, may distinguish between a large group of customers, each possessing assets of up to U.S. $100,000, and a smaller group of aΩluent clients, each of whose net worth exceeds U.S. $500,000. Both segments have similar but varying needs and problems. This has implications for the other building blocks of Credit
Suisse’s business model, such as the Value Proposition, Distribution Channels, Customer Relationships, and Revenue streams. Consider Micro Precision Systems, which specializes in providing outsourced micro-mechanical design and manufacturing solutions. It serves three different Customer Segments — the watch industry, the medical industry, and the industrial automation sector — and oΩers each slightly different Value Propositions.
An organization with a diversified customer business model serves two unrelated Customer Segments with very different needs and problems. For example, in 2006 Amazon.com decided to diversify its retail business by selling “cloud computing” services: online storage space and on-demand server usage. Thus it started catering to a totally different Customer Segment — Web companies — with a totally different Value Proposition. The strategic rationale behind this diversification can be found in Amazon.com’s powerful IT infrastructure, which can be shared by its retail sales operations and the new cloud computing service unit.
Multi-sided platforms (or multi-sided markets)
Some organizations serve two or more interdependent Customer Segments. A credit card company, for example, needs a large base of credit card holders and a large base of merchants who accept those credit cards. Similarly, an enterprise offering a free newspaper needs a large reader base to attract advertisers. On the other hand, it also needs advertisers to finance production and distribution. Both segments are required to make the business model work .