There are different kinds of consumers - or people who purchase the goods or services that are sold by different companies. (Gordon, 2000). All consumers have different needs and hence different goods or services can satisfy these needs. Market Segmenting refers to dividing the target customers into groups of customers who have similar needs and characteristics so as to be able to reach them with one solution that is unique to all of their needs and satisfies all of them, (Philip Kotler, 2005). Malcolm McDonald in his book on marketing planning emphasizes that when a market is segmented into different groups of target consumers the marketer finds it easier to meet the needs of the customers in a better and more personal way. However, consumer segmentation is one of the principles in marketing that is very difficult to do well.
Some of the challenges that face the segmentation of the 21st Century Consumer include deciding the scope of segmentation. The segmentation process includes choosing the best criteria in which to segment or divide the consumers in the target market. This can be done based on the demographical characteristics of the audience such as the age, sex or gender, or using the geographical location of the different consumers in the target market. When market segmentation is done based on the demographical characteristics of the target market a problem in marketing often occurs as far as reaching the 21st century consumer is concerned. This is because in the 21st century market, the physical age of the consumer in a specific target market does not always match with their psychological age. This often leads to a situation where a forty three year old man enjoys watching cartoons that are designed and marketed to five year old consumers, (Horner, 2007)
Another challenge in segmenting the 21st century consumer is deciding on the frequency of changing the segmentation criteria. The 21st century consumer is open to new ideas, he is liberal and lives in a fast paced world (21st Century Consumer, 2000). This consumer changes his preferences with the new developments in technological inventions and such like things. One of the challenges that a marketer may face in segmenting the 21st century consumer is on how to ensure that he keeps up with the changing needs and wants of this consumer. This may involve either changing the segmentation criteria every so often, or changing the goods and services to keep up with the changing consumer.
Another challenge that the marketer might face is the fact that different 21st century consumers uses the same goods for different purposes. (Noel Capon, 2008). For example, one consumer may buy a television set because he wants to stay up to date with the current developments in society while the other buys a television because it is expensive, prestigious and hence a sign that he belongs in a high income class. Such a consumer may have no intentions of ever watching that television set. If a marketer were to approach these target market, he would have to understand the reasons for which each customer buys his television set to ensure that the segmentation criteria allows him to meet the specific needs of each consumer group.
The 21st century has led to such a high level of development in technology such that a high level of competition is experienced in the process of marketing and competing for customers. This means that segmenting the customer or target market is not enough. The marketer must also focus on marketing strategies that are unique to attract the attention of the target consumer. This will only be achieved by the use of contemporary techniques in marketing (Kurtz et al, 2009). Every company must therefore not only forge a plan on how it intends to reach its market audience, but also device ways of adjusting to the changing consumer needs of the 21st century consumer or the changing strategies of the 21st century competitor if they are to survive in the market place. (Reynolds, 2009)