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Customer Segmentation: Expertise

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on Customer Segmentation.

Learn from Experience

We often talk about “New users” and “Returning users” as two segments of customers. The first are customers using the product for the first time and the second are users coming back for more. While this segmentation can have use, by simply dividing customers into these two groups we are missing out on the evolution of a customer.

Customers, like all people, change over time. The more a customer learns about your product or service the better they will make use of it and the more advanced their usage will become. To map this evolution, I like to segment customers into three groups:

  • Newbies – Are customers that are just learning to use your product.
  • Students – Are customers that are very familiar with your product but are still learning.
  • Experts – Are customers who have mastered your product.

These are important segments because the features they use and what will make them happy differ greatly. Just like the Kano Model describes, features that may make a Newbie very happy can become expected by Experts and you will need to go farther to keep them happy. By understanding each of these segments you will get a strong sense of your customer lifecycle and what it takes to build expertise among your customers.

Just like in any form of education, customers will move between these levels of expertise at different speeds. Some customers may take weeks to go from Newbie to Expert while others will only take days. Studying this rate of change will help you understand if there are issues or obstacles your users are facing using your product. This is why using calendar dates to segment customers can miss important factors.

Instead, identify transition behaviors or actions that are strong indicators that a customers has moved from one group to another. These transition actions can be simple like upgrading to the “Pro” version of your service or it could be as subtle as starting to use keyboard shortcuts instead of clicking on menus. What those transitions are will be very specific to your product.


Note that customers do not only move forward from Newbie to Student to Expert! As you change your product and add features or change interfaces they may take a step backward until they learn these new things. These shifts can prove frustrating for customers or re-engage them so you should continually revisit your segments and see how their engagement changes over time.

Quote of the Day: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture


The Customer Segmentation series