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Buyers, Users, and Target Impact Segments

Most business model frameworks are based on the concept of an individual consumer who purchases, uses, and gains value from your product or service. Even platform models are usually designed around two individuals (e.g., a driver and traveler for ride-sharing apps). This provides a simple basis for exploring what the customer’s wants and needs are. Much thinking and writing has been done to underpin the understanding of these customers. The emergence of methodologies such as personas, user journeys, and the Value Proposition Canvas have all focused on the wants and needs of users.

However, as strong as these methodologies are, they are primarily aimed at individual consumers. There are additional layers of complexity when the customer is a business, government, or organization. These complexities may include having multiple types of users of the product or service within the organization (users), and often having another segment of people who will be part of the purchasing process (buyers). There may not be alignment within or between these two segments. This creates an added layer of complexity for suppliers of digital products and services to organizations, governments, and businesses.

When trying to provide digital products and services to organizations and governments that are providing public and charitable services, the level of complexity increases even more. That’s because those whom your digital solution is ultimately aiming to benefit may not purchase or even use the solution themselves. Developing your business model for such digital solutions requires you to identify three distinct customer segments.


The buyer is involved in the purchasing decision and the actual purchase and/or adoption of the product. There are three types of buyers for aid programs: donors who provide the funds, decision-makers who have ultimate say over the purchase, and purchasers who are usually in the procurement department of larger organizations.


The user actually uses the digital solution and is the one you are designing it for. There can be a number of people and roles in an organization or within a community who are the users of your digital solution.

Target Impact

People in the target impact segment will ultimately benefit from your digital solution. They’re usually those who have the problem that you’re trying to solve with your technology, but in many cases they may not be the actual users of the technology.

Understanding Your Buyer, User, and Target Impact Segments

You will need to identify who the people are (either individuals or archetypes) in each of the BUTI segments. In development and humanitarian contexts, it is also vital to assess the digital literacy level of each segment.

You will then need to use a method for understanding each segments’ wants and needs. We have provided links to tools that you can use here and recommend using the Value Proposition Canvas.

Use these tools to develop a deeper understanding of each segment and what is important to them.

Case Study: Buyer, User, and Target Impact Segments

When an NGO decides to use a digital beneficiary management system (e.g., LMMS), it often needs to get sign-off from the donor through the budget and proposal, as well as internal management approval through the procurement process. Here, the donor and management represent the buyer.

The actual users of the system are primarily frontline project staff who may have a preference about which system to use but often have no decision-making authority.

The project participants or aid recipients who are served by the project are members of the target impact segment and have no influence in the entire process.

Alignment of the Buyer, User, and Target Impact Segments

In most aid programs, there will not be alignment on all of the wants and needs of each of the segments. For instance, members of the user and target impact segments might want the characters in your edtech game to reflect how they look and to use backgrounds that are familiar to them. However, a buyer will want to keep costs as low as possible, so may be unwilling to pay the additional money needed to make the characters and backgrounds contextually and culturally appropriate. This is a misalignment between two segments on one side and one segment on the other. Mapping out where there are misalignments between the segments will provide you insight into what misalignments might impact both the adoption of your digital solution and its sustainability. If you identify critical misalignments, you will need to develop a strategy to deal with them.

Interactive Tool: Alignment of the Buyer, User, and Target Impact Segments
  • Methodology: Group or individual exercise
  • Time estimate: 30-90 minutes

Use our interactive tool to assess the levels of alignment and misalignment across your customer segments.

Go to the tool

Key Takeaways

  1. The aid sector rarely has one customer. It usually has three customer segments: buyer, user, and target impact.

  2. You need to understand the wants and needs of each of these segments.

  3. You should understand where these segments are aligned and where they are misaligned in order to manage the misalignments to ensure the adoption and sustainability of your digital solution.

Complete the following in your Business Model Sustainability Canvas:
  • Ensure that the buyer, user, and target impact segments are all shown in the customer segment.
  • Highlight any misalignments of wants and needs across the BUTI segments and note where in your business model you might address them (e.g., advocacy activities or changes to the positioning of your value proposition).