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Demographics only Scratch the Surface

Demographics only Scratch the Surface

As marketers, we like to think that we see our audiences, says Valerie Popeck. Past the restrictions of traditional demographics and stereotypes, we sell ourselves as an industry that understands people – their wants and their needs, as individuals and as a collective. But do we?

Our vision is often stunted by the marketers’ gaze, wooed by numbers at the expense of people. As career communicators, we talk a good game, yet redundant terms like Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennial are still lodged in our vernacular. While we present ourselves as the authority on culture, as an industry we’ve missed the mark too many times to mention. Our perspective has become blurred, and it’s time to take another approach.

Our Audience is Smart, and Smart Demands More

Consumers have access to more information than ever before. They are constantly connected, with the ability to compare you against your competitors throughout every buying decision. They’re clued-in and they know how and where to find the best value, without a second thought for brand loyalty. They were also listening last May during GDPR, and have no intention of parting ways with their cash or their credentials without a little extra incentive.

The era of digital transformation has empowered them, making the road to purchase more winding than ever before. As audiences bounce between online and offline, across various platforms and devices, they expect brands to bounce along with them. They want a seamless experience across digital and human channels, especially as the two become more closely intertwined.

This expectation puts pressure on brands to deliver a personalised message that engages a customer. A long planning cycle coupled with a series of disconnected campaigns will no longer suffice. Instead, marketers now need to lean on data and insight to understand their customers’ needs on a more individual level. When data informs strategy, brands can create the truly personalised experience that customers are crying out for.

In sharp [PV3] contrast to this call for personalisation, is a heightened awareness of privacy among audiences. As well as being incentivised to provide their data, customers also want to be assured that brands only use their information for set purposes.

Personalisation may be the way to some audience members’ hearts, but they’ll reject it when companies cross the line and use data in an intrusive manner. It’s up to marketers to tread the line between usance and nuisance carefully – using data to enhance rather than irritate.

Moving on From Demographics

This line can’t be found when relying on tired, traditional demographics. For us at Epsilon, it was never adequate to sort customers into such simplistic brackets. If you don’t understand your customer beyond their age, location, and gender, how can you expect to ever understand their true wants and needs?

To look past these confines, we take an ‘outside in’ approach, that comes from the customer’s point of view. This gives brands a comprehensive view of their performance across multiple dimensions, such as personalisation, omnichannel, and brand experience. This shines a spotlight on the things they’re doing well and gives clear next steps on how to address their shortcomings, and ultimately provides a roadmap for them to create better connections with their customers.

For brands that interact with their customers regularly, this invaluable insight helps them to speak more naturally and intuitively to their audience.

A modern answer to the age-old question: “Who is my customer – and how do I keep them happy?”

We mentioned before that audiences are smarter than ever. They’ve been targeted by quick-fix solutions like pop-up ads and mass email campaigns, and have found new ways to ignore them. The only way forward for brands is to match the brain-power of their audience, by researching their needs and crafting bespoke solutions that delight them.

Valerie Popeck is head of strategy and insights, EMEA, Epsilon.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ March / April 2019)© to order back issues please call 016611660