July 11, 2016

Don’t assume: How to use data to understand your audience

In order to reach new audiences, most marketers begin by looking at their current personas. Clearly, segmenting customer groups helps you make decisions about who to target next.

When it comes to media campaigns, marketers can use audience segments to make planning and buying decisions – for example, a marketer for a beauty brand might say, “our customers are composed largely of women aged 18-24, so I’ll buy an off-the-shelf audience that fits that demographic and target them with advertisements about our latest skincare line.” In some cases, this simple, demographic-based approach to advertising can be very cost-effective and provide the brand with very wide reach meaning a lot of people will see their ad.

But can the marketer be sure that she hit the best people for their new skincare product? The reality is, people are complicated. They don’t always buy the products you think they will because of their gender, age or income. While demographics can be an excellent way to segment your audience, they are only the beginning when it comes to understanding what drives consumers to buy.

Here are a few examples that will help you rethink common assumptions marketers make about audiences.

1. Consider buyers v recipients

Just because a product’s users are predominantly composed of a certain demographic, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the buyers are of the same segment. For example, according to Hitwise, 50% of people searching for “beard oil” are women.

Assuming the number of bearded women has not exponentially increased, there is a simple explanation – beard oil is commonly purchased for others, perhaps by significant others. Knowing this as a marketer, wouldn’t you change the audience you target and the messaging you use to reach them?

In a similar vein, Hitwise found that 60% of people searching for “baby clothes” don’t have kids at home and aren’t expecting. Like beard oil, baby clothes happen to be a very popular product to gift – so if you target baby clothing advertisements exclusively to couples who are pregnant or have infants, you may be losing out on the literal majority of your potential buyers.

2. Rethink assumptions about gender

Did you know that a full 32% of people who visit top beauty and cosmetic sites are men? Of course, some of them may be shopping for gifts for their lady friends, but it also may reflect a growing trend in the sale of male grooming products.

Mintel found that men spend an average of $107 in three months on beauty products. Sources like the LA Times confirm that men’s cosmetics are booming, however, only in markets where the messaging is carefully tailored towards men’s lifestyle and grooming, rather than “make-up.”

Rather than assuming that all beauty products are out-of-market for the entire male population, a savvy marketer should look at the data, spot the opportunities and reshape their messaging to meet the needs of this under-served segment.

3. Deal-seekers span all income brackets

It might be intuitive to assume lower-income customers are more motivated to seek out discounts and coupons. However, Hitwise found that 39% of people searching for “coupons” have household incomes of $100,000 or more, in spite of representing only 20% of the population according to the US Census Bureau. This means higher-income shoppers actually over-index for coupon seeking.

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