Categorising Demographics: What’s The Issue?

Hands over laptop smartphone and tablet with coffee on the table in trendy cafe

‘Millennials’ are out. According to two separate studies, patterns of behaviour and attitudes are preferred segmentations to define consumers, rather than sweeping demographic categories. New research claims that marketers need to move beyond demographic data and ‘lazy’ terms such as ‘Millennial’ when creating customer segmentations. It is not enough to simply paint groups with the same brush, as Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has previously stated, the differences among target audiences are ignored because of the continual use of one-size-fits-all terms. He went on to say, “If you buy the idea of Millennials, then you must, by definition, reject the concept of proper segmentation and of consumers holding different perceptions and experiences”.

Market research group Forrester aims to separate itself from demographic segments and seek to group consumers according to how they respond to new products and technology instead. Forrester conducted a survey of more than 30,000 adults across nine European countries and defined five new contributory segments they believe brands should implement when marketing products and services: Progressive Pioneers, Savvy Seekers, Reserved Resisters, Settled Survivors, and Convenience Conformers.

data-digest_9.8.16

Additionally, the study proposed that businesses should measure how their customers are evolving and the extent to which different behavioural segments are changing. For example, the survey discovered that 41% of people across Europe read customer reviews (at minimum) once per week. This is in comparison to the 17% who shop around for prices, or research product information with their mobile device whilst in a store. We can now predict that different forms of customer engagement with a product will allow consumers to be more demanding in their relationships with brands.

Further research by The Gild, a brand consultancy also focused on preconceptions about generational groups. From their research, it was found that consumers belonging to Generation Z (born 2001 or later) are more conservative in their views than Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980) and Millennials (1981-2000).  The research also found that opinions on topical issues including transgender rights, marijuana legalisation and same-sex marriage, 83% and 85% of millennials and 85% of Gen X stated they were ‘quite’ or ‘very liberal’ in opinion on these issues. However, this was in comparison to 59% of Gen Z respondents.

The Gild managing director, Andrew Mulholland confirms the conflicting differences in opinions among different generations and that to typically treat the attitudes associated with terms including ‘Millennial’ and ‘Gen Xer’, shows a lack of awareness of who people really are and how they behave, in all their nuances and varieties. For marketers, this means consumer segmentation should consider behaviour, perceptions, and experiences, not just demographics and preconceived stereotypes of how a ‘Millennial’, or ‘Gen Xer’ acts.

These findings refute the standard typecasting of demographic audiences according to their generation, and instead reinforce the idea of providing deeper insights into understanding the consumer behind the label. Perhaps this will allow marketers to move beyond terms, adapt to limitations, and go back to the basics of people-centric theories. After all, age is just a number.