Why Age Segmentation Is Less Effective for Connected Consumers

Has your marketing budget shifted from traditional media to interactive media? Still expecting to keep conversions growing across channels for a specific age-based segment? Are expectations of results with your demographic segment through an integrated campaign a tad bit unreasonable? Welcome to the digital shift.

If your campaigns have shifted to include digital media, be aware that connected customers are a new breed. They blend their offline and online worlds without a thought. Age-based segmentation isn’t as effective in this medium, and results are no longer tied as closely to demographics as they once were. Connected customers mingle in digital communities, which are often much more diverse and richly experiential than they could ever be in real life, and they want brand experiences that are tailored to their social and geographic contexts – as well as their own preferences. Age segmentation is much less effective for connected consumers.

There’s no doubt about it, connected consumers have changed the game for marketers – definitively and permanently. Marketers and advertisers have to think differently about how to produce rich and tailored experiences for connected consumers, all the while, crafting these experiences to boost conversions. What to do?

The easy solution is to add more digital distribution platforms to share your marketing and advertising messages. But, as new social and mobile platforms and apps become popular, this tactic’s success dwindles over time. As consumer use of these platforms and apps mature, behavioral patterns emerge, and marketers using a one-size-fits-all approach to digital and traditional find their conversions weakening.

The more strategic solution is to go beyond providing primarily demographic or age-based content in digital channels to developing more tailored relationships with consumers based on their digital behaviors. For example, according to the CDC Wireless Report, Hispanic households are the most wireless group in America: 35 percent compared to the national average of 23 percent. This statistic encompasses all age groups and other typical demographic factors. As a whole, this group exhibits digital behaviors that are age-independent. This is just one example. Similar statistics are noted across various audience groups as well.

So, if age segmentation doesn’t work as well to engage and convert consumers, what does work?

To answer that question, we first need to examine a few of the content consumption realities of the connected consumer. On the downside, there is a trend toward information overload for connected consumers due to the number of different communication channels that now exist. That makes it difficult for brands to communicate with their audience. There is a need to cut through the noise.

On the positive side, marketers can leverage analytics data to derive new segments based on digital behavior. I wrote last month about how Adobe is leading the way in this area to help marketers actually predict customer behavior. Personas that are represented in the wider audience of your brand can more accurately be crafted from their digital behavior patterns – not their age category. This behavior-based segmentation is essential to delivering compelling experiences with positive conversion feedback.

In reality, there will always be an element of targeting and segmentation based on demographic factors, such as age. What marketers need to be aware of is the declining effectiveness of demographic segmentation in the connected customer audience. Behavior-based segmentation is a valuable additional way of targeting based on the way in which people consume information.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.