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How digitally savvy are your customers? – the ice rink analogy


Richard Jenkings

Richard Jenkings asks whether you know how digitally savvy your customers are?

Knowing your audience, their likes, dislikes and how they are likely to behave is an important foundation for any marketing strategy (business strategy for that matter).

A lot of my colleagues have written about the need for customer centricity and it’s not my intention to simply reiterate what they have already said. What I want to cover is the need to understand digital behaviours in line with the more traditional geo-demographic segmentation.

The modern technology-driven marketing universe is a sophisticated and complicated one. The possibilities available to marketers are seemingly endless and I can fully understand the temptation to get carried away. With traditional segmentation you can highlight the types of people your customers are – based on a range of factors such as postcode, age, income and wealth. However an important factor you also need to consider is how digitally engaged these individuals are.

Traditional geo-demographic segmentation doesn’t necessarily take this into account and without this knowledge you’re building a marketing strategy with a significant chunk of information missing.

With this in mind I ask you; Do you know how digitally savvy your customers are?

We recently did some research on this and came up with 11 types of people with which to classify the whole population (more here). It’s no surprise that the digital behaviours of the whole population varies wildly. I like to use an ice rink as an analogy to bring this holistic understanding to life.

When/if you visit a public ice rink there are normally a wide range of abilities on view. As the crowds slowly circle, all the different personas and characteristics are apparent – and these can easily be applied to the varying levels of digital engagement.

Right in the centre are those totally at home on the ice, doing jumps and spins and not really having to think too much about how they’re doing it. These are the digitally engaged – those of us who use all things digital without a second thought, quite naturally and effortlessly. While many of us may think we’re in this section you’d  be surprised. These are the people who must have the latest gadget and who adopt digital behaviours as soon as they develop.

Slightly further out from the centre confidently skating round and round are the functionally competent skaters. Their equivalent in the digital world are the practical day-to-day users who use digital devices and services in a functional and way. These are by far the biggest group of people and probably where most of us sit.

Finally, the edge of the ice rink is littered with people hanging on to the barrier, getting on and off the ice and waving their hands around trying to balance as they wobble their way around.

Do you know digitally connected your customers are?

Do you know digitally connected your customers are?

Their hesitation and discomfort is obvious. They’re not that experienced (perhaps they live far away from an ice rink or don’t have their own kit?) and are often unwilling to let go of the wall and push off into the middle.

Their equivalents in the digital world are those slightly left behind by the technology or who are tentatively starting to make use of what is available. This can be because they’re slightly older or their profession is such that they’re not as fully immersed in technology as others. Equally it could be because where they live has poor signal and internet access.

This analogy also works when you consider the fluidity. No one is doomed to be a bad skater, the borders are flexible as are the definitions. With a little practice or a single change (such as moving closer to the ice rink) an individual’s skating ability can improve. Likewise, it doesn’t take much for a practical day-to-day user to push themselves into the centre and try something a little more sophisticated.

All in all, understanding the digital engagement of your customers (and in particular your best fit customers) is crucial in getting to grips with how to communicate with them. This knowledge needs to influence the manner in which marketing strategies are built, campaigns implemented and new products and services designed.

Experian Marketing Services helps bring brands and customers closer together.  Using our own industry data and analytical expertise we can help businesses build up an accurate and actionable understanding of their customers.