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Getting to know your customers can be tricky in a near anonymous online world. While demographics might give you an indication of what the environment might look like, online profiling puts you on the front lines of getting to know your customers. According to a recent study by MasterCard, people adopt personas when shopping online — an interesting consideration for ecommerce businesses.
The Digital Sharing and Trust Project shows that consumers actually shed their “real-world” identities when they go online to assume “digital personas”. To be more specific there are five different personas parading themselves around the web today.
The web opens up a whole world of potential customers. The bigger you stretch your market, the more complex the demographics get, right? Well, according to this study, even though each country has its different cultures, income levels and such, they all share the same online behaviours.
9000 people in nine markets participated in this study, including countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Colombia. National characteristics are irrelevant when consumers go online, according to the findings.
“Nearly 2.5 billion people around the globe use the internet every day,” said Theodore Iacobuzio, Vice President of MasterCard’s Global Insights group. He further indicates that the importance of this study in comparison to traditional demographic-based research:
“This research shows that regardless of who they are and where they live, they all share something in common when it comes to how they act and behave online -– these five unique global personality types. It also shows us that when consumers go online, characteristics such as age, gender or nationality become secondary and they instead assume a sense of what we refer to as ‘social citizenship’.”
A better understanding the dynamics of your current and potential customers online is crucial for your company’s decision-making processes. Moreover, in an era where data is more frequently takenup as a business’s religion, this study attempts to further uncover the seemingly faceless state of the active web.
Twenty-one percent of online consumers fall into this category, which tends to skew more male (60 percent). Open Sharers are the most highly digital group of the five and tend to lead less risk-averse online activities. Half of them are online more than 10 times per day and when they share their personal information, they expect deals, access and offers in return.
This persona (which accounts for 21 percent of online consumers) includes some of the most dedicated social networkers, yet they are not particularly tech-savvy consumers. When it comes to online shopping, a majority (80 percent) will research products online, but 63 percent still prefer to shop in person. Though they are aware of targeted marketing, they don’t see their data as valuable and thus don’t express significant concern about it.
This online personality is characterized by their reliance on the internet for savvy shopping research and purchases. Making up 21 percent of all consumers online, the majority (90 percent) of these internet users researches products online before buying and half use their mobile phone to price check in-store in order to get the best deals. Surprisingly, they have low awareness of target marketing – as only 37 percent know that social media sites use their personal data to inform ads.
As the name suggests, this group’s members are not fully convinced of the internet’s value and therefore tend to spend the least amount of time online of all the personas. Accounting for 20 percent of all online consumers, Passive Users are less frequent on social networks (only 48 percent) and not heavy online shoppers. Compared to other personas, they are more likely to shop from their mobile device and more willing to trade their data for something in return.
Comprising 17 percent of all online consumers, the Proactive Protectors are highly aware of targeted marketing – in fact 82 percent are knowledgeable that marketers can target them based on their search and browsing history. They are unlikely to use social networks and the most guarded with their privacy settings of all the personas – taking steps to protect and control their digital footprint.
Then all is good and well? Maybe
As MasterCard argues, this method neatly puts consumers in five boxes though it doesn’t differentiate based on the traditional demographic markers of age, income, and geography. While global applicable segments of the online market are much more important in recognizing consumer behaviour, this study creates a new paradigm for merchants on the internet.
Online businesses could adapt better and more carefully to the changing marketing tides rather than focusing on traditional “background” data that could be seen as less relevant. Businesses should try to obtain consumer information based on their behaviours online as being more relevant today. How will you adapt?