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Psychographic data: understanding the “why” of consumerism

(Image credit: Image Credit: Pressmaster / Shutterstock)

If there’s ever been a good time to get to know how people actually think and feel, it’s now.

The global pandemic has thrown everything into a state of flux. It's drastically changed how businesses operate, and it’s changed consumers' behavior. The pandemic has accelerated change at break-neck speed – one that nobody was prepared for – and with long-lasting effects.

Every company in the world has had to look at its strategy and make tough decisions. With further lockdowns on the horizon, the constant challenge for any business will be trying to keep up with rapidly changing consumer behavior.

Using robust, reliable, opt-in survey data can help any business get the answers they need and stay informed about consumers’ changing behaviors and attitudes, and adapt their strategies as a result. This enables any business to zoom in and stand out, by segmenting audience groups with pinpoint accuracy to answer the must-know questions, and better understand the “why?”

Get the full picture

That’s where psychographic data comes in. Psychographic data is all about understanding people’s attitudes, motivations, and desires. It’s about what drives them and what they care about. It’s going beyond what they’re doing to understand why they’re doing it.

Every brand out there needs to both know what their audience is doing but, more importantly, understand the motivations and attitudes that are driving their behavior. This is key to coming up with marketing plans that really resonate with your target audience.

Demographic and behavioral data certainly have their place. But they only give a very high-level snapshot of an individual or group of people. For example, these types of data might be able to tell you what age group is buying more clothing online, but it won’t tell you the drivers behind why they’re making those exact purchases.

Combined with demographic and behavioral research, psychographic data builds a complete picture of your target audiences. This is a time of fast and unpredictable change on a global scale. While consumer actions are, and will continue to be, a crucial part of any marketing strategy, the motivations behind these actions are only set to grow in importance. It’s never been more crucial to know why your target audiences act the way they do. Psychographic data enables more purpose-driven marketing because it provides an understanding of what makes consumers tick, what really matters to them, and what they expect from brands.

Throughout our coronavirus research between March and July in up to 20 countries, we were able to understand what mattered to consumers during such unprecedented times. For example, we learned that the importance of behaving sustainably, both at an individual and business level, has increased because of the outbreak. The research also found that around two-thirds of consumers are extremely, very, or quite concerned about a second wave of the pandemic. Figures are especially pronounced in Brazil and India. This sentiment is expected to influence behaviors and attitudes in other parts of consumers’ lives – such as travel and leisure activities – as safety becomes front-of-mind.

This is applicable from both a consumer and business standpoint. Data enables professional organizations, HR teams, and employers to inform brand and product strategy with unique insight into how the pandemic, for instance, has impacted professionals, across all major sectors and small-to-enterprise-level companies.

Leave bias behind

The mistake that many brands and marketers make when analyzing different groups of people is that they often have preconceived ideas of what that group looks like and how they should behave, and they let those ideas inform their judgment and decision-making.

However, if brands or marketers have a predefined idea about what those groups of people should look like or feel, this could easily lead to a level of bias, and they could miss important attributes about that audience. Typically, the best approach would be to park any predefined ideas at the door, go in with an open-mind, and be led by what the data tells you. If the data backs up what you originally thought, great. But at least now you’ve got real consumer-driven responses behind any decision you make.

If the data surprises you, even better. Perhaps you’ve learned something new about your target consumer that can better help improve planning and how you engage with them. For example, during the pandemic, we’ve seen that baby boomers have deepened their engagement with different types of media, but particularly for digital channels such as social media and online TV, which is typically associated with younger consumers.

The real value isn’t in the data. It’s how you look at it.

Being guided by the data and looking for the natural patterns is key. The surprising insights rather than sticking insistently to what you think it should look like. Your audience is often far more diverse than you expect, and if your campaign is set up to speak to the stereotypes, it will miss very valuable segments; your audience will not feel represented or included. For instance, many brands and marketers might feel their advertising is representative, but many consumers don’t share that sentiment. Just 15 percent of global Gen Z say they feel represented in the advertising they see, dropping to 9 percent among boomers. It’s always important to have in the back of your mind that your audience might not be who you think it is, and go that bit deeper.

To stay resilient and competitive in a world that’s constantly evolving, businesses need to understand their audience. The way to do this is to have the kind of psychographic research that gives you the most up-to-date, relevant context around changing mindsets as well as habits. Helping you not only understand the “what”, but the “why”, and enabling you to stay flexible and adapt with the current situation.

Jason Mander, Chief Research Officer, GlobalWebIndex

Jason Mander is Chief Research Officer at GlobalWebIndex (GWI).