Study Finds Most Marketers Don’t Know Their Audience: Here’s Why and How to Fix It

 

When it comes to marketing, almost nothing is more important than knowing your target audience.

But what if I told you over half of marketers are missing critical information on their consumers?

In our annual survey of over 1,200 marketers, we found that just 42% know the basic demographic information of their target audience, like their name, gender, and location.

And, the data gap doesn’t stop there:

Less than half of marketers know their audience’s interests and hobbies, shopping habits, the products they are interested in buying, their purchase history, and where they consume content.

Only 31% know the online communities their target audience is a part of and even less know the challenges they are facing.
Just one-fourth of marketers know the social causes their target audience cares about – a huge missed opportunity when it comes to expressing your brand’s values, especially when marketing to Gen Z and Millennials.

So why are marketers having such a hard time getting these data points?

Let’s take a look at the biggest challenges marketers face in getting the data they need and discuss some solutions to the disconnection marketers are seeing with their audience.

The Biggest Challenges Marketers Face in Understanding Their Target Audience

A whopping 82% of marketers say having high-quality data on their target audience is important to succeeding in their role – but more than half of them say they’re missing key information.

So why is it such a challenge for marketers to get the data they need?

The biggest challenges marketers face in understanding their target boil down to two main issues:

1. New Data Privacy Measures

Data privacy regulations are reducing marketers’ access to the consumer data they need. At the same time, consumers are less trusting in sharing their personal data.

This results in marketers missing out on critical data on their target audience, from their shopping and media consumption habits to their basic demographic information.

2. Evolving Audience Targets

Consumers’ lives have changed drastically over the past few years, and with a looming recession, their habits, attitudes, and preferences are likely to continue shifting quickly.

The two challenges above are difficult to overcome because they’re actively developing as data privacy regulations tighten and unprecedented events that change consumer behavior continue.

So, what can marketers do now?

How Can Marketers Improve Their Data Strategy?

1. Gather First-Party Data

A great solution to increased data privacy regulations like Google’s planned phase-out of third-party cookies is gathering your own first-party data.

First-party data can be collected from many sources – your website, surveys, email, SMS, your CRM, and more.

Since first-party data comes directly from your customers, it offers high-quality insights about your audience and allows you to create a personalized experience for them.

2. Use a Single Source of Truth for Marketing Data

Only 27% of marketers say their marketing data is fully integrated with their systems and tools, and as we saw earlier, data not integrating well is a top challenge for marketers trying to understand their target audience.

Disconnected marketing data is problematic because you don’t have the full context needed to make data-driven decisions. On the other hand, a single source of truth offers a holistic view of your target audience by connecting all the data points you have.

A single source of truth also improves efficiency by making marketing data more easily accessible for marketers and their collaborators.

3. Keep Your Data Fresh

We talked about how consumers’ lives are changing rapidly and marketers need up-to-date data in order to keep up.

The interests, habits, and attitudes of your target audience probably changed several times over the course of the pandemic. And with a recession looming, your audience will likely change again – so whatever data tracking method you use, make sure your data is regularly updated to keep a pulse on your customers in real-time.

Another reason you need up-to-date information on your target audience is so you can pivot your marketing strategy and messaging in response to the changes your customers are experiencing.

Not only did over half of marketers pivot in 2021, 83% of those who pivoted changed course 2-4 times in one year. And 20% of marketers have already pivoted in 2022 due to a potential recession, so chances are 2023 will be no different.

Needless to say, you need a plan for when things go off course. When the next unprecedented event or unexpected challenge arrives, will you have the data you need to adapt?

In an ideal world, you would have all the data points you could ever want, but that isn’t always realistic. So let’s end by taking a look at which data points marketers say are most helpful to have.

The Most Helpful Types of Audience Target Data

Marketers say the interests or hobbies of their target audience is the most helpful data point, closely followed by consumers’ shopping habits, where they consume content/media, and the products they are interested in buying.

Basic demographic information, purchase history, and the online communities their target audience is part of are also valuable data points.

A Crisis of Connection

If you’re realizing you might be missing critical information on your target audience, don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

Many businesses are currently experiencing a Crisis of Disconnection, and it goes far beyond poor customer data. Read more about the challenges on the horizon and how your company can navigate them in our series on The Crisis of Disconnection.

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