Big data 2012 04 02
Marketers live and die by demographic data, looking at everything from gender and ethnicity to identify target markets for specific products or services.

Big data — and the deluge of online information — provides more information about potential customers than ever before, including detailed statistics on everything from median income to religious affiliation.

Understanding Target Markets

Demographics, as every marketer knows, refers to the statistics used to characterize the human population — everything from age, sex, gender, race, income, employment status and location. Companies have long used these factors to develop marketing strategies that resonate with their target audiences.

But now demographic data is deeper, more focused and easier to obtain than ever before. And it all makes marketing strategies based heavily around traditional metrics like age seem so last century.

Big data is providing more interesting statistics to explore. For example,  Geoscape, a provider of business intelligence technology, data and analytics, just released ReligionCode. The new data offering provides marketers "unique access into sophisticated and targeted data on the religious affiliation of populations across the country," the company boasts.

Geoscape also provides marketing data on the fastest growing populations in the US, which it defines as people of Latin and Asian descent, explained Cesar Melgoza, Geoscape founder and CEO said in an interview.

But the detailed information on religious affiliation is something new, he said. The customer enrichment file covers the thirteen most popular religious affiliations including Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah Witness, Historically Black Churches, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto and Sikh denominations.

Geodemographic religion populations — based on the idea that people generally live in proximity to other people who are demographically similar — include five groups: Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, other Christian religions and "other" religious denominations.

This data can be used to code customer information files, direct marketing lists and as a geographically-referenced population database from neighborhood to metro market and county levels of geography. "We can take a company's list and assign religious affiliations to them based on their last names and addresses," Melgoza said.

Melgoza said that data is especially relevant during the holiday season. Marketers of consumer goods, retailers and grocers can use it to assess the market potential for specific goods and services that relate directly to various holidays, religious seasons or celebrations by trade area or most any geographic boundary.

While this kind of marketing may seem obvious, many companies fail to use it effectively, he said. The categories are often too broad, Melgoza said, cited one large grocer that simply identified an aisle of traditional Mexican items as "ethnic food."

image-dwellrbigdatacensusapp-2013.png

Census Data on Your iPhone

The US Census Bureau is no stranger to demographic data. It's been conducting decennial counts of the US population since 1790.

Now it's making more of that data, as well as information from the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS), more easily accessible to everyone from marketers to people planning to relocate.

Take, for example, a recently released app called dwellr, which provides personalized access to the latest demographic, socio-economic and housing statistics from the ACS for neighborhoods across the nation.

In a US Census blogpost, Stephen Bruckner explained:

Dwellr allows for quick and easy access to information to help make the decision, including the ages of residents, how many families have children, median income and housing costs. Dwellr allows Apple and Android smartphone users to explore a range of questions making it a powerful tool for homebuyers, members of the military being deployed domestically, real estate agents, new businesses and teachers helping students learn about their communities."

The information from dweller can be cross-referenced with preferences for schools, parks or nightlife to help people decide where to live or relocate, or tapped by marketers to identify target audiences and potential new or emerging markets.

Dwellr follows the release of the America’s Economy mobile app, which provides real time updates for 19 key economic indicators released from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

New Perspectives

John Balla, a senior marketing specialist in customer intelligence at SAS, wrote in a blog post this week that the value of big data has less to do with the sheer quantity of the data and is more about an opportunity to take a new view of the world. He was citing Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, an Oxford University Professor known for his expertise on big data, who shared his thoughts during a keynote address at the NCDM 2013 Conference, organized by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). 

"Because the increasing quantity inherent in big data can lead to a new quality, he believes the right approach for marketers is to step out of our comfort zone and to get a different perspective," Balla wrote.

How is your organization using deeper, more focused demographic data to reach your customers and drive business value? Has the idea of targeting customers by age become irrelevant?