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Four personas of connected consumers

The nuances of today’s digital lives demand a new form of segmentation. Meet the four personas of connected consumers that can guide multi-channel strategies in a fragmenting media landscape.

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Four personas of connected consumers

  1. 1. Share this Intelligence Applied Meet the four personas of connected consumersMeet the four personas of connected consumers
  2. 2. Share this 2 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied The most successful marketing campaigns deliver a core idea that effortlessly spans multiple channels, allowing each component to amplify the effect of its predecessor. Media is carefully and effectively planned to touch the target audience with the right message, in the right channel at the right time.
  3. 3. Share this 3 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied This might be stating the obvious, but in 2014 achieving this is extremely hard. Budgets are tight, and consumers are fragmenting their time across more and more devices and channels. Finding the elusive target consumer is hard enough in one channel, let alone across many different ones. As we know from our cross media work, interactions across multiple channels nearly always amplify engagement and hence drive success. In essence, the art of good strategic planning is more important than ever before. Success can only be driven by a deep understanding of the target consumer: their values, desires and behaviour. In other words, it is driven by good strategy. Anjali Puri Head of Centre of Excellence, TNS Qualitative Jonathan Sinton Global Digital Director Since the 1950s, segmentation has been at the heart of strategic planning. Most segmentations are built upon category needs or behaviour and attitudes, and can successfully identify discrete segments for prioritisation and targeting. However, the same approach can be too blunt to pick up the nuances of different connected lives. Traditional segmentations alone are not precise enough to distinguish between someone who will respond to social content and someone who will not, for example. The fact that we are targeting traditional segments in an environment that actually fragments their behaviour helps to explain why campaigns often feel bland and generic and why marketing dollars can end up being wasted. After all, there are 2.9 billion internet users worldwide and each and every person has their own unique digital footprint. No two people truly behave the same. But digital is all about personalisation – the segment of me. This makes it vital to build a meaningful understanding of the different types of connected consumer. In essence, the art of good strategic planning is more important than ever before. Success can only be driven by a deep understanding of the target consumer: their values, desires and behaviour. In other words, it is driven by good strategy.
  4. 4. Share this 4 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied Secondly and most importantly, we are not yet able to measure or target the same person across devices and channels to the extent where we can truly understand their behaviour; nor can we typically capture in-app behaviour, which is around 80% of mobile and tablet usage. Initiatives such as the Facebook Atlas ad- buying tool are doing a good job of understanding behaviour across devices, but still do not break the silo of the ad network itself (which represents complete non-Facebook behaviour) or integrate the offline (traditional media) world. With neither traditional segmentations nor behavioural targeting providing an adequate framework for planning across our increasingly complex media environment, something else is clearly needed. The paradox of personalisation It is almost impossible for brands to cost-effectively personalise advertising or content to an individual. The ‘Share a Coke’ initiative probably got as close as one could hope for (over 150 ‘pre-canned’ names with personalised editions printed in shopping centres and via Facebook) but few have the marketing budgets of The Coca Cola Company. Instead, attempts at personalisation usually rely on behavioural targeting via a programmatic buying platform: you browsed the auto section of the New York Times website, so surely you are in the market for a car… now we are going to follow you around the internet showing you car ads on every site you visit. Behavioural targeting has two potential weaknesses. Firstly, because the person is already displaying behaviour relevant to researching the category, they are probably already down the path of decision making and harder to convert, or have already made their decision but continue to be served ads. YOUR NAME HERE
  5. 5. Share this 5 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied The need for holistic Connected Life planning Over the past 20 years, TNS has undertaken extensive research on media habits, device usage and online behaviour in just about every market and category on earth. In this time, we’ve developed many different frameworks for segmenting consumer behaviour, in response to the changing dimensions on which segmentation needs to be based. Internet access, mobile usage, eCommerce participation have all come and gone as factors that define behaviour. In 2014, we believe that two dimensions differentiate connected consumers, and each has its own implications for how marketers reach them. 1. Digital influence The first dimension is the degree to which a consumer is connected throughout the day across multiple devices; the degree, you might say, to which they are addicted to being online. Typically a higher degree of connectedness would result in higher consumption of online video, a greater engagement with eCommerce, more multi-screening and the use of multiple online touchpoints in the path to purchase. At the extreme, this also means a reduced consumption of traditional media. In short, this dimension measures the degree to which digital is influencing a connected consumer’s life. If your target audience scores highly on this dimension, the implication is that your strategy (media, commerce, content) needs to be more digitally focused. There are of course a considerable number of people who register lower on this dimension, and for these, more traditional media and strategies will still play a considerable role. 2. Social engagement The second dimension is the degree to which social (media) connection and content is important to a connected consumer. Do they feel the urge to check their Facebook status all day? Are they vocal online, or more voyeuristic? Are they likely to respond to branded content in social channels? And in mature economies, does social play a role in the purchase journey? Fundamentally, are they the type of person who embraces social media, warts and all? Through knowing the answer to this question, you can determine whether a strategy led by social content is right for your target audience, or not.
  6. 6. Share this 6 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied Clearly when simplifying the entirety of human online behaviour down to two dimensions, there are going to be nuances. Every market is unique, so you need to recognise that a high ‘digital influence’ individual in one market may only be a low ‘digital influence’ individual in another. A further nuance is that in rapid- growth economies, we find the two dimensions are more strongly correlated than in mature economies. This is ultimately because internet penetration is lower and those who are online represent a more homogenous group. What we have found, however, is that these two comparatively simple dimensions, above other metrics, can best explain the landscape in all markets and categories in 2014. They can, in themselves, separate consumers into groups distinct enough to command unique strategies. The four personas of the connected world When we look at the two dimensions together, we end up with four different patterns of behaviour; four different personas with core behavioural characteristics that are remarkably similar no matter which part of the world we are talking about. We will go on to describe each of these, and by looking at the UK and China, we have choosen two markets which are about as different as can be. High Digitalinfluence Low Digitalinfluence High Social engagement Low Social engagement
  7. 7. Share this 7 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied At the top end of digital influence and social engagement are Leaders – people who are highly invested in both digital and social media. Leaders ‘live online’, tend to be constantly connected through the day, and are typically more vocal on social media. The actual number of devices they own may be higher in the more affluent markets such as Europe and developed Asia than it is in many Asian and African markets (for example). However, Leaders are always set apart by their constant, energetic participation in the virtual world, their curiosity about technology and their heavy dependence on it. And this is not a niche group by any means. Leaders typically form a third of the online population across markets. Julian is a 21-year-old university student in London who loves to post content on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. He is very keen on the latest devices and likes to get the most out of them. For example he syncs his Twitter and Facebook account with his sat- nav and also links it to Google maps to check pictures of his destinations. He is a confident online shopper and his interaction with online and offline retail is seamless: he chooses where to shop based on where he can find exclusive products, rather than whether the channel is online or offline.
  8. 8. Share this 8 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied sold online, Hu Dong has found a way to make it work – for better prices, convenience, access to exclusive products, and, very simply, fun! For Julian, being online is a choice. For Hu Dong, there is no other way to be. “I feel alive and have a sense of presence because the internet allows me to stay connected all the time, as well as saving my time, and money on entertainment.” The meaning and value of technology may differ for Julian and Hu Dong, but for marketers targeting either of them, it is clear that traditional channels are not the way to go. This group is far more likely to engage with brands online, especially via social media, and will both consume and broadcast; brands should look for ways to trigger conversations amongst this group which can reach and influence other segments. Because digital and social exercise their greatest influence on the decision path of this group, both owned (brand websites) and earned media (user reviews) need to be managed well. He is also quite savvy about finding great deals. Far from being anxious about being cheated online, he has found ways to ‘outsmart’ e-tailers and get the best prices. He says he’s aware of what he calls ‘the tricks’ used by travel companies. He says that they increase the costs if a shopper has looked at something more than once, and so he clears his cache when checking flight prices. In a different corner of the world, 24-year-old Hu Dong works at Shanghai airport. Like Julian, Hu Dong is excited about technology and likes to keep himself up-to-date on the latest gadgets and applications. He may not be able to afford as many devices, but he is no less enthusiastic and participative in the online world. His phone is the centre of his life, essential for keeping him connected to his social group. What is also significant about Hu Dong is the transformative effect technology has had on his life, giving him access to a world he would otherwise be disconnected from. His news consumption has moved entirely online, and online video has replaced TV as a source of entertainment. And despite rampant insecurity in China about the authenticity of goods
  9. 9. Share this 9 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied A measure of skepticism continues to flavour their interactions with the online world, and they are relatively reluctant online shoppers. Raj in London is a typical Functional. He is vociferous about his concerns regarding online security and guards his privacy zealously. He’s been drawn into Facebook after years of avoiding it, because he has now started to feel a bit left out of family conversations. “I dislike having to give my details out online without a good reason and I’m wary of organisations knowing too much about what I’m doing on the internet.” He uses technology very purposefully, and is more excited about its practical rather than social uses. He does own a lot of gadgets but this is more out of the pressure to keep up; he admits he doesn’t do much with them. For example he has a tablet which he uses only to play games. He uses his phone mostly for texts and calls but makes an exception for his mobile banking app, which allows him to check his finances on the go. At the other end of the spectrum are Functionals, who typically form another third of the digital population in most markets. Functionals are slower, more cautious adopters of technology, often being nudged along either by the need to keep up with the world or a conscious awareness of tangible practical benefits.
  10. 10. Share this 10 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied transition. Many of those who resist acknowledge that they are eventually likely to succumb out of pressure to keep up with the world, and many others are excited about learning, and adopting more connected lives. From a marketing perspective there are a couple of implications to think about. This group represents important users of traditional media and retail channels currently, spending more time on offline entertainment, news and shopping. At the same time though, heavier online engagement is inevitable in many cases, and Functionals will need help in finding their feet in an online environment they are currently uncertain about. The real opportunity for brands lies in facilitating this transition by finding ways to provide guidance and reassurance. The Functional behaviour pattern could be driven by security concerns, which we see in many people around the world, or it may be a rejection of the perceived addictive or frivolous nature of tech applications like social media and gaming. Wang Min, a 33-year-old mother of two in Shanghai, is cautiously feeling her way around the convenience of being online, but she disapproves of too much screen time for herself as well as her sons, limiting the amount of time they spend gaming. “I’m curious about new technology, but I don’t have the time or energy to get the hang of it. My smartphone makes my life easy, for example shopping online. My life is a lot more than what I do online. I’d rather spend more time with my sons.” While some Functionals are digging their heels in and resisting conversion, it is also worth remembering that many are simply at the beginning of the adoption curve. They are open and excited, but have simply been slower than others because of factors affecting their access to technology such as age, income, or the market they are based in. This is a segment in
  11. 11. Share this 11 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied In this respect they are a niche group, whose adoption of digital media and devices has been driven by their interest in the functionality of technology rather than social engagement. Typically we find that Observers range from around 10 to 20% of the online population in a market. Being an Observer could be an enduring mindset or may be a life-stage related shift. For Becky, a 33-year-old freelance videographer in London, there has been a significant change in the way she uses social media in recent years. If we’d interviewed her five years ago, she would probably have fallen into the Leader segment, but as she’s gotten older she has reduced the status updates she posts on Facebook. She doesn’t want current or potential employers to see what she gets up to out of working hours, or for them to be able to see any potentially embarrassing photos. Her need for privacy has gone up, and she doesn’t want acquaintances to know the intimate details of her life. Indeed, in the last year she conducted a cull of her friends on Facebook, cutting them down from 1,500 to 400, as she only wants to be friends with people “there is at least an outside chance I’ll go for a coffee with.” Observers are highly curious about and enthused by technology, and take pride in knowing about the latest innovations. They are extremely comfortable around technology and enjoy being able to figure things out for themselves. They are set apart from Leaders by their lack of a similar enthusiasm for social media.
  12. 12. Share this 12 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied “Watching TV while playing on my smartphone relaxes me. I’m also amazed by how fast and easily I can access various resources such as finding where I am and apps recommending restaurants. The internet makes my life more colourful, exciting and richer than before. I feel like I’m having a second life. I like mobile news feeds, as I can be among the first to know” From a marketing perspective Observers are consumers rather than broadcasters of content. They are some of the heaviest online researchers and utilise user reviews, search engines, independent reviews and brand and retailer websites. Brands should move more budget online when activating this segment, compared to other groups. However, whilst Observers are open to brand engagement initiatives, it must be remembered that their interaction with technology is purposeful. Brands must focus their engagement efforts around functional benefits. While she doesn’t create a lot of online content, she is technologically advanced, owning a MacBook and an iMac apart from her smartphone. Her smartphone broke two days before we conducted the interview, and the thing she missed most about it was her access to Google Maps. “Since my smartphone broke I can’t find my way around London. I’m literally lost without my maps app, but I’m not fussed about not having Facebook 24/7.” Liang Ying, 42, has a full and busy life balancing job and family in Shanghai, and her Observer behaviour may be a life-stage outcome as well, since she has less time on her hands. Unlike Becky though, for Liang Ying technology was never primarily about social media; more about entertainment, news and efficiency. For her, a smartphone provides a retreat into an inner space – it provides her some personal downtime without having to make a lot of effort, as well as tools to make her life convenient.
  13. 13. Share this 13 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied Gary, 44, is a London-based Connector who started using Facebook in the last few years to get back in touch with his friends. The tipping point for this was a change in his lifestyle, when he split up with his partner. When we asked him why he didn’t use Facebook prior to that he told us, “I just didn’t have time!” However he now regularly updates his status, uploads pictures and communicates with his friends on the platform. He is logged onto Facebook constantly throughout the day, using his mobile when on the move, his laptop while watching TV with his daughters. He’s also discovered instant messaging and is a big fan of WhatsApp. But by his own admission, he is anything but a tech buff and his device usage beyond social media is relatively unsophisticated. “The internet has been a great way to get back in touch with old friends that I’ve lost touch with. I’ve started doing that in the last couple of years; it has changed my life for the better, without a doubt.” Connectors are the opposite of Observers, in that their interaction with the online world is driven primarily by social media. They tend to form 15-20% of the online population in most markets. They are not especially interested in having the latest devices, provided the ones they have are good enough for accessing social media and connecting with friends and family.
  14. 14. Share this 14 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied From a targeting perspective, Connectors are receptive to brands online since being in touch with what’s happening out there is a primary driver. While not tech buffs, the fact that they spend a huge amount of time online means that a mobile-centric, social-first strategy is likely to be effective with them. They are likely to be open to following brands, but are looking for “useful information” and an explicit personal benefit, such as a price advantage that might encourage them to buy online. In Shanghai, 48-year-old Fan Heping says she finds it hard to keep up with technology and is not interested in electronics and all that “boy stuff”. But she does use her mobile phone to IM with friends and consume news and entertainment. She likes to forward news, tips and knowledge on WeChat, a way of being helpful that she says makes her feel good about herself. Her smartphone allows her to stay connected, but significantly, digital connection does not become a substitute for real connection. “When my husband and I finish dinner, we sit in front of the TV, talking to each other. I prefer to know about his day than to play on my smartphone.”
  15. 15. Share this 15 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied Developing and implementing strategies to reach your audience Knowing your market-level personas is useful, but what’s critical is determining the relative role of personas within your category or target audience. In this graphic we show how buyers of beers and ales in the UK differ compared to the market average, and how they differ depending upon their age. In both age groups, about half of people fall into one persona, which theoretically makes the strategy decision relatively easy (assuming you are targeting just one age group). But there are three areas of caution. Firstly, half of the age group falls outside of this persona. Secondly, in an era where audience reach is purported to be the only marketing metric that matters, ignoring the other age group may prove foolhardy. Finally, just because there is one large persona, it doesn’t mean they will engage with your brand. In the UK, 18% of 18-65 are offline: strategies should be dramatically different when targeting the under and over 40’s Segment split among beer purchasers aged 18 to 40 Segment split among beer purchasers aged 41 to 65 Market average UK Source: Connected Life segments / Base: UK: 18-40 year olds (165) | 41-65 year olds (175) High Digitalinfluence Low Digitalinfluence High Social engagement Low Social engagement High Social engagement Low Social engagement High Social engagement Low Social engagement 20% 13%13% 54% 19% 21% 49% 11% 18% 16% 35% 31%
  16. 16. Share this 16 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied The Connected Life framework we’ve described is just one lens through which to view the complexity of online and offline behaviour. Our goal in creating and sharing this framework is to highlight that, whilst consumer behaviour has evolved and become increasingly complex, you can still cluster consumers into sizeable segments, enabling effective yet cost- efficient development of considered strategies for engaging them. In an era where digital media has become saturated with advertising and branded content, we believe the need for such strategies is greater than ever before. The era of multi-target integrated strategies. We operate in an era where multiple integrated marketing strategies are required to reach your consumer base effectively across a fragmented media landscape. Each of the four personas we’ve described will be influenced in different ways by digital media. Each requires careful examination when it comes to how they behave regarding your category, which channels you should aim to reach them through, when you should seek to do so, and what types of content and execution you should use to engage them. A key question for all brands is: how many personas do I need to target in order to drive growth? If you’re managing a single brand, it won’t necessarily make financial sense to target every persona, particularly in emerging markets where those online are a more homogenous group. But if managing a portfolio of products, the fragmented media landscape creates a perfect opportunity to diversify strategy to meet the needs of different consumers. A key question for brands is: how many personas do I need to target in order to drive growth? If you’re managing a portfolio of products, the fragmented media landscape creates a perfect opportunity to diversify strategy to meet the needs of different consumers.
  17. 17. Share this 17 Meet the four personas of connected consumers Intelligence Applied About Connected Life Connected Life is a leading global study of the digital attitudes and behaviours of over 55,000 internet users across 50 countries, exploring how technology is transforming the lives of consumers across the world. It offers essential insight into the impact of the growing digital ecosystem on the media landscape. Connected Life also uncovers new and exciting opportunities for marketers to connect with their consumers in this increasingly complex environment; it is a powerful tool that helps brands make better digital decisions. The fieldwork was undertaken in all markets between March and June 2014. Please visit for further information. About TNS TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and customer and employee relationships, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presence in over 80 countries, TNS has more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else and understands individual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world. TNS is part of Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups. Get in touch If you would like to talk to us about anything you have read in this report, please get in touch via or via Twitter @tns_global Jonathan Sinton is Global Digital Director for TNS’s clients. Jonathan leads high profile projects around digital strategy development, opportunity development and assessment, website, social media and digital advertising development and measurement. Anjali Puri heads the Centre of Excellence for TNS Qualitative, where she is responsible for developing TNS’s qualitative offer, providing clients with cross-cultural insights and leading new thinking, particularly in the areas of consumer choices, behaviour change and social media. To find out more about strategically targeting connected consumers, contact Jonathan or Anjali at or About the authors