Demographics Are Dead: Here’s How To Know Your Audience



This year at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, Brooklyn’s waterfront set the stage for discussions with leaders in the tech ecosystem, mainly those from the local area. While every attendee walked away with a different experience as it pertains to his or her own interests, a key theme that stood out was that demographics are no longer relevant; rather, understanding a target group is ultimately about the audience behavior.

There were a few panels that highlighted this audience-based sentiment. I have distilled these talks into the following 3 tenants: 1. know who they are, 2. know where they are, and 3. know where they aren’t.

Know who they are

Honest Company Co-Founder Jessica Alba and CMO Chris Thorne took to the TechCrunch stage to discuss how they continue to innovate and grow Honest.

The Honest team works to create a valuable and authentic experience that rings true with their consumer base. Alba shared that it is key to take into consideration your consumers wants and needs, as well as their buying behavior. They do this by diving into analytics and integrating them into the Honest shopping experience, in order for it to feel more custom – even down to content. Alba highlighted that they create relevant, branded content, so not every customer is getting the exact same things but something that matters to the audience receiving the message.

“We’re thinking more along those lines of the customer experience, really optimizing the customer experience so it feels authentic and personal to them,” said Alba.

The next progression of the Honest Company’s drive to connect with their audience is through independent retail stores.

“[The value in a stand-alone Honest retail environment] is someone walking into your own branded experience. When you walk into Nordstrom, it’s Nordstrom’s version of the Honest Company. When you walk into Target, it’s Target’s version of the Honest Company. It’s different when you walk into a fully-branded, immersive experience.”

Adding to the physical expansion, Alba and her team have been innovating around the in-store experience by merging traditional online programs with the physical space. They’ve found that offering a subscription-based model in-store has been keeping consumers engaged and coming back for more.

Know where they are

When you think of the top-rated morning television news programs, an email newsletter called theSkimm probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet, this daily email platform is the third-ranked morning TV show when you look at demographics for morning news, according to theSkimm Co-Founder and Co-CEO Danielle Weisberg.

“theSkimm is a multi-platform audience company, focused on female millennials. Our mission as a company is to make it easier to be smarter,” said Weisberg.

By staying true to a voice that resonates with the audience, in addition to creating a space where the readers feel like they’re a part of a community, theSkimm has been able to scale in just a few short years.

The company’s core guiding principles come from the following views, according to their website: reading the news is time consuming; wanting to read the news is a hobby; and lastly, not everyone has the time or interest.

During their interview together on the Disrupt stage, Co-Founder and Co-CEO Carly Zakin emphasized that theSkimm is hyper-focused on fulfilling needs based on consumer behavior.

“What does this audience do? They check their email first thing in the morning,” said Zakin. “What else? Our audience lives in their calendars. We had to get into that routine.”

Thus, theSkimm Ahead app was born. This product provides relevant current events and pop culture news into a calendar format in order to mirror its user base’s existing behaviors. By saying “no” to more ideas that popped up than “yes,” theSkimm has been able to remain hyper-focused on serving products that are widely adapted and praised by their core audience.

Know where they aren’t

It can be argued that knowing where your customers aren’t might even be more valuable than knowing where they are. When trying to connect with an audience beyond your existing user base, advertising is an effective tool. The latest wave in advertising technology, however, is actually ad blocking.

Till Faida, Founder and CEO of Adblock Plus shared how his product is changing the online advertising sector for a distinct group. Their latest product, Acceptable Ads, is connecting this group of users with the publishing world.

“What is potentially hurting content creators are ads that clearly don’t provide any value to the consumer. Almost all the people who install an ad blocker don’t hate ads, they’re just really annoyed by the intrusive ones,” said Faida.

Those who are tech-savvy that install an ad blocker need to be addressed in a different way. Acceptable Ads allows publishers to show alternative, less intrusive ads, specifically targeted at people who have opted out of traditional online ads. They discovered that fewer but value-add ads provide more value.

The user gets a better experience, and at the same time, publishers can bring in revenue while honoring the user’s choice. According to Faida, out of the top one hundred websites in the U.S., 40 have Acceptable Ads installed on their pages.

As the media landscape develops to be more and more targeted, it’s key to think of the consumer, not just as a data point but as an evolving audience. Incorporating a 360-degree approach of knowing who your audience is, where they are, and where they aren’t, is showing to be a driving factor of a product’s success.



Image Credit: CC byTechCrunch

About the author: Marley Kaplan

As Head of Innovation at Kinetic, Marley Kaplan is responsible for activating audiences on-the-move. Marley keeps brands ahead of the curve by leveraging her experience with media agencies, global startups and accelerator programs, including 500 Startups and DreamIt Ventures. She resides on the Lower East Side in New York City.

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