Once upon a time, consumer demographics just referred to customers' locations, genders, ages, incomes and other types of personal data. In the Information Age, this is no longer the case, research finds.
According to a new study by Mastercard, retailers should learn consumers' online personas, which characterize the customers' online behavior, willingness to share data and awareness of how that data is used. This information provides a better indicator of how retailers and marketers can target and engage with online and offline shoppers.
In their white paper "Around the World in 5 Personas: How Global Consumers Think About Their Data Online," researchers at the MasterCard's Global Insights group, which produced the study, outlined the types of information consumers share online and why they share this data.
As illustrated in an infographic, Digital Sharing: What's Your Online Persona?, the study revealed that each customer is wired with "digital DNA," which places them in one of five "digital personas":
1. Open Sharers
Open Sharers represent 21 percent of online consumers. These consumers are comfortable sharing information online if they will receive a deal or reward in return. They also access social media frequently, with 45 percent using Twitter, 83 percent going on Facebook and 64 percent signing onto Google+ on a daily basis.
2. Simple Interactors
Simple Interactors make up 21 percent of online consumers. They are considered the ultimate social networkers, but are not tech savvy. They are also aware of targeted marketing, but do not see the value in their own data and thus are not concerned about it. Although 80 percent of Simple Interactors research products online, 63 percent still prefer to shop in person.
3. Solely Shoppers
Solely Shoppers represent 21 percent of online consumers. They are the savviest and most informed online shoppers. Not only do they research products online, but they also practice "showrooming," visiting a store and then using their mobile phones to compare prices online. However, as savvy as these consumers are, only 37 percent of Solely Shoppers realize when their personal data has been used to target advertisements on social media sites.
4. Passive Users
Passive Users represent 20 percent of online consumers. Skeptics by nature, they do not see true value in using the Internet. Passive Users access social networks less frequently and are more likely to shop in person.
5. Proactive Protectors
Proactive Protectors represent 17 percent of online consumers. The opposite of Open Sharers, Proactive Protectors place high importance on protecting their privacy online and are vigilant about who accesses their information. They are also highly aware of targeted marketing efforts and actively avoid marketers by not using social networks.
Which customers should retailers focus on?
For retailers, the two most significant online personas are the Open Sharers and Solely Shoppers, the study found. These two personas demystify the intersection of online shopping and in-person shopping behaviors, while providing valuable insight into more effective ways to collect and analyze consumer data.
"This research shows that regardless of who they are and where they live, [Internet users] all share something in common when it comes to how they act and behave online — these five unique global personality types," Theodore Iacobuzio, vice president of MasterCard's Global Insights group, said in a statement. "It also shows us that when consumers go online, characteristics such as age, gender or nationality become secondary, and they instead assume a sense of what we refer to as 'social citizenship.'"
The study also revealed that consumers know what they are worth to advertisers; 64 percent believe their personal data has value to merchants, and 55 percent appreciate when companies tailor offers based on the information the consumers have shared. Most consumers, however, are technically savvy about online privacy, with 60 percent knowing how to change the privacy settings on their browsers.
For more information on learning about consumers' digital DNA, visit The Digital Sharing and Trust Study.
Interested in finding your own online persona? Take Mastercard's Find Your Persona quiz at http://5personas.mastercard.com/en/find-your-persona.