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Comment: Retailers must consider behaviour when targeting shopper ads says Ian Reynolds of KBH On-Train Media

Demographics are the stock-in-trade of retail advertising. The standard targets are income, class, age group and gender. But these rigid demographics are changing as purchasing habits are increasingly influenced by attitude and lifestyle. Retirees are as likely to spend their free time cycling around Europe as watching TV at home with tea and a biscuit. Similarly, young people are defined as much on their use of tech as the year they were born.

So how can retailers get up to speed with the new demographics? And how should they consider in-store and out of home (OOH) advertising to increase sales by targeting behaviours rather than demographics?

We studied the behaviour of more than 2,500 consumers and looked at when, how, and why different people shopped after being exposed to on-train/OOH advertising. We conducted the study first in 2013 and then again this year, and produced new audience categories using Mosaic, Personicx and TGI data.

We assigned these consumers to the following groups: Influential Youths, Intellectual Urbanites, Modern Families and Affluent Professionals. We didn’t completely abandon age and income classifications, but we have put new emphasis on the increasing importance of attitude and behaviour.

Much of the research focused on smartphone use while out-of-home, and in line with our new audience segmentation we found that this behaviour transcends age groups. Usage is high across the board with 90% using smartphones while travelling. Unsurprisingly much of this use is around social media. Understanding this growing consumer behaviour will help retail advertisers ensure their advertising links well with their online presence.

All of the groups we studied use social media, albeit in quite different ways. Affluent Professionals and Modern Families generally use it passively – with activity focused on reading updates, while Intellectual Urbanites and Influential Youths tend to be more ‘active’, sharing thoughts, photos and videos.

But consumers are not always looking at their home screen. In fact, the research suggested that 50% of the train journey was spent on-device. Train travellers are far more likely to notice OOH ads than before, with 94% of travellers noticing traincards, rising from 65% in 2013.

It is important that retailers understand the way decisions are made on a train too. Many consumers discuss the content of an outdoor ad before making a purchase. The overall research showed that 40% have discussed the ad with someone straight away, on the train itself; 39% have discussed the ad content at home, later that day.

The most popular time to have bought a product or service seen advertised on a train was at home later that day, with 29% having done so. However, almost a third (28%) bought a product instantaneously and 27% made a purchase prompted by what they’d seen on a traincard days afterwards. Outdoor advertising can influence action both immediately and in the much longer term.

The research also investigated points at which those who already interact with general retailers, either regularly or on the train, are most likely to talk to someone, research and purchase a product seen advertised on a traincard. 34% of those who have bought from a general retail website while on the train have done so immediately, while still on the train; 37% of this group have done so almost as impulsively, on their way to work once they were off the train.

Time scales for decision making are affected by the type of purchase being considered. More expensive items require longer consideration, while cheaper items are more likely to be purchased immediately. Taking these time scales into account will help retailers tailor their advertising campaigns to their target audience.

That the conversion rate is high is testament to the fact that the on-train environment is ripe for purchase or consideration of purchase of retail products. Consumers travel for 40 minutes on average and are in a reflective state of mind during which they are likely to plan their week and make decisions. Shopping is a crucial activity for the consumer to consider.  

Retailers need to think how best to use the advertising space on-train, in a mall or in-store to prompt consumers into making a decision. They should increasingly consider state of mind, context and smart prompts too.