With lots on their plates, and not necessarily so much in their bank accounts, consumer profiling isn’t always a top priority for startups. It might be seen as an unnecessary expense or something that can come later, further down the line.
But, actually, it makes great financial sense to carry out a consumer profiling exercise at the outset when you’re getting a new business off the ground. That’s because the data you obtain can act as your North Star, helping to guide every important decision you make.
What exactly is consumer profiling?
Consumer profiling is the process of defining your target customers through market research. By layering demographic information such as age, gender and location, with behavioural and attitudinal data, you can build out detailed profiles. These profiles help you to create more effective marketing strategies and, ultimately, make more money as a business.
Learn the 4 essential types of consumer profiling ⬇️
How do you get started with consumer profiling?
As part of your business plan, you’re bound to have spent time thinking about your target audience. You’ve probably outlined the basics like age range and gender, and maybe things like the socioeconomic status of your prospective consumers. There might even be specific characteristics these individuals share, like they’re all dog owners or new parents.
This gives you a good place to start because you already know who it is you want to talk to – you just need a way to reach them. A self-service consumer research platform like Attest gives you easy access to more than 100 million consumers in 49 markets. You can select your audience, build a survey just for them and get the answers you need quickly, and without huge investment.
But what should you ask? The idea behind a consumer profiling survey is to get to know your audience, and find out how different groups of potential customers respond to your offering. How do they feel about your product or service? How do they shop? What media do they consume? What are their pain points? (check out this consumer profiling survey template for some question ideas).
For each question you ask, think how the answers will be useful for you, for example this will determine how I distribute or advertise to my target audience, or I will tweak my value proposition based on my target audience’s pain points. From there, decide whether you want quantitative or qualitative responses. A quantitative response comes from a single or multiple choice question and is useful when you want to be able to quantify how many people behave in a certain way or hold a particular belief.
A qualitative response comes from an open text question, and is something you can use to gain insight into why people behave a certain way or hold a particular belief. A good customer profiling survey will contain a mix of both question types so you get both hard stats and the ‘human’ context around them.
Once your consumer profiling survey is complete, you can start exploring the data. With Attest, you can have results back in just a day or two, and straight away you’ll be able to see how people have answered, as the data is visualised in easy-to-understand bar charts. But the true insight in customer profiling lies in ability to cut the data by different demographics and behavioural traits, which on the Attest platform is simple to achieve through using the interactive filters.
You might find interesting differences among your core target audience when you play around with demographics like region, education level or household income. You can also filter by response to see how that influences respondents’ answers to other questions. For example, perhaps in one question you asked ‘on average, how many items of make-up do you purchase per year.’ Meanwhile, in another question, you’ve asked respondents which stores they usually buy from or which beauty magazines they read?
You can filter by high-volume consumers to see how their responses differ. This not only helps you to get to know them better but also to gain a better understanding of where you should be distributing or advertising your products.
Drawing up customer profiles
The next step is to take all the insight you’ve gleaned and work it into a narrative or narratives. How many distinct groups of target customers have you identified? Try giving each group a name (and maybe even a face) to help you build out their identity.
Let’s look at an example – an eco nappy brand has identified a persona they’ve called Natalie; a 30-year-old married professional from London who is expecting her first baby. She is keen to be as prepared as possible and has already started researching nappy brands although she is confused about the myriad of options. As well as being concerned about which nappy will provide the best protection for her baby, she wants to make the most environmentally-friendly choice. She is prepared to pay a premium for the right nappy and is seeking a brand she can put her trust in.
Then there’s Laura, who is a full-time mother of two from the suburbs, who is now expecting her third baby. She cares about the environment but is price conscious and has been using the same brand of nappies since the birth of her first child. She doesn’t have a lot of time to think about her purchasing decisions and buys what’s available in her local Asda, but she does regularly access Mumsnet for support and advice from fellow mums.
When you define customers this way, you can see how different they are – even though they are both expectant mothers – and it becomes obvious that they should be targeted in different ways. The aim of consumer profiling is to understand where your product fits into each target customer’s narrative.
How startup Little Moons used consumer profiling to grow
When a startup already has a good social media following they might think they don’t need to carry out a consumer profiling exercise. After all, you can already see the demographics of your fans and target lookalike audiences. But, as Japanese Mochi ice cream brand Little Moons discovered, social media followers aren’t always representative of your most valuable customers.
“I always thought this was quite an interesting dilemma for startups,” says Little Moons Marketing Director Ross Farquhar. “Social media provides you with all sorts of benefits in terms of reaching an audience, but it can deceive you into believing you have ‘loyalists’.
“This is very unlikely – every brand has a curve of light buyers to heavy ones and it’s the light ones who make up most of the volume. You might also think that the people motivated enough to follow you on Instagram are the same people who will drive your volume.
“In our case, our Instagram following (and our subsequent TikTok craze) would suggest our audience were late teens/early 20s women. But Attest consumer profiling identified that the people driving most of the volume in premium ice cream are actually affluent 30+ year olds with the disposable income to habitually purchase a premium product like Little Moons.”
Elliot joined Attest in 2019 and has dedicated his career to working with brands carrying out market research. At Attest Elliot takes a leading role in the Customer Research Team, to support customers as they uncover insights and new areas for growth.