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Identifying Target Audiences When Everyone is Sheltering in Place

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
12 min read
Posted on May 21, 2020

During the present pandemic, the old ways of identifying target audiences for your marketing efforts may no longer cut it. All good marketing strategies need to be underpinned by quality data and insights, but how can you understand your target audience segments when many key behaviors and habits have shifted? 

Note: This is the third and final post in a three-part blog series. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and dramatically disrupts life as normal, here are our thoughts on what our trusted customers and partners can do to weather the storm. To read the first post on understanding consumers today, click here. You can check out the second post on why in-app marketing and advertising is critical right now here

For one, location data is not as powerful now as it used to be, since many people are not traveling as much as they used to. While this is changing in states that are beginning to lift their travel restrictions, many of those within your target markets across the nation are either still sheltering in place or not traveling as much as they used to in the past. Of course, the fact that there are fewer open places for people to go to as well contributes to this point. 

In addition, media consumption behaviors are changing, which impacts the ability of both large and small businesses to understand their audiences. In the past, outlets like radio stations, television networks, print publications and transportation agencies would pass along basic demographic information on the group of people who subscribe, tune in, listen in, etc. But as media consumption has changed, not only are these outlets themselves less effective in terms of reach, but this basic data alone no longer cuts it. 

And, of course, behaviors are changing right now too, which adds an extra wrinkle to identifying a target audience for your product or service. People are not going to physical locations like grocery stores or pharmacies as often, and they are not going to restaurants or movie theaters either. People are also using e-commerce and delivery platforms more frequently, watching a lot more streaming content and using social media platforms more – and during different times of the day.  

Between shelter in place restrictions and economic realities, what people are doing and how and what they are buying has changed dramatically. There’s a reason that for many brands, what they are seeing on measurement platforms like Google Analytics now probably looks very different than it did even three months ago. 

So what does this all mean for marketers? How can they understand their audiences today so they can effectively engage and acquire the right consumers during this new normal? Instead of relying on the old ways of doing things, we recommend that all marketers follow these five steps. 

Step 1: Define Your Target Audiences 

Defining your target audience is a crucial first step that cannot be ignored no matter what is happening in the world. This is a critical, foundational step that needs to be undertaken for any brand. 

Now can be an ideal opportunity to really take the time to understand and identify the right audiences. With other marketing priorities like events being canceled or on pause right now, you may have extra time to dive into the data and develop a better understanding of your ideal audience segments. 

But, do not assume that your target audience in January or February is the same as it should be today. With so much changing in the world right now, it is highly likely that the right audience for your brand may have shifted slightly over the course of the year. 

Right now, mobile apps are a helpful source of audience data. Usage of many apps are on the rise, and a number of app categories have seen a growth in new installs since March. As a result of this increased activity, apps can be a better source of knowledge that legacy media. Plus, by combining data from a variety of apps, marketers can develop a complete picture of their ideal audiences and understand how they are spending their time and what they care about in this unique moment in history. 

Step 2: Determine How Both Existing Customers and Potential Customers Have Changed Their Behavior 

Once you know who both your top existing customers are and who you want to go after in the immediate future, it is beneficial to see how specifically their behaviors have changed in the moment. Are they looking at their phones and other screens more frequently or at different times of the day? How has their economic situation changed, if at all? How are they learning about new products and services, and are they open to changing their buying behaviors and patterns? These are all critical questions to answer. 

It is helpful at this stage to split up both existing and potential customers, to see if there’s a delta between the two groups. Of course, it is more crucial than ever to both help grow the business and to reduce churn. It is possible that the people buying from you now are different in certain respects from those most likely to buy from you in the future, although marketers should take pains to understand both groups – and to meet the needs of both groups too. 

Step 3: Understand Your Target Customer’s Pain Points Now 

What are your ideal audiences worried about right now? This is important to know, as fear and doubt have long been effective marketing messaging criteria. When you develop ads or create content for your content marketing efforts, it will be crucial to address these pain points. But you can’t get to this stage if you do not understand what your target audiences are most worried about in this moment. 

It is possible that passive data alone will not capture all of the information necessary here. If necessary, these kinds of data sources can be supplemented with more active sources like direct consumer surveys, which allow your target audience to directly tell you what they care about and what their pain points are right now.  

Just make sure to capture this information in a quick and timely fashion, as needs and pain points can shift rapidly. Plus, the longer it takes you to gather the right information, the more time goes by before you can take direct steps to address the needs of your audiences. 

Step 4: Redefine Your Ideal Customer Base As Necessary 

At the moment, it can be tempting to think of consumer behavior before and after COVID-19. After all, starting in March was when we all had to shift our behavior in light of the virus and public health.  

But this does not capture the full scale of what is really going on for your audiences. As reactions to the virus evolve and as what is both feasible and available to consumers changes, audience behaviors naturally change in lock step.  

Plus, audience behaviors can vary wildly by where they live, what their economic situation is, who else is living with them, etc. For all of these permutations of your audience segments, behaviors and attitudes will invariably evolve over time. And as a marketer, it is critical to keep up with these changes. 

Step 5: Seek Out Help From the Right Experts for Your Marketing Campaigns 

It is critical to have the right data on hand to really understand your different audiences and what they actually care about today. However, many marketers do not have all of the data they might need. And even if they have the right information, parsing through it all to really understand the crux of the matter is no easy feat, especially for non-experts. 

As Ringo Starr crooned many decades ago, it is beneficial to get by with a little help from your friends. The right expert on hand can provide both the knowledge necessary to really understand the right audience and the expertise to help sift through and make sense of available audience data. 

There are many sources of knowledge out there, but few are as comprehensive, thorough and actionable as data from mobile apps. And in the mobile realm, first-party telco data is the holy grail of information sources, since it is frequently updated, highly accurate, precise and always on. 

To find and reach the right audiences for your marketing campaigns, turn to InMobi. Reach out today to speak with one of our experts and learn more about how our mobile audiences are different. 

About the Author 

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. He is currently spending his free time watching too much TV and engaging in various cooking projects. 

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