How many adults in the UK would you estimate have zero digital skills? A few hundred thousand? A million, max? Surely in 2019 everybody is online.
The actual answer? 4.3 million.
Nearly 1 in 10 adults in the UK are totally offline – cut off from what, for many of us, seems like a vital component of modern life. As marketers rush to embrace digital and the promise of the connected world, we all need to consider who we might be unconsciously excluding.
The digital skills gap
For the past few years, Lloyds Bank have been publishing their Consumer Digital Index – excellent studies on the digital health of the UK, which are well worth taking the time to digest. Their 2018 report highlights the 4.3 million adults without digital skills, and a further 7 million who don’t have full basic skills in digital. All told, 1 in 5 adults in Britain today have zero or limited digital skills. Put another way, if marketers over-commit to digital, they will immediately miss 20% of their potential audience.
The report data shows that offline users cut across social, economic and demographic lines. Whilst there is a skew towards older people and those with a registered disability, it’s not clear cut – around three quarters of both of these groups are perfectly proficient digitally. In every walk of life and segment of society, there are appreciable volumes of adults who are not engaged with digital, and the biggest driver is a simple lack of interest. Much as it may seem alien from a London office surrounded by technology, it’s perfectly possible to live and thrive without the internet.
The problem with customer personas
The Lloyds report is important for marketers because it helps us break down preconceptions about customers. As much as we love to segment our customers, it’s equally true that we often stereotype them. Despite the millions spent by brands on bespoke focus groups, surveys and consumer research, customer personas have an uncanny knack of converging on the same familiar themes.
Meet Meera, or Jessica, or Chad. They’re a soy latte-loving millennial glued to their screens. They want authentic, organic and locally-sourced food/clothes/insurance. They all have fantastic hair. Oh look! It’s Jane, or Sarah, or Naomi! She’s a hard-working mum of young kids who loves hanging out with the girls. And here’s Brenda, who is too old for this internet lark. Brenda knows what she does and doesn’t like, and almost certainly has a regional accent. So Chad gets the mobile video ads; Jane gets the Mumsnet banner impression; Brenda gets the large print leaflet through the door.
The data shows us that these approaches are incomplete. By all means, play to the numbers – if Chad’s more likely to use his phone, be sure to talk to him there. But appreciate that there are plenty of Chads who don’t even own a smartphone, and a majority of Brendas who do.
Use data to challenge your perceptions
Using data as part of a marketing plan helps us get to a true picture of customers and unlocks competitive advantage. If marketers have the same incomplete view of customers, they all end up using similar approaches. When ten companies drop information through a letterbox, but only one also shows up on a mobile ad, who has the most cut through?
The best marketers constantly challenge their own and the industry’s perceptions. Keeping abreast of the latest data and trends from objective sources is a great way to do this. While your competitors are stuck with old ideas, you can be having a truly relevant conversation with customers.
To learn more about how Starcount can use data to transform your business, get in touch.