Commentary

Data Replacing Demographics Is Making FMCGs Sell Direct

Demographics have always seemed a little too convenient, haven't they? It struck me on a sick day last week that television advertisers know just one thing about daytime television. Judging by the ads, viewers are only concerned by donkeys dying, children in war zones dying and dying themselves without funeral insurance. Did I forget being concerned about dying before you've checked whether you're owed a PPI payment?

By the same token, I should be on the verge of becoming the wearer of poor taste jumpers as I ditch beer for whisky as life's half century approaches. Nevertheless, the guys I know who love whisky, to the point of collecting and sampling many varieties in their private collections, are either Millennials or pensioners. I'm in neither camp, and by the way, I already have a direct debit to help children in war zones and if I had a chance I know exactly where I would shove the form the guy on the tv wants me to sign to claim back PPI.

Interesting, then, to see Unilever talking to The Drum about how it is moving on from demographics to look more closely at behaviour. And when we say behaviour, let's be clear -- we mean data. The cookie crumbs we leave behind us online reveal our behaviour and even when we are in-store loyalty programmes and e-receipts are rapidly becoming ways of drawing digital data from physical visits.

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When you think about it, then, it's hardly a surprise to see the likes of Mondelez and Unilever hatching major plans to boost direct e-commerce revenues. Not only do they make more from a sale if it is direct, but crucially, they can get far better customer insight than the data-poor experience of shipping pallets of product to warehouses owned by various supermarkets and then losing sight of a sale.

It's this lack of insight that leaves FMCGs relying on demographics when it comes to creating ads and buying airtime to run them in. Let's be honest -- there's nothing inherently wrong with demographics -- there are some insights as to how age, gender, pay and location can affect people but, the problem is, it's all very loose and far too general. As in life, it's usually better to judge somebody by their actions than by how they may appear. This is why the FMCG giants are moving to a direct relationship both through social channel as well as direct e-commerce.

It's data that will help target the right people at the right time on the right devices, as we become used to a mobile-first world. Demographics will still play a part in this, but they are rapidly becoming the dartboard -- a general target in which data can lead them to the bullseye.

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