Demographic Profiling and the Internet

Why do you think there is an advertisement for fake tanning products in your local hairdressers? Direct marketing has been around for centuries and it stems from the same ilk as demographic profiling – the accuracy of our profiles has dramatically improved alongside the evolution of the internet. But how does it all work?

Social networking sites like Facebook, have become particularly useful as tools for precise customer segmentation. Every time a user ‘likes’ something on the site, they are indicating an interest in that particular subject. Somebody ‘liking’ a lot of fashion related feeds will automatically be categorized into a specific group. That group can then be targeted by digital marketers representing fashion clients and the user will be presented with advertisements for fashion related products.

This is one of the more modern forms of demographic profiling and one that is exploited commercially. There is another, more behind the scenes, use for the practice which is adopted by credit providers to manage customer accounts more astutely.

Demographically segregating account holders into groups who are perfectly capable of repaying, struggling to make ends meet or even teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, can provide lenders with an insight into how to prepare a strategy to ensure they collect the debt they are owed by helping every customer.

Lenders often do not possess the necessary tools for such accurate monitoring themselves, so they rely on the expert credit reference agencies to carry out what can be an extremely profitable procedure. This is not dissimilar to how retailers will employ digital marketers to target customers via Facebook.

Targeting different demographics is not a modern phenomenon, it has just become much more personalized. In effect, there are no demographic groups no more, just demographic identities. The internet has enabled us to upload our own profiles and share these with strangers – the savvy companies are simply picking them up to promote products we, theoretically, should already be interested in or need.

The reassuring thing about it all is that no longer do we have to put up with annoying banner ads, which have no relevance to our interests at all, while surfing the internet. Instead, personal emails and specific offers will be sent directly to us – not just commercial products but solutions to help our personal finances as well.

Some people may see the practice as intrusive but it has always been around – it is just much less ignorant nowadays.

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