What are Demographics?

What are demographics?

Have you ever wondered why age questions are asked on surveys? Well, the reason why they are so useful is that a person’s knowledge and experience about a topic or subject will often be determined by his or her age.

For instance, if you wanted to survey an audience about consumer electronics, a respondent in their twenties would typically answer a question on this topic differently to a respondent in their sixties. Such insight can be crucial, particularly when you’re looking to develop a product or service, as it helps guide you on the best way to move forward, which is probably why the age survey question is one of the more commonly used demographic questions.

So, what are demographic questions?

Essentially, demographic questions help you to collect data from customers that you can then use to differentiate, and segment groups based on demographic factors such as a person’s age, gender, location, occupation, educational background, profession, ethnicity, marital status and annual income.

By dividing a market into smaller categories based on these factors, demographic segmentation can help you to compare and evaluate how responses can vary according to a range of different demographic criteria and whether this could be influencing a respondent’s answer. It’s why demographic segmentation is such a crucial part of market research surveys.

Advantages and disadvantages of demographic segmentation

For brands and marketers, besides helping them to better understand current and prospective customers, demographic segmentation aids focus and a more effective streamlining of their resources. Demographic segmentation also tends to be one of the first ways in which brands begin to segment their users, consequently providing them with one of the simplest ways to interpret statistics that can then be used to group entire populations.

From here it’s easy to appreciate the advantages of organising consumers based on demographic information. However, there are also some disadvantages. So, it’s prudent to be aware of both before you get to work with demographic segmentation. We’ll begin with the advantages of demographic segmentation.

The pros of demographic segmentation

Data is readily available and simple to obtain: demographic information can be easily accessed in a number of different ways. One of the simplest is via government-maintained census data, which is readily available to the public both online and offline. You can also collect your own demographic data by conducting interviews of consumers using online survey tools such as our own. A well-crafted and executed consumer survey can deepen your understanding of your target audience’s thoughts and behaviour, delivering the insights needed to benefit a wide range of market research areas from market and product, to brand and promotion surveys.

It’s cost effective: it’s also important to point out that in addition to being readily available, accessing demographic information via census data is also free. And when it comes to online survey resources, many tools such as our own allow people to register for a free account. So, there’s never a better time to get started.

It’s simple to analyse data: there are many good tools out there to help you. If you’re already using online tools such as Google Analytics, not only will it help you collect data, it will analyse it for you too.

If you’re looking to conduct independent analysis, tools such as SPSS can also help you with analysing your data sets and interview results, which you can then easily implement into your own marketing strategy. Then of course there’s online survey tools such as our own, which as well as enabling you to present and view your data in a wide range of graph and chart formats, makes it easy for you to compare and analyse different data sets through a range of features including filtering, text analysis and cross tabulation. And given the value of SPSS for statistical analysis, which we’ve just highlighted, it’s also important to make sure that your chosen survey tool offers the capability to export data in this crucial format.

It’s generally easy to measure: due to the availability of the data itself and a steady flow of updates, demographic data tends to be easier to assess and measure than other data types such as psychographic data, which can be subjective, ambiguous and harder to obtain. Ultimately, demographic data relies on simple facts about individuals, and it’s this simplicity that makes it more measurable and actionable.

It’s great for monitoring trends and social shifts: demographic data can be an ideal way to monitor shifts and societal trends over time, because the data itself is so simple that the categories and criteria rarely change. Identifying trends in this way can also help brands to track, monitor and analyse the customer journey, so it’s easier for them to make market predictions for the future, for the benefit of both brand and the consumer.

The cons of demographic segmentation

It can be a bit too one-dimensional in its approach: one criticism of demographic segmentation is that grouping people based on simple demographic information can risk leading brands into making blanket statements about consumers. For example, consider Millennials, and the stereotype term that has often been bandied around to describe someone from this generation as a ‘snowflake‘ – a term used to describe an overly sensitive person who thinks the world revolves around them. Such assumptions have the potential to cause offense, and taint and hinder any subsequent marketing efforts to this group.

It can be too vague: while demographic information is great for giving you a snapshot of a person’s age or how much they earn in a year, it doesn’t really offer any insight into an individual’s character or their consumer wants and values, which is the kind of information that’s typically more valuable for many brands. For example, if you think of music and entertainment industries like Spotify or Netflix. Neither or these likely to benefit too much from demographic segmentation, as a user’s income or education level is unlikely to provides any clues as to whether they enjoy comedy films or horror.

It can risk alienating some people: due to the very nature of this type of data collection and analysis, people are sometimes categorised based on facts that are shallow or redundant. What we mean by this, is that demographic data assumes that individuals in the same demographic categories also have the same needs, interests, and attributes. Demographic segmentation runs the risk of alienating people that don’t fit snugly into a general, demographic mould, which besides being inaccurate can cause offense to some people.

Misinterpreting data: given the way in which our lifestyles have changed quite dramatically over the years, demographic data can also be seen as quite outdated, as what was once the norm is now not-so-normal. For example, based on standard demographics years ago, brands promoting baby products would have typically targeted women aged 20-35 years, with an average income. However, things have now changed due an ever-growing range of factors such as the number of men now taking joint responsibility for childcare and women having children later on in life, to the increase in many individuals deciding not to have children at all. Subsequently, the targeting of these products is now a lot less straightforward and more complex.

Hopefully, you will now have a better appreciation of demographic segmentation including its benefits and some of its limitation, in order to get the best out of this technique and the use of demographic questions such are those which focus on age.

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