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6 Best Questions To Understand Your Customer Demographics

Customer demographics might seem simple or basic to you. If you’re reading this, you might even be wondering why asking demographic questions like age, gender or marital status to prospects can benefit you as an eCommerce marketer.

The thing is — customers expect a lot, because they know they can easily find an alternative on the internet. So the better you know the customers – the more you will be their first choice.

Customers Today Expect You To Already Know Them

Research from Forrester and Silverpop opens a window into these expectations:

“They(customers) now expect companies to know where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, and what they’ve accepted or rejected. The only way to gain a competitive advantage is being your customers first choice.”

Your customers are informed. They’re educated. They know what they want and don’t mince words when push comes to shove. And, they expect you to peer into magic crystal balls that anticipate their needs without them having to utter a single word. Thanks to the internet— buyers are wrapped up in increasing layers of sophistication.

To market effectively you need to be able to understand who they are beneath the wrapper and what they want.


Through surveys.

As marketers, we’re not at a disadvantage.

With surveys, we can gather data that helps us build a detailed picture of our customers and frame our message accurately.

And what happens when you target effectively?

You win election to the highest office in the land.

How Demographic Profiling Elected The Most Powerful Person In The World – Twice

Jokes aside, both Obama’s and Trump’s victory reaped benefits of demographic profiling.

For Trump’s presidential campaign, its spend exceeding $44 million— targeting voters by demographics was a crucial piece of the puzzle.

All in all, the marketing team created over 175000 adverts on Facebook targeting people by age, gender, and political affiliations.

Obama’s reelection campaign was the most micro-managed campaign in the history of elections.

In this post, we’ll be analyzing 6 demographic questions you should consider including in your survey and their benefits:

What are the Best Customer Demographics questions to Ask for eCommerce Marketers?

1. Age – Understanding the Generational Mindsets

Questions on age are a quintessential part of demographic surveys- often being the first in a series of questions. Age has a number of practical applications. You segment audiences by their age. Age is the lynchpin behind who gets included or excluded in a campaign. What we buy and do with our time is strongly influenced by how old we are.

Based on their age your customers probably are either Gen X, baby boomers, millennials, and or Gen Z.

To give you a better picture:

  • Gen X – those born between the 1930s to 1950s
  • Baby Boomers – those born between 1945 to 1960
  • Millennials – those born between 1983 and 1994
  • Gen Z – those born between 1995 and 2002

Most marketers are worried sick about millennials and Gen Zers. Reason? Their consumption patterns are way different from previous generations. They’re clearly spending money – on experiences, travel, and probably avocado toast – but they’re not spending like their parents used to. Compared to their parents, they’re not keen on buying homes, settling down soon or even buying cars.

In its survey spanning 42 countries Deloitte found that 57% of people in the two cohorts(Gen Xers and Gen Zers) want to go globe-trotting. Home buying takes a backseat when someone catches the travel bug—only 49% listed buying a home as top priority. dHcglExZ NTVgLYfRS9t A4yuXXOEHf lnid4pHmXRoMoZL8evhQjAf6qp8GJINqf3KM4YmVZD8GpacKBfxFGzIi6UDAGXwPX9wFWYcgO 8LwiHVSks2YCLUO7XpgWuZR415NG L

If you want to market to these cohorts that buck trends your message has to resonate with them.

Let me walk you through two examples. Both companies targeted young millennials but with very different results.

The first example is from Gillette. Reaction to their new ad, “We believe The Best in Men”, has been mostly negative.

The 117 year old brand has customers in well-to-do, older white males who as a product of their age are less likely to know about the MeToo movement. Much less, be inspired by it. Another targeted demographic, African-American men historically shave less due to skin irritation issues.

And so do youngsters. For them, shaving isn’t a fashion statement.

Incidentally, analysts believe that they went with the message because of shifting millennial perceptions on what brands should do and be about. Millennials apparently love brands with a social angle.

Except that, you should draw the line somewhere.

This article is a world of clarity helping us understand what really happened.

TL;DR – Gillette missed the mark on demographics. This ad may have worked with Nike which finds its customers in young millennials but not for Gillette.

Rothy’s shoes give a new lease of life to plastic bottles. The fact that they use recycled materials is evident everywhere on the site, through their USP, and their marketing. A big reason behind people choosing Rothy’s over every other brand selling shoes is because Rothy’s creates a positive impact on the environment. Even the brand packaging is minimal made with recycled materials.

rothys branding customer demographics age millennial marketing generational appeal

Because of their values, the brand is in vogue with millennials. In fact, the fact that they use recycled materials has become the bedrock on which the brand established itself and generated millions.

Knowing demographic metrics like age can make a difference when you target people through advertising or through different channels, for example, podcasts. Podcast power listeners are mostly male aged between 25 to 49 with 81% of people in this group taking an action, which may be checking out the blog of the podcast host, signing up to something or even purchasing products after listening to products recommended in a podcast.

2. Gender – Understanding Purchase Triggers

Men and women buy differently. There’s a stark difference in how men and women respond to purchase triggers. Certain products are exclusive to one of two genders. Yet others are predominantly used by one gender.

When targeting men or women, you should consider that. Make it part of your brand identity.

For instance, Madewell is a pretty good example of a brand that got their demographics right. Everything on the site, the product, color choice, social media posts speak to the modern woman. It’s a women’s fashion brand known for offering a distinct style and bold choice of colors.

Visual content on their social media pages with its rich and colorful imagery just reinforces the message its broadcasting as a brand.

Madewell Instagram photos and videos visual branding customer demographics gender

3. Employment

Nature of employment is almost always a certainty on demographic surveys.

Here’s how it can help you.

For instance, members of a co-working space the following similar characteristics.

41% of all coworking space members are freelancers. At the second place are employees with 36% representation. Employers increased to 16% and 7% were engaged in other activities.

WeWork’s Instagram page is dedicated to the people who you’d normally find in a co-working environment. By sharing images of people who give WeWork its identity, they were able to grow to 592,000 followers.

WeWork Instagram photos social media customer demographics occupation

4. Ethnicity

Depending on the product type, your messaging might need to include questions on a person’s ethnicity. Just like questions on gender, questions on ethnicity are a charged topic.

Multiple choice questions allowing visitors to choose more than one correct answer is something you ought to consider.

Questions on discovering ethnicity can be an important part of demographic surveys.

I’d like to show you how important this can be with the help of an example.

Goya Foods retails Latino dishes. Through surveys and market research they were able to identify that children of Hispanic families in the US grow up on both American and Hispanic food. With their research, they also identified that Hispanic families were struggling to connect their children with their cultural roots.

Considering the increasing cultural mix in the US, Goya Foods wanted to reach out to Hispanic families in the US, an untapped market through a campaign with cultural undertones.

A big segment of these families were ones who were trying to raise their children with a blend of flavors from Hispanic and American cuisine.

In a 2018 campaign “Growing Up with More Than One Flavor,” the campaign’s target audience were Hispanic parents in the US who wanted their kids to know about their culture. These families also wanted cultural acceptance from the larger American community about their food habits.

With the ad campaign, borne as a result of demographic targeting and market research, Goya Foods cemented its place as a friend to Hispanic families providing them all the ingredients required to whip up traditional cuisine as well as explore American food.

Goya Foods Authentic Latin Food Recipes customer demographics ethnicity

5. Marital Status

Marital status doesn’t matter for most campaigns and isn’t frequently included in most surveys. Its importance lies in its ability to help us categorize purchase triggers; for example, adults in a family are more likely to purchase things for their kids.

HP Inc’s study shows that 3 in 4 Americans described the average American family as  “white, hetereosexual, with children”. However, that’s not an accurate picture of reality; only 25% families in America fit this profile. In fact, the ‘average’ family is in the minority — families of different ethnicities, different sexual identities and configurations make up the lion’s share of American families.

Family dynamics and composition is changing and it’s never going back.

You should know this to be able to properly tap into these emerging markets.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Wyeth Nutrition retails premium milk powder for infants. It’s target audience mostly comprises of expecting or lactating mothers. Through their digital strategy they identified 198,000 pregnant moms and 272,000 lactating moms. This segmentation helped lower cost per click by 30% and cost of video views by nearly half.

In a similarly ingenious move, when launching their new product in the Philippines, a country that’s more of a splatter of 7000 odd islands, the brand took to YouTube. (Coordinating a product launch on 7000 odd islands in tandem is a logistical nightmare) Philippines has a population of 104 million, with 14m single parents.  Filipinos spend a great deal of time watching videos on YouTube and Wyeth Nutrition saw it as an opportunity to connect with moms.

They focused on one region with a 30-second YouTube video targeting 18-44 year old moms.

After two full weeks, the ad drove 42% lift in ad recall and 19% lift in purchase intent in the region.

6. Geography

You could be running an international business. In that case, asking about the country of residence makes sense. For local companies, you might want ZIP codes or county information.

A drop-down menu that lists countries or States and counties should suffice.

For their email marketing campaign, Sony segmented target customers in Europe and Gulf states based on geography. Tying the campaign to geographical locations, they sent out coupons or email based offers based on how far or near customers were to Sony’s retail stores.

Customers who were near stores courtesy of their physical proximity got offers they could redeem in nearby stores.

Customers located far away from a physical store were sent Amazon vouchers instead.

Both offers and vouchers were sent with the intention to activate customers into purchasing the new playstation. The channel didn’t matter as long as it was more convenient for the customer.

playstation email blog full

For each euro spent the team made 580 euros back – 580X! If that isn’t splendid ROI, then what is?

In Conclusion: Ask Better Survey Questions to Understand Your Customers

Information you demand through surveys needs to tie to the purpose you intend to achieve collecting that data. Some conduct it for broad goals, like to get a better understanding of customer behavior. Others use the information for running targeted campaigns. Whatever your end goals are, demographic profiling has lots of benefits.

You should be careful about something though. When approached with questions prospects can turn suspicious. To that end add a brief at the top on why you’re conducting the survey. Highlight the goals you intend to achieve. Not only do you create trust, you might even get better answers.

George is a content copywriter for brands like CrazyEgg and several key players in SaaS. Check out his work here.

Raúl Galera

Raúl Galera

Raúl is ReferralCandy's partner manager.