By Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis
Head of Insights, Retail Doctor Group

How would you feel if someone described you as ‘average’?  There’s something about that word that doesn’t make you feel special, does it?  In fact, it makes you feel like you’re blending in with the crowd. Ordinary. Unexceptional. Well, it goes without saying. You’re unique. You’re individual – one of a kind. And the same goes for the way in which you shop. 

After witnessing many years of classifying consumers in demographic segments and targeting them as such, researchers and subsequently marketers are beginning to understand that people have become increasingly sensitive to marketing noise and tune out to everything that is meaningless to them.  A ‘vanilla’ approach to understanding customers means a large amount of marketing spending is indeed ‘tuned out”. 

The central flaw is the overarching assumption that we behave in exactly the same way as either our next-door neighbour or our parents at the same age! 

Neuromarketing has revealed that the commonly used approaches of demographic segmentation belong in the past. Every customer is an individual and demands the brand experiences that treat them accordingly.  

However, are we learning the lesson that veritably insightful understanding targeting customer behaviours is vital to building really effective actionable strategy 

In fact: 

Our recent study into retailer sentiment showed that over 35% of retail executive now spend more than half their time on strategic development. Nevertheless, as we know “strategy without insights is like surgery with a blunt scalpel”, it is vital for retailers to gather insights into their customers, business and market to make educated strategic decisions.  Consumer insights and truly understanding your target customer is the key component of strategic development. It enables companies and brands to analyse omnichannel customer behaviours and their purchase journey to subsequently leverage the findings to innovate, communicate and drive meaningful experiences across their path.  

So just why is the death of the average so important?  Everyone knows retail is an increasingly competitivenvironment. There are more physical local players than ever beforebut we’re also facing the very real challenge of our consumers shopping across borders and different time zonesAnd we’re not only talking about clothes and electronic goods. Consumers are purchasing food, carsmedicines, and services onlineevery category is affectedHowever, since we’re still treating them as ‘average’, our shoppers are seeking more meaningful experiences both nationally and globally to satisfy their lust for innovation, their search for convenience and their requirement for value beyond price. 

How many of you still put words such as “Target Audience: Main Grocery Buyer female aged 25-45 years old” on your marketing briefs to an agency?  What if you could split this average audience into more meaningful personality types? Personalities that enable you to understand who would use their smartphones and QR codes in-store; personalities who react predominately to, for example, natural packaging cues; personalities who prefer to engage with you using certain social media or those who are much more likely to listen to online reviews?  If you understand the personalities and the rationale behind their actions, your resulting campaign would be much more targeted and enable you to talk to your consumers as individuals.    

In this context, understanding consumers in their diversity and complexity, on an intimate and personal level has become crucial. In other words, say goodbye to the statistically-driven average – that so often touted ‘main grocery buyer’ and let’s take a look at how one recent study champions this individuality and diversity. 


From the psychology that drives consumers or even hampers them to interact online, to their attraction to certain cues and signals when it comes to the retail experience in storeour consumer understanding now needs to go even further to reveal how they interact through the omni-channel retail environment and finally why they buy andon’t buy. The results provide both retailers and brands with the opportunity to overcome the wastage of dollars being spent on catering to the non-existent ‘average’ consumer.  

Tapping into consumers subconscious, which makes up 85% of the decision-making process, we can understand why consumers decide, feel and act the way they do towards retailers and brands. There is no longer an ‘average consumer.  Rather, there are different individual personality types that explain consumer behaviour and decision making.    


By understanding the personalities of consumers who move towards your brand, you can take the first critical step in treating your consumers as individuals. And for your brand, this has real benefitsBy tapping into their diverse subconscious drivers, you can uncover: 

  • which advertising will really work and reach your audience 
  • which products they prefer 
  • how they shop 
  • what store design resonates with them 
  • what visual merchandising techniques will drive them to engage with you 
  • what multi-sensory enhancements will have the most impact on them including the right textures, smell and colour to enhance their experience 
  • how price sensitive and quality conscious each personality type is 
  • how they pre-research and buy across the multiple channel mix. 

In short, you can tailor your communications, channels and innovations with a greater degree of success and far less wastage. 


The Australian retail sector is estimated to be worth $360 billion as of 2021.  On average, Australian retailers are spending five – ten per cent of their turnover on marketing.  As famous marketer John Wanamakers said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This equates to at least nine billion dollars of wasted investment. Why?  Because marketing dollars are so frequently being spent on the average consumer or the average demographic, without taking into account the differences that cannot be explained by age or gender.   

After all, if you really believe that you are the same psychologically as your nextdoor neighbour then you may well be 50% right.