Social Media, Online Shopping, Customers and Diversity

Social media has become an increasingly important factor in business and private lives the last decade – or even the last 5 years. And would you have thought 10 years ago that you could do all your shopping from home? Even your groceries?

I saw an interesting video on “TED – Ideas worth spreading” the other day. This is the link: The speaker talks about how media and social media change the way marketing companies group their potential customers. Apparently, people cannot be categorized the way they used to be categorized. You can no longer predict what a woman or a man in x age will buy, because the online buyer chooses according to interests, and this interest goes across gender, age, race, education, ability/disability, etc etc. Ergo, difficult to group, or stereotype, the buyer these days! I think that is just fabulous news..

I’ll share a personal example where I felt stereotyped as a customer. I received a reminder to renew my subscription with a well-known French news magazine. The letter was addressed to “Monsieur” – and then my name. As my name is foreign, they cannot judge whether I am a man or a woman, and they chose to use “Monsieur”. This appears to be their idea of the typical customer and therefore a logical choice. I sent them an email saying that when they do not know the gender of their customer, they should title their customer “Monsieur/Madame”. I got a response back that they were sorry and will from now on use “Madame”. Which wasn’t my point…

In Norway quite a few mothers are frustrated that they cannot buy practical clothes for their daughters, the choice is limited to “cute” skirts, mostly in pink of course. They have to go to the boys’ section to find clothes that the girls can play in. It is rather odd that the supplier is forcing the customer into a false need (non-practical clothes for girls). I suppose they are using old and outdated data about their customer groups, or assuming a need (stereotyping) among their customers.

I actually see some similarities between categorizing customer behavior and reading a CV. In France there has been some discussion around anonymous CV’s; a CV without picture and name. In both situations, there is less likelihood that pre-assumptions are made based on our exterior. This seems like a more diverse and fair situation. I say “more” because nothing is perfect.

Concerning the new customer online behaviour, the speaker in the TED video says it has become more complicated to categorize the audience for media and advertising companies – to me it seems like focusing on people’s interests will lead to a more diverse and comprehensive picture of the “real” customer.

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