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Commentary & Analysis

Opportunities and Challenges in Life Stage Targeting

Life stage targeting takes advantage of a powerful truth in consumer marketing—for the most part, consumers are creatures of habit, and the times they are most likely to make major purchases is during times of transition. Understanding and tapping into those transitional times is where life stage marketing comes in.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: August 3, 2017

Life stage targeting takes advantage of a powerful truth in consumer marketing—for the most part, consumers are creatures of habit, and the times they are most likely to make major purchases is during times of transition. Understanding and tapping into those transitional times is where life stage marketing comes in.

Regardless of your ethnic background, household income, or geographic location, if you have newborns, for example, you will be dealing with similar issues, things like diapers, teething, and nutrition. If you have older children ready to graduate from high school, you will be thinking about sending them off to college, enrolling them in a trade school, or preparing them for the job market. If you are a recent home buyer, you may be looking for home-related purchases such as living room furniture, cookware, and tools for lawn care, but also potentially new services like insurance, dentists, and pediatricians. 

Understanding lifestyle targeting is important because, when it comes to many products, consumers are on autopilot. We buy the same brands, we eat the same foods, and we shop at the same stores. It’s difficult to break through the habit and get people to think and buy differently. Unless consumers have an urgent need or are presented with a particularly compelling marketing offer, the times they are the most likely to be open to making major purchases or switching brands on familiar items is during times of transition.

Not only do transitions present opportunity, but they may present the first and primary times that window may open. For example, a young, newly married couple living in an apartment or townhouse may want a full dining room set, but there may be no realistic possibility of doing so until they have a place to put it—in other words, then they purchase a larger home. Likewise, unless a family has a particularly poor experience with their family dentist or pediatrician, they aren’t likely to budge from established relationships with trust medical providers unless they move out of the area.

Here are some of the common life stages your clients should be thinking about:

  • Expectant parent
  • New parent
  • Child nearing high school graduation
  • College graduate
  • Intent to purchase a vehicle
  • Newlywed
  • Recently divorced
  • Recent home buyer
  • Recent mortgage buyer
  • New mover
  • Preparing for retirement

Lifestyle marketing needs to be paired with other data in order for the targeting to be precise, however. For example, just because someone buys diapers doesn’t mean they are a new parent. They might be a grandparent or helping out a friend. Even if they are 20-somethings, they might be purchasing a gift for a co-worker. To determine life stage, you need to pair multiple data sets to get a more accurate picture.

You also have to be timely. Once someone graduates from college, the window for specific purchases can close very quickly. Certain needs, such as buying clothes for their new job or furnishing their first apartment, are time-sensitive. Consumers need these things right away, and once those needs are met, the window of opportunity shrinks or closes altogether. You must be ready to place the offer in front of them at the right time or someone else will.

Is life stage marketing an opportunity your clients are missing? If so, how can you help them get started? How can you help them understand, not only the life stage, but also the critical windows associated with them?

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

 

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