3 Audience Segmentation Trends Shaping Digital Marketing

Imagine showing your advertisement to a stadium of 50,000 people. 

If you were a marketer 20 years ago, you would have given anything for this scenario.

But times have changed.

In 2022, digital marketers are segmenting audiences and focusing on quality over quantity. You’re better off getting your advertisement in front of 100 people in a single row of that stadium—as long as they’re good-fit prospects.

On top of that, digital privacy concerns are at an all-time high. According to Pew Research Center, 79 percent of adults assert they are very or somewhat concerned about how companies are using their collected data.

Segmenting audiences to target your ideal customer while also complying with privacy laws can be a tricky dance. Here are three trends to help you segment both efficiently and safely—this year and beyond.

Trend #1: Getting Granular 

Gone are the days of audience segmentation by “adults ages 25 to 54.” 

Years ago, marketers primarily segmented their audiences by age range—mainly because the data to get super granular didn’t exist back then.

“As time passed, segmenting got more sophisticated,” explains Jim Donovan, vice president of emerging markets at ZoomInfo. “Marketers started to include more attributes such as gender and ‘professionals’ versus ‘non-professionals.’ Then, less than 10 years ago, access to really strong, granular data gave birth to the ability to drill beyond the superficial audience segments and reach down into what I call audience cohorts.”

Audience cohorts are a group of people who share similar characteristics, including demographics and psychographics. A target group example might be ‘job seekers’ or ‘supermoms’—meaning females with children who make an income over a specific threshold.

But Donovan cautions against getting too granular. 

“One of the ways we balance granularity at ZoomInfo is by pure audience size. The more that you drill into an audience, the smaller that audience is going to get. While the old way used to be segmenting by just one attribute, the new sweet spot is segmenting by three to five attributes,” he says.

For example, you may want to segment an audience by job title, company size, industry and location. When you start drilling down into who your customer really is, the cost-per-click will increase because the likelihood of conversions drastically increases—but so will the efficiency of your marketing spend. This is because you’re only targeting marketing qualified leads (MQLs), so you’ll have a higher lead-to-MQL rate, MQL-to-demo rate, and so on.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to dedicate a substantial portion of your marketing budget to high quality, verified audience data (at least 10 to 15 percent, according to Donovan). Achieving granularity may require a hefty investment, but with quality data fueling your campaigns, you lay the foundation for a healthy ROI. 

Trend #2: Leveraging real-time intent data

Real-time intent data is the competitive advantage every marketer needs in their 2022 strategy. 

Intent data uncovers buying signals by tracking the digital footprints of people’s content consumption across the web. This includes when people research solutions, topics, and vendors on their path to purchase through activities such as online searches, website visits, content downloads, and event registrations.

According to a Demand Gen Report survey:

  • 80% of companies say intent helped with ABM account prioritization and scoring
  • 73% saw accelerated pipeline
  • 53% improved their ability to define ideal customer profile

While intent data is extremely valuable in helping you to prioritize accounts, reduce customer churn, and get in front of your ideal customer ahead of your competitor, the information expires quickly. In other words, intent provides the most value when you know someone is consuming a particular piece of content the moment they consume it. 

“Historically for intent signals, most of the data usually came at a one week delay. So you could find out that somebody downloaded an eBook or visited a website relevant to your business, but you could only find that out a week later,” Donovan says. “For marketers, that’s essentially six days too late.”

Today, we have real-time intent, which means marketers have access to this invaluable information almost instantly. Because the market is so competitive, getting in front of a prospect at the beginning of their buyer’s journey while their pain point is top of mind is incredibly powerful—and can mean the difference between a closed-won and closed-lost opportunity. 

Trend #3 – Respecting user privacy 

In January 2020, Google announced it would phase out third-party cookies by 2022. This news sent marketers everywhere into a panic.

One of the primary reasons Google made this decision was because of the privacy concerns associated with recording a user’s browser history for ad-targeting purposes. This data privacy change has forced Google (and everyone else) to find a suitable alternative to cookies. 

Enter the Federated Learning of Cohorts, otherwise known as FLoCs.

According to Verge Media: “FLoC is Google’s proposed browser standard that, in the search engine giant’s words, will enable ‘interest-based advertising on the web without letting advertisers know your identity. Instead, you’ll be associated with a ‘cohort,’ a group of users sufficiently large enough to make you at least semi-anonymous to the companies targeting you.”

In addition to FLoC, Apple’s latest iOS 14.5 software release will let users choose whether they want their activity monitored across apps, reports The New York Times. The tech giant’s new privacy tool, App Tracking Transparency, presents users with a pop-up window, giving them the option to “Ask App Not to Track” or “Allow.”

Ultimately, digital privacy is changing like never before—and you need to have a plan.

At ZoomInfo, we’ve come up with a similar solution to FLoC called privacy clusters. This technology creates micro-groupings of approximately three to twelve devices that are bound together to act as a single, trackable, and targetable entity.

Here’s how it works. 

Our privacy clusters group devices that exhibit similar technical attributes without infringing on anyone’s privacy. 

Our technology starts with a very zoomed out lens, and then starts narrowing down devices that have specific technical traits — such as operating system and screen size — that exhibit what we’re looking for. 

For example, if you live on the water in Florida and own a boat, you may be searching for terms like boat repair and boat insurance.

Now, imagine a boat company in Florida wants to target people in the area who are in-market for a brand new boat. Through privacy clusters, the company can advertise to you without ever needing to identify you as an individual — or anything that can be traced back to you. This is good for everyone: the advertiser doesn’t waste marketing budget, you get relevant ads, and privacy is maintained throughout.

“The privacy cluster will take that group of three to 12 devices and stamp it as a ‘cluster’ with a specific ID,” Donovan says. “Then we append all the same relevant behavioral observations like we did previously with cookies. The result is intelligent targeting built on a privacy-first foundation.” 

With privacy clusters, we can reach iOS devices because we’re not tracking specific individuals, but simply observing a group of patterns and behaviors and dropping ads based on those observations. Plus, our technology has “circuit breakers,” meaning that if we get too close to anybody’s personally identifiable information (PII), it hits a wall and stops.

In 2022, we can expect to see more desire to be enabled on this topic as marketers need to find a solution to the post-cookie problem—fast.