Ian Reynolds, managing director at KBH On-Train Media, explains why an emphasis on advertiser segmentation by behaviour has never been more important.

Socio-demographic groupings have always been the bread and butter of marketing – right at the start of our careers we all learned that this is the basics of targeting consumers. It has been commonplace to make assumptions about people’s propensity to be interested in products based on their age, gender, income or social class.

But have we reached a point where those classifications alone have ceased to be useful? The huge change in the attitudes and behaviour of older people is the biggest prompt for this re-think. With an ever-increasing number of retirees using their new free time to cycle around Europe blogging from a tablet as opposed to stereotypically wiling away their days watching TV, classifying this age group by the date they were born has become meaningless.

The research industry has taken note of this and works with more complex groupings as a result. Classifications of consumers are no longer defined or titled solely by age and social class, but instead by a description of life stage and activities.

Clearly life stage is built around the basic building blocks of age and social class, but it also encapsulates the different paths that people take and the experiences they have. All of this is absolutely applicable to ensuring successful advertising, so we at KBH have produced new audience categories with our Pen Profiles, using Mosaic, Personicx and TGI data.

We studied the behaviour of more than 2,500 consumers, beginning in 2013 and then again this year. We assigned them to one of the following groups – Influential Youths, Intellectual Urbanites, Modern Families or Affluent Professionals. Although these categories are still partly influenced by age/income classifications, they are also heavily derived from attitude and behaviour.

As well as delving into the shopping and buying habits of these groups, the research also looked at when, how and why consumers shopped after they were exposed to rail advertising.

Technology use is one issue that is transforming consumers’ behaviour. KBH’s research this year found that 90% of people use their smartphone while on a train – up from 85% in 2013. There has also been a significant rise in consumers using laptops while travelling – 34% do this compared to 21% two years ago, indicating commuters are making more efficient use of longer travel times.

On-train smartphone use is one of the key behaviours that transcends age groupings. Although there are differences between Influential Youth – 94% of this group use a smartphone on the train – and Affluent Professional – with 88% using a smartphone on the train – usage is high across the board.

It won’t come as a surprise to know that much of this on-train smartphone time is spent on social media, offering some interesting opportunities for advertisers to plan campaigns that straddle both social media and the on-train environment.

Overall, 42% of travellers access social media while on the train. Broken down by group, it’s 33% of Affluent Professionals, 44% of Modern Families, 49% of Intellectual Urbanites and 44% of Influential Youths. They are most likely to be reading friends’ updates, followed by sending direct messages or posting their own updates.

There are some interesting differences between the groups in terms of what they are doing online. Affluent Professionals and Modern Families tend towards more ‘passive’ social media activities while Intellectual Urbanites and Influential Youths are more ‘active’ across platforms – a trend which is spotted throughout all their on-train, on-device activity.

For example, Modern Families and Affluent Professionals are likely to read updates from companies they follow, while Intellectual Urbanites and Influential Youths like to share photos and videos.

65% of our respondents in 2013 said they noticed traincards; that figure rose to 94% in 2015. Making purchases as a result of seeing a traincard has seen a dramatic increase across all groups. In 2013, 13% of our respondents said they'd bought a brand they’d seen advertised. In 2015, that figure had risen to 24%.

This high conversion rate shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that people spend an average of 40 minutes on a train journey. They are generally in a reflective state of mind, making decisions about the rest of their day/week/month, and shopping can often form a part of this process.

The research found that the most popular time to buy a product or service seen advertised on a train was later that day, with 29% having done so. 28% had bought a product almost instantaneously and 27% had made a purchase days afterwards.

The value of purchase is likely to have impacted the speed of action and advertisers should build an understanding of an anticipated delay into their campaigns. Big-ticket items tend to be researched and discussed with ‘significant others’ so have a longer purchase pipeline. Smaller items, such as fashion purchases, incite a more rapid response.

Sky is a good example of a brand taking advantage of on-train advertising in an innovative way in its ‘Difference’ campaign. Capitalising on the commuter’s thoughtful ‘pre-planning’ state of mind, Sky offered suggestions for evening and weekend entertainment to capture the attention of connected customers in a more meaningful way. /

Clearly, it's crucial for advertisers to know who their consumers are. But at the same time, knowing what these people do, and when they do it, enables advertisers like Sky to target their messages into a place that not only offers a captive consumer audience, but also delivers the opportunity for messaging which persuades them to act on the ad prompt.

Changes in demographics are historically slow and gradual but behavioural changes are not –advertisers must be ready to act.