Class matters

Photo: Luca Rossato

We’re happy talking about age, and gender commerce constantly rears its ugly head, but class – class is a dirty word. People are looking at the social and economic impacts of e-commerce, but not of the impact of consumers’ socio-economic situation in the first world – I’m not talking about the digital gap – and their interactions with e-commerce.

Predictably, the internet is gaining popularity as an information source in Germany, especially with young people, but 70% of those questioned in a long-term study by TNS Infratest watch TV daily.

So TV is still king right? Wrong – sort of

Well, it depends on your target group. The factor often ignored when looking at these kinds of statistics is class. In this case, more than 1/3 of those surveyed who had completed higher education said that the internet was their go-to source of information, while those whose educational level did not go past high school look to the TV for information.

Income affects the how and when of TV vs. internet use

The situation in the English speaking world is similar and it is not just destinations in the search for information which differ according to income and education levels, but the length of stay in any one media as well. While Britons watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day, those belonging to the higher socio-economic groups spend proportionally more time in the internet. This time is not just spent sending emails, shopping, and searching for information; billed online streaming services are alsofavoured by higher income households, with close of half of American households using SVOD services having a minimum annual income of 75K

Not just how much, but when TV is watched is affected by income. American households with a lower income (less than 30k) watch more TV in the morning and during the day (1hr 12mins vs. 54mins) as well as less on average (1hr 58mins vs. 1hr 12mins) with similar results in the education gap.

Class determines the device

Numbers from the USA paint a similar picture, but also show a link between device and class. For instance, a lack of access to home internet among low-income households is compensated by higher mobile use in this bracket. Lower income users access the internet at a far higher rate than they purchase broadband due to higher mobile internet usage than middle and high income earners.
Internet use jumps from 73 percent in households with an income of less than 30K to 99% in those in the over 75K bracket. There is a 42 percent difference in broadband access between these two polls, which in part explains why 43 percent of low income households use their cell phones to access the internet versus 21 percent in the upper bracket.

Active, literacy driven internet use is lower in low-income households as with those without university education. Search engine use was also lower, but to a less extent than email, news and searching for information on health. Conversely, lower income mobile users are less likely to engage in internet banking, which might also indicate a reluctance to use mobile payment methods.

In summary

So low income, low education households watch more TV, use the internet less, access less literacy based content, like news, emails, and information when they do use the internet, and they are more reliant on mobile access.

Dynamic pricing recognises the correlation between device and income level, as well as classic supply and demand factors to a certain extent. But many markets and e-marketers are not being specific enough about their target groups. A good email marketing campaign is a wonderful thing for instance, but it could be less effective than desired if your product is aimed at a target group who simply use email less. Is there much point in investing in great content for a target group who don’t statistically stick around long enough to read it? Digital sales are rising, but as we reach the consolidation phase and are madly looking around for the last untapped customer source, we shouldn’t lose sight of target groups who are still residing in TV territory.

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