Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why marketers need to understand the digital divide

By Colin Grieves, Managing Director of Marketing Services, Experian UK&I

Can you imagine not being able to use the internet? I don’t mean your broadband is down or your WIFI signal is dodgy. I mean not being able to use the internet to access the products, services and information we all take for granted – banking, shopping, applying for services – all closed off to you because you can’t access or navigate the internet. If you stop and think about it, it is a scary, unsettling thought.

Unfortunately, it is a bigger problem than you might imagine. A new report from debt charity, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), reveals the extent of the digital divide and the impact it has on those who aren’t able to enjoy the benefits the digital world can bring.

A survey of CAP clients revealed that more than a quarter (28%) found great difficulty in accessing services online, while 18% said they struggle to check information or seek help online to solve problems they face.

The barriers to successful digital engagement are varied, among them access to smartphones and other internet-connected devices, the capability to act with confidence when carrying out tasks online, prohibitive broadband and data costs, and poor connections. It is a serious issue for around one million UK adults.

As well as identifying the problem, CAP wanted to understand the issue further. What types of groups are on the wrong side of the digital divide? By analysing CAP’s findings through our Mosaic marketing segmentation tool, Experian was able add an extra level of deeper, richer insight to help CAP and interested parties truly understand the issue.

The groups most likely to fall into this category can be defined as ‘Solo Retirees’ – older single people who own affordable homes and ‘Inner City Stalwarts’ – older long-term renters living in urban areas who have seen many changes to their areas over the years.

Interestingly though, barriers to the internet are not confined to older demographics. Our analysis shows that large families living in traditional terraced homes aged between 35-45 are also highly likely to struggle when it comes to being confident online.

How does this analysis help? Well, by exposing the size of the issue and which groups are most impacted we can begin to find solutions. But only by delving into data and drawing out unique, demographic insights can stakeholders, interested parties and policymakers truly be informed about the problems they are focussed on and, then, be enabled to find the suitable remedies and solutions.

This story matters because people in our society are missing out. But insights like this are also crucial for marketeers. Knowing who you can and can’t engage with online means the right message can be delivered via the right, most appropriate channels for that specific audience. The assumption that we are all digital now is true for most of us, but not everyone, and understanding that puts us on a path to successful outcomes for all.