Who are your customers?

Kim Terakes asks the question.

If your image of your customer is like an old Kellogg’s commercial – a smiling family of parents in their late twenties, with three toothy blonde kids – you would be very wrong.

A quick look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics and knowing which questions to ask paints a very interesting picture of Australia. Here’s a snapshot:

There’s more of us. Fifty years ago we were 11.5 million, now we are 24.34 million. No wonder the traffic is worse.

We are living longer. The average life expectancy is now 84 for girls and over 79 for boys. You could shave 30 years off both of those a century ago, and more than a decade from the mid 1960s.

More importantly, the number of people over 65 will double by 2041. Just think about the ramifications of that one fact for a moment.

And somewhat terrifyingly, there are more than 3,000 Australians over 100 now. There will be 70,000 by 2051. That’s a lot of mushy food and adult nappies.

We are getting married much, much later – 24 for grooms and 21 for brides in 1976 and 31.6 and 29 just thirty years later, so no toasters for wedding presents, thanks. Plus de facto relationships now account for 1.48 million people.

We are having fewer babies and having them much later. In 1961, there were 3.55 babies born for every woman. The low was in 2001 at 1.73 babies (too busy watching the Olympics?) and in 2009 it was 1.9. The more affluent you are, the fewer babies you have and women in regional and rural Australia have more than their sisters in the cities – 1.5 v 2.1 v 1.8.

In 1976, just 10 per cent of first births were to women over 30. It is now 50 per cent and the average age of a new mother is 28.9.

Understandably then, the traditional family shape is changing. The TV commercial family of late twenties parents with three shiny kids is simply a nonsense.

Two million of us live alone. There are many more one parent families. And the traditional or nuclear families, that is couples with resident children is already down to 2.4 million households and is forecast to shrink to only 22 per cent of all households in the next fifteen years. That is less than a quarter of the population made up of homes of parents and kids.

More women work than ever before, now 45 per cent, against 30 per cent fifty years ago.

And tertiary education has skyrocketed. In 1966, there were 86,466 students in higher tertiary studies, now there’s a whopping 1,287,600. And there are more women than men, 54 per cent in fact, in tertiary education. So, the thought that we are a country where the conquering hero comes home to tea prepared by little wifey is another nonsense.

Another major change is childcare. 87 per cent of four year olds are in pre-school or long day care. Who can remember when there was no pre-school or day care? It wasn’t that long ago.

We’re all Aussies, but 24 per cent of us were born overseas (it is 13 per cent for both the UK and USA ). Also, 4 million of us, over 20 per cent of the population over 5 years old don’t speak English as their primary language.

For what it’s worth, Melbourne has 240 nationalities and 180 languages and 80 religious faiths, not counting the AFL teams. Still the largest number of people born overseas are from the UK at 1.1 million. The Kiwis follow the Poms with just under half a million and the big increases are from China 319 k, India 295 k, Vietnam 185 k and the Philippines 171 k. Migrants tend to live in urban areas with nearly half of all migrants residing in Sydney and Melbourne.

What does this all mean to your business? That may be for another column, but the 1970s TV commercial family now might be from Vietnam or China, might be a divorced single parent or someone living alone. You most certainly can’t stereotype the average Aussie anymore.