When you think of the connected consumer, certain images likely come to your mind.

A Millennial ordering a meal delivery service from a Facebook ad.

A Gen Zer chatting on WhatsApp.

A mid-30s mom picking up the groceries she ordered earlier via the grocery store's app.

And you'd be right - to a degree. While these personas are all representative of the connected consumer, this group is a lot more complex, and diverse, than you might have originally thought. Here are 3 crucial truths you don't know about the connected consumer.

1. The connected consumer today is simply ... the consumer.

As useful as it may be to use the term "connected consumer," brands must realize the fact that in today's world, the connected consumer is, essentially, the consumer.

According to We Are Social's Digital in 2017 report, around 5 billion people - more than half the world's population - now uses a smartphone. No matter where in the world your consumer is, there's a good chance that he or she will learn about you, engage with you, and purchase from you via a digital device.

That means that the hip, young, digital native that you may be envisioning is just one small part of the whole picture. Baby Boomers in Florida are connected consumers. Children of immigrants in busy urban centers are connected consumers. Midwestern grandmothers are connected consumers.

This has strong implications for marketing that's aimed at capturing this particular buyer. If we don't understand the breadth of experiences that these buyers have, we run the risk of alienating one or more groups.

2. Connected consumers want brand experiences that seamlessly integrate the offline and online worlds.

It's not enough to have online marketing and offline marketing these days. Connected consumers expect a seamless experience when moving between the online and offline worlds.

Panera's online ordering is a great example of this. In their stores, customers can either order the traditional way, with a human cashier, or order on touchscreen kiosks. You can even choose a table, and then order through Panera's website. No matter what method you choose, your food is brought right to your table a few minutes later.

Nordstrom is another brand that's really embraced this online-offline integration. In October of 2017, they launched a new concept called Nordstrom Local aimed at giving its customers the luxury shopping experience they want, but in a more convenient, less stressful setting.

Guests work with Nordstrom personal stylists to select clothes to try on, but there's nothing for them to take home - instead, customers' selections are ordered online and delivered to the store that same day. Customers can either return to the store later and pick up their orders curbside, or relax in the store and enjoy a manicure or a drink from the coffee and juice bar.

3. Diversity and inclusivity are integral when it comes to reaching the connected consumer.

Just as connected consumers are diverse in age, lifestyle, and interests, they're also highly diverse in race and ethnicity. According to the 2017 U.S. Census, every racial and ethnic group grew faster than the non-Hispanic white group from 2015 to 2016 - and that trend is showing all signs of continuing.

Brands whose images don't reflect this increasingly diverse America will find themselves lagging behind.

Since the dawn of the advertising age, consumers have been drawn to brands that they see themselves in. That's even more true today, as consumers want to do business with brands that reflect their values and beliefs, too - and for many connected consumers, diversity and inclusivity are more than their day-to-day realities. They're closely-held values, too.

Connected consumers are a diverse, sophisticated group that every brand must work to understand if they want to succeed. For more, read my post "Yes, You Do Still Need Offline Marketing."

Published on: Jan 15, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.