How to find customers post-pandemic / Data for Bluffers #12

25 April 2022

Why do some campaigns work and others fail? How does your product type influence how you should target your marketing activity?

In this episode, Tom and Ed discuss how opinions and ideas move between people and how you can harness this to have more impact from your marketing.

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Tom
Welcome to another edition of the data for Bluffer’s podcast. We are just two years since the UK went into lockdown, the 23rd of March, 2020. And since that time, you know, we’ve seen so many changes with how we live our lives day today, be that where, or how we work, where we spend our time. And this week, I really wanted to dive in and, and understand, you know, two years later, what impact has this had on, on the world of marketing and, and how we reach customers and do we, and, and if we do, how do we need to think about things in this, this new world, ed, what, what are the numbers tell us about the way things are looking today.
Ed
Everyone noticed the changes during the pandemic, you know, time spent in the workplace in some places in the UK was down 90% on some points in other, I mean, in other places around the world, if you couldn’t work from home, you know, for example, in places in Europe, unless it was an essential service, then, you know, factories were shuttered and businesses were shut down. And where we are now is really at the point where we can start to understand how the world has changed post the pandemic. How has that experience, that collective experience and those behaviors that have changed stuck and how, how much of that has filter with, through, into changes in people’s behavior now, which we, when people are functioning through choice rather than a necessity. And what we see is that there is a big change back towards what things were like before the pandemic.
Tom
Okay. So, so sort of spring, springing back to where they were, if you like, rather than the, the knee jerk reactions we saw in a lot of places. Yeah,
Ed
Exactly. So I mentioned that we were down to sort of 90% reduction in, in time spent at work. Now we are looking that number’s nearer 15% and I mean, this has been quite prominent recently in the UK and the press. The I, the question we’re asking is, okay, will we, will people continue to work from home? What is the new work home model? And to what extent will our lives change as a result of the pandemic and then potentially in, in positive ways in terms of where the numbers are right now in the UK. Um, I mentioned the workplace numbers there we are down about 15%. This is all from, from Google’s data, but that number varies greatly across the country. Um, there are some places where we are pretty much back to pre pandemic levels in terms of workplace activity. Actually, there are, I think, one or two places where we’re above free pandemic workplace activity. Oh, wow. They’re kind of outliers to do with growth of, you know, introduction of more workplaces in those areas. But there are some places where we are down still sort of at 50% pre pandemic
Tom
Levels. Interesting. Do you, have you, have you got those, those places to hand, do you know where they
Ed
Are? The kind of general trend is they are more rural locations. Okay. And so there’s potential that there’s sort of less data available in those places or, you know, high streets are kind of closing down and things like that.
Tom
Okay. But, but it, but in the cities there, people are kind of returning back to the workplace a bit more
Ed
Across London. It is about 10% reduction. So slightly less than the average, but a still a, a reduction in, in visits to the workplace
Tom
Is this total visit it. So is this a visit? So for example, if I go back to the office one day, a week or five days a week, is that, is that reflected in that, in that data?
Ed
So yeah, that, that would be, uh, reflecting the data. So it is, is total visits,
Tom
Total visits. Okay. Right.
Ed
When it comes to workplaces, it, you can think about it of days in work.
Tom
So on average 10%, once that that’s half a day a week for, for most people that they’re not going to the office.
Ed
Yeah. It’s about one, one day every other week, but it’s really important to remember when we’re thinking about these things. Well, we’re talking about workplace activity in particular that it’s a small category, a smaller group of the workforce that has any opportunity not to be in the workplace, what you might call white collar jobs, for example, the, the ons, uh, official statistics on this that ju even during 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, only 37% of people were doing any work at home. That gives you an idea of the number of people that might, that could, could actually be considered to work from home McKen recently, um, released a, a sort of report on this and in their state of work report, their estimate was that about 25% of people would continue with some hybrid working. So it’s, it’s a 10% reduction, but when you spread that across only 25% of people, that’s now say a 10% reduction is about two days a week, which is a model that, you know, the kind of three days at work two days at home is a sort of model that, uh, I think a lot of people who do work in offices is, is kind of being thrown around as, as the standard hybrid working model.
Tom
And is there any data then to show how we’re spending our time outside that I guess generally has that changed as well?
Ed
Uh, yeah, that, that has right behavior across our lives has changed quite substantially. In fact, one of the, the largest differences in the UK is there’s been an increase in visits to like parks. You are always in the UK allowed to leave your house for an hour to exercise, even during lockdowns. And I think people really took advantage of that. And some of those habits of SP spending time outside potentially going for walks with threads and things like that have stuck
Tom
That’s yeah, it’s a good chat, actually. I hadn’t thought that, but at the weekend, yeah. When we were in, in the park, um, corners of the park that you don’t normally see people in were there with picnic blankets, you know, with everyone trying to find space and, and is, and is the data supporting that, is there, is there kind of the, I guess Google’s data, is that what they’re showing that more ti we’re still, you know, as brought we in April 20, 22, we’re still spending more time in these outside spaces.
Ed
Yes. That, yeah, definitely. So in the most recent data I looked at, it was, it was up 20% and that compares to sort of outdoor recreation and retail. So sort of theme parks and shopping centers and things like that, which are down 15%,
Tom
Sorry, down 15% pre pandemic or peak pandemic
Ed
From pre pandemic. Okay. People are, instead of going to, you know, the shopping center to meet their friends yeah. Or a coffee shop in the shopping center, they go into the park. Okay. Or they might be going to get takeaway coffee and go to the park or something to have a coffee with their friend is that sort of behavior that’s changed.
Tom
And that makes sense. Cause you know, what, what we talked about a few minutes ago about things snapping back. If we look at eCommerce, you know, I think pre pre pandemic eCommerce was, you know, whatever, roughly at about 18% of total retail sales during the, the height of the pandemic, it was, you know, nearly hitting 40, I think it was like 36, 30 7%. And you know, that’s, that’s when we saw the headlines of death of the high street, you know, the pandemics killed off the high street or, you know, all of the things along those lines. And today we’re in the, you know, in the, in the kind of low to mid twenties, you know, so yes, it’s, it’s, it it’s more than it was pre pandemic, but it’s certainly not of the kind of Heights that people were forecasting and the trends people were making in, you know, 20, 21. It’s really interesting that it’s also mirrored in some of these things that have snapped back to a closer trend. I guess even if there has been, has been an increase,
Ed
I mean, it taking the UK as our example. Cause that’s, that’s where we are. It was never the case that e-commerce was the only way to purchase essentials in particular during the pandemic, you know, we didn’t have our supermarkets or anything like that shut in the UK, but for non-essential items, that was the case, right. There was a period when you, or you could buy was e-commerce. And we, we are seeing now is how much people were switching to eCommerce through kind of convenience and the extent to which people were enjoyed, that experience sort of, kind of keeping on doing it for the convenience of it versus the return to shops. What we’re seeing is that, is that, well, yeah, as, as you said, what was there’s is an increase in pre pandemic e-commerce is not increasing at the rate that it was during the pandemic. And it’s definitely Fullen off since the peak of the pandemic and especially during, you know, the, the national lockdowns that we had.
Tom
Yeah. What does that mean for, for marketing, I guess, you know, cause ultimately, you know, if we’re trying to, to people and if people’s behavior has, has fundamentally changed, you know, maybe some of the ways things have been done in the past are not the way to do things in the future. Is that, is that a fair statement? Uh
Ed
That’s that’s definitely a fair statement. I think there’s a central message, which is, if you are assuming the world is back to how it was pre pandemic, then of your assumptions about the world might be wrong. So, so of anything you do as a marketer, I think you need to, you need to consider, okay, we are now in a post pandemic world. If you, if you assume there hasn’t been a change, you are getting left behind very quickly, a simple example or sorry, an easily relatable example is the position of, uh, out of home advertising. So we’ve spoken about the fact that people are spending time in different places. Well, that means that the power of out of home in particular positions is different.
Tom
Yeah. Okay. So the, the kind of the roots that we all, that probably people traditionally knew that were popular, um, at, you know, had the highest footfall might, might be not. And, and also conversely, you know, traditionally cheap inventory that was in potentially, you know, air quotes, quiet areas now might be driving, you know, having a lot more footfall and a lot more relevant football, I guess that, is that what you mean?
Ed
Yeah, exactly. There’s kind of two things there. The fir the first thing is like the, the level of football in certain places. So for example, Oxford street has seen footfall full from about 13,000 people per hour down to about 6,000 people per hour on the average busy shopping day. That’s about 50% in terms of footfall, which means that you’re getting 50% less impressions from a, a billboard on Oxford street at the same time, people are spending more time in parks. So it might be that bus stops near parks, build all the adverts on those bus stops are actually much better than they were before.
Tom
Yeah. And I guess we’re also spending more times in our own towns as well, you know, as opposed to getting up, pop on a train, you know, for the ones that for people that, that commute or travel to work, there’s more time probably spent in the local town or in our, in our communities as well.
Ed
This is more a hypothesis of mine than, uh, something I’ve actually rigorously, rigorously, uh, researched. But I think it is the case, or it seems to be the case that people are spending more time in less crowded areas. So sort of more time spread out. So we can think about this on a commuting level, right? Your average commuter, if there are, if they’re spending two days at home is spending two days that they would’ve been spent in very crowded central London in less crowded commuter town. And what so, um, what that means is that the, the people you can access through out of home in those places and the opportunities in those less crowded places are greater than they were beforehand. It also sort, and we’ve touched on this briefly, already. People are living slightly less routine lives.
Tom
Yeah. It’s a really good point. Yeah. As in we’re taking advantage that we, we don’t have to be sat at our sat at a desk in an office nine to five, and we’re, we’re building it around our lives a bit more.
Ed
Exactly. And that, that lack of routine is a, you know, a challenge for marketers. It’s a challenge for modelers. It’s a challenge for people whose job it is, is to, you know, get adverts in front of people.
Tom
It was always the, the advice few years ago to post on you post on LinkedIn early, exactly. To try and catch people scrolling on the train link to that. Then, you know, you’re saying we are, we’re less routine based. How, how does that impact our online footprint as well? This change
Ed
From a marketing perspective, it very much changes how you access people broadly speaking. There’s a less of a separation between business and personal. So what, what that means is that online is more important for B2B. So when you’re selling to businesses, you are less certain where that person is the, you know, the, the purchasing manager that you’re trying to get access, they could be moving around a lot more. And, and you are also not sure when they’re working. So they might be, you know, a lot of people, especially during the pandemic. And I think this is a habit that has carried on as well, is, is the, you know, the work day has become broken up. So for example, people might have a little break when their kids come home from school and then go back to work and do a couple of hours later in the evening.
Ed
You’ve got that, as you said, like the commute time has changed. So there’s a lot more emphasis on maybe content which stays around rather than is, is well timed because people on LinkedIn have have much more different schedules now as a host, you know, being able, having that quite regimented schedule. I think there’s also when people work from home there’s crossover, you might call it between say personal and business accounts. For example, when you’re at work and you have a work desktop, you’re much more likely to only sign in with your work credentials there and not have your personal email as well on that device. Whereas for, for all sorts of reasons, you’re more likely to cross accounts. So for example, you might go on holiday and only wanna take one laptop with you. So you take your work laptop just in case. And then you’re like, oh, actually I wanna check my personal email. So you sign in on personal email.
Tom
Yeah. And, and, and I guess they’ll be, you know, people will feel more comfortable doing other things, you know, like you’re having a coffee watching YouTube for five minutes. You know what, there’s no problem with that. For most people over in an office environment, people might feel less comfortable. You know, you don’t want your colleagues looking over and seeing you watch YouTube and even it might be watching YouTube for, for educational reasons. Right. Cause there’s plenty of business content on there, so, oh
Ed
Yeah, definitely. And actually, I think video, for example is probably a lot more powerful accessing people at home because, you know, offices I’ve worked in, you don’t wanna start a video playing cuz there’s a reasonably high chance that it’ll start coming out your speakers. Right. Even if it’s just an advert. Right. So, so people won’t will never watch a video ad or video information. Whereas, you know, there’s a reason why I’m fairly sure it’s default where I’m fairly sure it’s default on LinkedIn, that all videos don’t make any noise. Right. They’re all muted because they know how much, how much, how, how little people would use it if they didn’t.
Tom
Well, that was the, the rise of the captions. Right. They realized that you’ve got a caption, everything because no one pushes no one, no one hits the volume.
Ed
Exactly. Whereas when they’re working at home, they’re more likely to do that.
Tom
There’s a lot we’ve discussed there. How do, how do we group these into themes where people can, can think about this when they’re, they’re going about their, their kind of day to day planning.
Ed
So in, in terms of themes, that sort of summarize the, not necessarily the difference in behaviors, but the, the consequences of the difference in behaviors, in terms of where, where people are. I think there’s sort of four key things that we’ve, we’ve, we’ve spoken about already. So people are, are more dispersed. So they’re more spread out. They’re less likely to be gathered in dense populations in the center of cities. So that has implications that we discussed for out of home. And also in terms of who’s talking to who this spreads out, the kind of information network, people are also in different places doing the same thing. So for example, people are working from home and then also in the office that sort of break up of our, our lives into sort of less, uh, regimented boxes of places where we do things. We go here to work, we go here to be at home and then related to that, people are a lot are less routine based
Tom
And, and probably less synchronized routines as well. Right. You know, before you could say, most of us would be traveling work between these hours and traveling home between these hours and having a sandwich or a coffee in these hours. Well,
Ed
In, in some, in some way, people, people are more unique in terms of the places they go. And also when they’re doing things, yeah,
Tom
That’s a good way to put it,
Ed
You know, that has implications for, uh, online targeting and out of home. Mm-hmm, in the sense that it is harder to, to target cohorts of people. And then at the, the final, uh, theme I would say is that people are buying on like kind of more specifically on e-commerce people are buying online more mm-hmm , but no, but nowhere near as much as the peak. Okay. And people are potentially using their time to make, I would say, different purchasing decisions and they they’re deciding they’re deciding what they like buying online and what they don’t like buying online. That’s actually a key piece of understanding is understanding who, what sort of clients you have that buy your product online and what sort of clients you have, who don’t buy your product online. And how do you market to both of those groups of people at the same time,
Tom
A lot of this revolves around location. You know, we are in, we are in different areas. We are occupying different spaces at different times. The locations that we probably instinctively targeted before, or maybe we weren’t doing any targeting before, you know, are not the same. We, we kind of need to need to think differently about location, but also realize, you know, that it’s not a, let’s find an ideal location and stick, you know, you almost gotta follow your crowd around. Is, is that, is that the right way to think about it?
Ed
I think, I think it’s right to say that there’s impacts for location targeting, you know, go going into the pandemic when we’re entering the pandemic, we enter lockdown. Then it was very obvious to decide which of your, you know, rules for location targeting, where you would change. It was very easy to say, right? Well, you know, everyone’s working from home now. I’m not gonna target central London. What we have now is a more subtle problem where we know people are reoccupying those spaces, but we also know that it’s not exactly the same as before now from a, a sort of a data point of view that raises some, some interesting questions. Whereas before you might have say you were, you know, doing some informed, like model informed location based targeting beforehand, you could have used, you know, two, three years worth of data. Now you don’t have that to handle that. You really need to understand a few things, you know, understand your customer base, understand what they might be doing in the new world. And then also be able to test things out quickly and, and, and adapt to what is happening and what you are seeing in, in the performance of your campaigns. For example,
Tom
The reacting quickly. I, think’s a, also a really interesting point with, with a wider point because, you know, two and a half years ago, and I think anyone, anyone could have predicted what the next two years would look like. Um, and I think if it’s taught us one thing is we need to be able to react quicker and, and, you know, build processes and build strategies in our business that when things like this happen, you know, we don’t know what’s gonna happen in, you know, five years, five weeks, you know, five months, whatever it might be when these, these events happen, how can, how can we, we react in a, in a much better way with, with better data. I think it also is also a kind of wake up call from that side of things as well.
Ed
Yeah, definitely. The only way to know anything is, is to be collecting your data in a way that allows you to get a good perspective on your audience. The alternative to that, or it’s not an alternative is, is almost in addition to that is, is to be able to take those sort of key themes that we’ve discussed and, and say, okay, well, how do they affect this particular channel or this piece of content? Yeah. To, to a certain extent you, there, there may be some rules that you need to, or rules of thumb that you have that you need to either unlearn or adapt. So something we’ve spoken about before is confirmation bias, right? Yeah. So there are potentially, uh, rules of thumb that people have that they might need to challenge because they think something was happening before. And actually it wasn’t, yeah. Let’s take a kind of slightly silly potentially example.
Ed
Right. So people who are posting, you know, being like, okay, we, we wanted to live a LinkedIn early in the morning. Yeah. And thought that was because people want to, you know, engage with things and get ahead of their day or something. Now it’s important. It would be important to challenge that and say, oh, actually it’s because people were commuting. Now you might look at the people say, oh, people still wanna get ahead of their day. So you would still continue with that. But as it stops working, it’s important to have that data and understand that it is stopping, working and not rely on that misconception you had before about why people were doing things.
Tom
Yeah. It’s a really, it’s a really good point. Um, that, well, it’s, it’s, it is easy, you know, I think from, from an evolutionary point of view, we, our brains like to burn as few calories as possible when we’re thinking, so, you know, anything that lets a shortcut and go, oh, that’s how that works. And, and I think it’s why I think it’s really important to have this conversation now, you know, we’ve, we’ve two years have passed. We we’ve got, you know, things are certainly settling back down to what might look like the norm, you know, but again, that, that is an assumption as well. Right? So we’ve again, by, by looking at the data and we can, we can make sure that if it isn’t quite quite how it’s gonna be, we can still change where, you know, but I think what what’s clear is what we’ve discussed in these themes are, you know, are probably at least gonna be relevant for the, for the short to medium term.
Tom
So I, I guess, you know, before, before we start to, to wrap up, I, one thing I know we talk about a lot internally is a data set available from, from the ons and probably I think be good to just make people aware of it. Cause I think it’s, it’s, it’s a hugely powerful data set. The, you know, the ons, the office for national statistics make available, um, that most people probably don’t know about. So be it’d be really interest to hear from you how, how you use that and how you think others might be able to use that.
Ed
Yeah. So the, the, the data set that you are talking about is, is, is called the origin destination data set. And it is basically, uh, I mean, people may remember from when they do the census. So you, you obviously do the census at your home address. One of the questions basically ask where you work and how you get to work. And so there’s a, there’s a data set that then exists of, okay, this is where people live and where are they going to work during the pandemic? This was, you know, an invaluable data set in terms of, if you had geographic targets at workplaces, you could map them back to residential locations. You can’t do it on a one to one basis. It’s like, you’ll take like a region of a, of a city center, a workplace that might have 500 workers in it. And then you can know where those 500 workers go back to.
Ed
You don’t know which ones were yeah. On slightly bigger scales. You can get this broken down by industry and things like that. So you can look at flows for particular industries, but on slightly bigger geographical scales mm-hmm . But obviously, yeah, during the, during the pandemic, this was invaluable for understanding where people have moved or where people are working from home. Yeah. Now what it tells us is it gives us an idea of where those people doing hybrid working are also, if you can, if you can think about, say mapping like transport route on top of that as well, you get an idea of how many commuters are using different transport route still, and those sorts of things. Yeah. The census conducted every 10 years. Unfortunately this, the most recent census, uh, fell in 2021 during, uh, I think it was just after a national lockdown.
Ed
Yeah. I think we were just out of it when the census happened, but, um, yeah. So, so unfortunately it fell during the lockdown and as a result that origin destination data set is going to be interesting to say the least . Um, and, and it’s still, it’s still slightly, slightly unclear, uh, what it’s gonna include. I mean, one, one of our colleagues is, is on the working group for it. And there are, as I understand it, several statistical questions still open about how, how it’s gonna be presented and how well it is going to map to the previous data sets we have. Um, that’s not actually the case in Scotland, in Scotland. They did delay the census. So I think it ha I think it’s happening soon. It’s definitely, it’s definitely this, this spring slash summer in Scotland. Okay. They’re conducting the census. There’ll be another dataset in, in Scotland, which actually probably will give us a good idea of how much things have changed actually between last year and this year, which, which is actually as, uh, data people is actually quite useful. Cause it, it gives us an idea of how much of an outlier last year was compared to the previous censuses in 2011.
Tom
I think that’s been super interesting. What, if any, is your takeaway or kind of parting parting words, ed,
Ed
The gen the general idea is, is don’t, don’t think everything’s gone back to how it is before the pandemic and try and know your audience. Probably more importantly, watch the data as it comes in and be ready to respond. You know, don’t assume everything was the same as before, but also don’t throw everything out that you had before, because then you’re starting from
Tom
Scratch. So let let’s, let’s call it there. So let thank you for another great talk and I, and I hope everyone enjoyed listening to this episode of the data for Bluffer’s podcast. From my side, I think the biggest take home was, you know, that we are more dispersed and less routine based, you know, so really, you know, assuming, you know, where people are is is, is a dangerous, is a dangerous assumption and you really need to, you know, as ed said, get to know your audience or, you know, follow, follow your crowd and, and make sure that your, you know, again, as ed said, looking at the data, um, as usual, uh, like, um, and share, if you think there’s someone out there who, uh, would, would benefit from this. And other than that, I guess, uh, I’ll say goodbye and ed say goodbye, goodbye and see you in two weeks time.

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