Covid-19’s Effect On Customer Behaviour

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As the world went into lockdown, Google’s mobility data recorded up to a 90% drop in the amount of time we were spending outside of home – resulting in large shifts in customer behaviour.

Are these changes real and lasting? Traditional models of customer behaviour rely on what people have done previously, however, when something like a global pandemic happens, they go out the window. When this happens, it’s critical to listen harder to what your customers are doing so you can understand if it’s really a change you need to pay attention to.

A lot of changes have been driven by a tactical response to lockdown, rather than an organic interest. So, how do we understand what event-driven data is telling us in the here-and-now when there’s no meaningful data to compare it with?

It’s important to consider the following factors to avoid missing an opportunity, or even seeing an opportunity when there actually isn’t one.

  1. Data confidence

Having confidence in your data becomes crucially more important when traditional models are defunct. This confidence comes from a number of places:

  • Are you tracking the right events?
  • Is your data clean and good quality?
  • Do you know what you should be comparing it to?

Many of the changes we’ve seen throughout the pandemic haven’t happened year-on-year; rather they’re changes over six months versus a five-week period in January and February.

So, when changes are happening on a daily basis, asking the right questions and understanding what you’re comparing your data against is key.

  1. Leading indicators

Often, data shows us a story too late for us to decide whether we should be taking action or not. This is where leading indicators come in.

In Covid-19 terms, the increase of sales of camping toilets could have been predicted by a leading indicator.

Just before lockdown, searches for flights dropped, giving a clear indication that people weren’t travelling abroad, which might result in a surge for camping staycations, in turn resulting in an increased demand for camping toilets.

Lo and behold, 6-8 weeks later, searches for camping toilets increased dramatically.

If lockdown happens again, you should consider now what leading indicators might occur that will affect demand for your organisation’s products and services.

  1. Long-term change or short-term reaction

Being able to tell the difference between long-term change and a short-term reaction is key to helping you understand what you need to do about it.

The issue is that it’s difficult to determine which behaviours are short- or long-term, as what we’re seeing week-on-week and month-on-month isn’t consistent. So segmenting this behaviour and deciding what to do about it is important.

Are you seeing a short-term reaction that you could shift to a long-term change?

Ethical toilet roll producer, Who Gives A Crap, did exactly this. They converted pandemic customers by pushing the benefits of being ethical toilet paper online and, as a result, donated $5.85 million to their chosen charities – the biggest donation they’ve ever made.

With the economy opening up, children are returning to school, people are returning to offices, and maybe Brexit will be finalised. As this happens, it’s important to know what data you could be listening to, and whether it indicates a new change in behaviour that you need to pay attention to.

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