The thin line between real and online life is narrowing further with Covid-19 – and marketers need to react

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

The disruption and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic has naturally seen consumer behaviour shift drastically. Remote working and eCommerce trends feel as though they have shifted inexorably, with work-life balance becoming re-evaluated in favour of the latter. The question is: which of these behaviours will stick, and form ‘the new normal’ longer-term?

Before their session at DMWF Virtual tomorrow (September 16), Naomi Morrice and Taylor Dickson, research analyst and research consultant at Brandwatch, spoke to MarketingTech on how behaviour has changed during the pandemic, and what marketing professionals need to do from here.

MarketingTech: Tell me briefly about your careers to date and current roles and responsibilities at Brandwatch?

Naomi Morrice: I joined Brandwatch as a Research Analyst one year ago. My background prior to Brandwatch is in more traditional market research, with a focus on the public sector. As a Research Analyst now working with brands, I love helping people to interpret and understand the narrative the data is telling.

Taylor Dickson: My original background is in marketing, but then I transitioned into research and analytics after discovering the power of Crimson Hexagon (this was prior to the merger, of course) a number of years ago. I have worked as both a technical and research consultant for Brandwatch, designing and managing projects for some of the biggest brands in the world.

MT: How have your roles and responsibilities when working with your clients evolved in response to the pandemic?

TD: Responsibilities haven’t really changed, but the level of urgency has. Businesses have burning questions that need answering – this still holds true during a pandemic. Our dynamic with customers has changed for the better in many cases, however, where the increased pressure on clients has led them to rely on us as research partners over simply the providers of a valuable tool. These have been opportunities for us to demonstrate the skill of our Professional Services teams, and our expertise in delivering business-critical insights.

NM: The role we play for our clients has shifted slightly, as we are supporting many of them through a really challenging time they have, in some cases, needed to lean on us a little more. As well as longer term ‘future-thinking’ work which is pretty typical, this support has come through a shift to more immediate provision of insights for some clients to support practically 24/7.

MT: What’s been the biggest challenge in conducting digital research during the pandemic?

TD: The pandemic has been loud. Misinformation and conspiracy theories are sparking confusion and anger. Many are struggling with financial concerns, anxiety, depression and divisive political climates; tension levels are incredibly high. That has understandably created a natural bias in sentiments expressed on social media. Fortunately, we’ve been able to employ methods such as the one we’ll be discussing in our DMWF session to address that potential bias. We’re looking forward to sharing that with attendees.

NM: The volume of pandemic-related conversation has been a challenge; it can be tricky to get to the crux of an insight when there is so much noise. It has also provided a chance to understand the challenges people are facing. During lockdown people were online even more than usual; I think that has worn the invisible line between ‘real life’ and ‘online life’ even thinner. The volume of thoughts, feelings and activity online this has prompted is both a challenge and opportunity.

MT: How have consumers adapted during Covid-19?

TD: Our regular weekly Covid-19 reporting has been a fantastic source of information on how consumers are adapting, and what we can infer may be coming post-lockdown. I highly recommend anyone unfamiliar with that work go and check it out: it’s months of insights across a handful of verticals by some of the most experienced analysts in social intelligence.

My personal favourite takeaway is around values and life balance. The impact of COVID-19 on day-to-day life has been dramatic, with many people talking about using this time as an opportunity to reconnect with family and slow the pace of their daily lives. Now, we’re seeing many say they will work to maintain that slower lifestyle; staying away from overbooked schedules and needing to grab fast-food on the run — replacing it with family dinners, daily walks and game nights. Both social and survey data point to budgets being reduced this year which, alongside expressed appreciation for activities considered ‘throwbacks to simpler times’ (e.g. baking, bike rides, movie nights), could point to a move away from the consumerism high of the past few years.

MT: Which industries are of most interest to you from a research perspective in terms of how they are coping/not coping with the pandemic? What interesting points have you seen from them?

NM: From a personal perspective, I’m really interested in seeing how the financial sector responds to the pandemic. Money is a really personal topic which impacts every aspect of people’s lives, including their wellbeing and their mental health. What people need from their banks has changed dramatically from what they needed this time last year. Seeing conversation about financial worry swell and, importantly, observing how banks and governments have responded is particularly interesting.

TD: Alongside that, I’m fascinated by how individuals’ relationships with work life will change. I think many have re-evaluated the ‘Work to Live / Live to Work’ paradigm; time spent at home and not commuting, for example, has drawn attention to a potential work/life balance many are missing. It will be very interesting to see if businesses/countries evolve alongside that cultural shift, e.g. by instituting 4-day work weeks.

MT: What do you hope the audience will take away from your session ‘How do we navigate the nuances of consumer behaviour in unpredictable times?’ at DMWF?

TD: For those already familiar with social & survey research or digital consumer intelligence to some degree, our hope is they walk away with a framework they can share with their teams to step up the accuracy and value of their insights.

For those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with either of these two research disciplines, we hope they walk away with an understanding of the value they’re missing out on by not leveraging these technologies together — and feel inspired and equipped to fix that!

Read more: Moving from reactive to predictive marketing: Three steps from Brandwatch to get your data analysis on track

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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