Accelerate your data analytics to navigate Covid-19.

Dr. Stephen Welch, Joint MD at Realise Unlimited, shares top data science tips to emerge successfully from lockdown.

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6 months after being locked down at home – our lives are once again changing. The high street is gradually opening-up albeit with an enforced one-way system in place; our favourite restaurants are back on the menu and the home office is suddenly calm again with the children returning to school and university.

As we look to the future, we are already aware this is a very different world. Buying sixth-form clothes suddenly becomes more of an ordeal because of the inability to try things on in store. Planning holidays becomes a lottery. Will my resort still be open? What am I exposing myself to on the flight and in the hotel? Even beauty routines have changed to enable safer styling.

Within our lives there are significant new factors that are influencing our day-to-day decisioning and we are seeing that things are changing rapidly and indeed ‘going wrong’. A local school has just been closed due to a returning flight from Greece being confirmed as having COVID-19. GCSE and A-level exam results were thrown into chaos due to a change in the way grades had to be calculated. We are seeing that our rapidly changing environment is making it difficult to ‘get things right’.

If you are a business, then building a strategy around the ‘new future’ is also difficult. A lot of businesses will be turning to their data and insight functions for support. At a time when looking forward is critical a lot of what we know may no longer hold because consumers have and are now behaving differently. Traditional stable audiences may now have lapsed; new audiences will have engaged but can these be retained; active audiences remain but does the marketing strategy still hold?

This puts data and insight teams under pressure to generate significant new insights quickly – where do they start?

Here are 6 tips as to how to navigate this time…

1. Manage the pressure
Analytics and insight functions will be under increased demand pressures. Therefore, it is important that the team stays focused on delivering quality, value add insight. It is easy to try and do too much too quickly resulting in a drop in quality which ultimately does not help the business move forwards. The key is prioritisation! Work with the business on prioritising workloads and be proactive in having these conversations. Sometimes the business may not be fully aware of how long it takes to do things and the implications of new requests.

2. Understand the sustainability of new audiences
During lockdown new audiences may have been attracted. This provides an exciting opportunity to expand the breadth of the active base. However, it should not be assumed that these customers are likely to return. Insight should be focused on understanding why the customer chose your brand and whether these conditions will remain into the future. If not, then the question becomes how are these customers to be retained? They need a reason to return as opposed to lapsing into previous behaviours. This potentially leads to a whole new engagement programme–differentiated by audience.
3. Challenge assumed behaviour models
One of the fundamentals with a lot of analytics is using historical data to predict future behaviours within targeting models and recommendation engines. But given the potential shift in consumer behaviour (and indeed the emergence of new audiences with unknown behaviours) these need to be revisited. Are your spend association and targeting models still valid?

4. Don’t assume anything
Similar to the previous point, we also need to consider the shape of revenue over the next 12 months. How will the shape of seasonal trading curves be affected? For example, to what extent will consumer confidence and spending return in time for Christmas? Will people be more or less likely to eat out? Or spend it with family/friends they haven’t seen? The influences on decisions over the coming months will be affected as much by lockdown as anything else. The polarised economy may also mean different audiences behave very differently. Those that are worse off may see a drop in spend albeit whilst others may want to celebrate emerging from lockdown.

Are you implementing strategies to know and keep this new customer base without alienating your core base?

5. Expect and plan for change
Different audiences will potentially return to a ‘new norm’ quicker than others and this may be driven by any number of factors such as consumer confidence and economic positivity.
You need to understand which audiences may still be in a transition period and how long that period may last. This is probably the most challenging of all the questions posed as it can easily result in ‘a wait and see’ attitude. Essentially look for evidence where you can and then scenario plan. Understand the key dependencies and tipping points..

6. Measure Success
Achieving results is always critical but will be even more so over the coming months. Often from a management perspective the most transparent and accessible way of monitoring change and identifying problem areas is through reporting and MI. Given the potential shifts in behaviours and motivations are you still reporting on the right KPIs and to what extent are your targets still valid? Redefining the targets will probably be a key focus of other departments e.g. finance but what if they are based around a corporate segmentation that may no longer be valid?

Are your segmentations now outdated? Have you acquired a new type of customer during lockdown? Are you struggling to prioritise and navigate change? The team at Realise Unlimited can help navigate changing consumer behaviour with our customer healthcheck or changing priorities with our capability assessment. Get in touch today – we are always willing to talk through any problem and see if we can help.

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