Why you need to redefine your audience

The coronavirus crisis has transformed the landscape. Market research and data insights gleaned from customers are invaluable to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world, says alan. Head of Research and Insights, Sarah Callaghan.

Be honest, marketers: how well do you really know your business audience today? 

Before the coronavirus crisis, most organisations ambled along a well-trodden path, relying on insights garnered from limited historical data to understand their customers’ habits, interests and challenges.

However, the pandemic triggered a seismic transformation of the landscape. Initially, and understandably, businesses struggled to gain a foothold as they were catapulted to the digital era, ready or not. 

And now, with restrictions beginning to ease, reconnecting with your audience is business-critical to surviving and thriving in a post-coronavirus world.

After all, can you, as a marketer operating in either the b2b or b2c spaces, assume what you knew about your customers pre-pandemic still stands true? How have their lives or industries been affected? Are their objectives different? It’s impossible to answer those questions with any certainty without checking in with your customers. There needs to be an urgent recalibration. 

Now is the time to go back to basics, press the reset button, banish previous assumptions, and redefine your audience. 

Ultimately, by engaging with, listening to, and learning from your customers, you gain the tools to recalibrate your business. It’s a win-win situation: they feel wanted, and you glean invaluable guidance to better shape your offering.

Business-critical: tracking and keeping pace with consumer trends

Ideally, a marketer should define their business’s audience regularly, as a matter of course. Remember, first and foremost, your customers are people – even when considering the b2b space. Building out an idea of them as actual humans rather than numbers will help you better respond to their challenges and pain points and help determine marketing messaging that will resonate with them.

Researching customer habits, personal preferences, interests and challenges, should not be a one-off event every two years. Especially in this time of extreme change, it simply has to be an ongoing process. 

Don’t shy away from spending the time and money. Build a compelling business case highlighting the gaps in your understanding in order to get buy-in from purse-holding stakeholders.

And while this process may be iterative, there is only so much to be gained from slightly refreshing the previous year’s personas. Consider how the events of 2020 have altered you and your habits. Your customers’ needs and wants could look very different to even a year ago. It is therefore imperative to keep pace and investigate how changing consumer habits have changed the habits and preferences of your customer.

A McKinsey report, published in late October, analysed changing consumer sentiments in 45 countries. The study noted a shift to value and essentials, and a rush to use ecommerce. Brand loyalty was reduced through different shopping behaviours. Six months later, with coronavirus restrictions easing, consumer habits are likely to evolve again.

Robust recovery is expected as a result of pent-up demand and accumulation of savings in both the B2C and B2B space. Indeed, a more recent McKinsey study, unveiled at the end of March this year, estimates that in the UK people have 38% more savings than they did in 2019 – the highest  of the nations analysed. 

Empowering businesses through market research and data insights

Does this mean that we can expect a surge of spending and a quicker recovery? Will forced behaviours stick? 

The answer to both puzzlers is: no one knows for sure. Given the hokey cokey we have played with lockdowns in the last year, jumping from in to out and back again, it is tough to gauge without proper studying. 

Perhaps offering more confidence when looking at the bigger picture, the same McKinsey report from spring argues that those operating in the b2b space should be quietly optimistic, as the annual productivity rate more than doubled following the global financial crisis a decade ago.

There are multi-year trends that have been accelerated, though, and they are more straightforward to identify. For instance, the shift to digital has sped up, and businesses need to increase investment in ecommerce. 

What has become noticeable is that the brands that have excelled have been offering the best user experiences, the quickest deliveries, and the most intuitive platforms. All of those elements have been shaped through the collection of customer insights.

For example, in the B2B space there have been noticeable changes in go-to market strategies. Industries that were traditionally face-to-face and relationship-driven, such as insurance, have instead had to lean on video conferencing, and self-service models.

Those brands that think they are doing well in the interim, but are not connected with rapidly altering customer wants and needs in light of this forced shift are likely to lose market share, and quickly. Most (70-80%) of B2B decision makers now prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service and most companies though these changes will stick (89%), as of August 2020.

The move to digital also means that the insights from customer data are more useful than ever for businesses willing to embrace technology. Market research can be used to add better colour to your CRM, or segment your audience for targeting. To remove damaging assumptions, it is increasingly vital for organisations to have a research partner that challenges them at various points of the data-gathering process. 

One of the biggest jobs as a marketer is listening to customers. This is a task that can often be deprioritised with attention being dragged into deliverables and outputs. Yes, marketing is about being the voice of the business, but it also has to listen. Organisations that are successful today and in the coming years will show – through both words and deeds – how they are listening intently and acting on audience needs and wants.

Want to find out more about how to redefine your audience post covid? Call us on 020 3877 3800 or email us at contact@alan-agency.com to speak to one of our specialists about how we can help you build personas and create a targeted content strategy.

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