The consumer insights tracking helping Beiersdorf marketers navigate the crisis

Head of brand and media data analytics shares the consumer sentiment tracking approach the brand has taken to steer through COVID-19's impact on behaviour

Ascertaining permanent consumer behavioural change

As the sense that things will be OK gains ground, it’s coming through the sentiment tracking and informing how Beiersdorf navigates the next phase of the pandemic.

“There’s this kind of calm before the storm in terms of economic and financial impact. That’s what’s dominant in consumers’ minds and we have to be wary of how that plays out. The sentiment is normalising, but there is that greater economic and financial concern,” Raj said.  

However, Raj wasn’t convinced some consumer behaviours exhibited during the crisis would be long-lasting.

“Because we were lucky enough to bring down the curve, we haven’t solidified some the new behaviours yet. As quickly as people pivoted into online channels, they’re quickly pivoting out of them at the same rate to what’s familiar: For example, turning to buying their groceries online versus going into the store,” he said.

“In our category, what it does show is that it won’t take much to change the consumption behaviours in the future. It’s coming. It all depends on what the retailers and brands do in their response to this, and how consumers then respond.”

The ultimate learning for Raj? Consumers will switch if it’s easy for them. “That’s the opportunity and danger at this point,” he said.  

“In our category of retail and FMCG, there’s an element of secondary gain from physical shopping. Consumers experience discovery and browsing you can’t normally get online. That experience being in the shop versus online is very different – one is engaging and sensory, the other is clinical and academic at times. It’s something we have to be mindful of this as well.

“That’s the opportunity – the current model, if we’re not careful, could be improved on by the likes of Amazon and it won’t take much for consumers to switch. What we have learnt is it doesn’t take much to change behaviour, and there is a level of convenience and time saving to taking the physical stuff out.”

Getting up to speed

Ensuring staff were able to tap into these insights was vital to action. To help, Raj’s team built simplistic dashboards allowing employees to tap into questions and see results in real time, whenever they want. As consumers uploaded responses, for instance, they can see how things are changing day-by-day.

The insights team also fed out core results in a more traditional way. There was also a need to upskill people and build their confidence in looking at research to glean the right insights.

“There is a level of change management and upskilling needed. Luckily we had the platform six months before COVID hit,” Raj said.  

A wider benefit of the platform is it allows the insights team to have a seat at the table.

“We can talk from a point of view of recent evidence and real-time knowledge. We had that power of data and timely research on consumer insight,” Raj said. “I think it’s also helped that what we have been reporting was what people were facing themselves internally.

“But we still had to do work to set up reports, build and present, help people through the data as they’re not used to seeing survey results in this way. It’s a matter of education, which is part of the role we play as well.”

As a final point, Raj said this kind of tracking lends confidence to numbers, supporting that all-important marketing intuition.

“Sometimes in marketing, we rely a lot on intuition. If data can back that, it helps further inform us to have the right conversations at the right time,” he concluded.

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