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The Workday Consumer has logged in – but are you stuck on digital marketing autopilot?

The consumer journey has been permanently changed by the blending of work and personal lives, yet many brands risk being caught on digital marketing autopilot

Not so long ago, from Monday to Friday, many consumers went to offices where they engaged in their “work life” activities. Then they went home, where they spent time immersed in their “personal life” activities. On weekends, they did chores and went shopping. Advertisers could count on this as the status quo, until the pandemic hit. Suddenly, as many began to work from home and hybrid working became the norm, life became blurred and for many, all those tasks began to happen simultaneously from home. This change triggered a fundamental, and now permanent shift in how we spend time online – and created the Workday Consumer.

According to new research by Forrester Consulting1, commissioned by Microsoft Advertising, The Workday Consumer unapologetically switches between employee, personal, and consumer modes throughout the day, with 59% consider their work and personal tasks to be of equal importance during their work time.1 Nearly two-thirds (62%) are regularly researching or purchasing products and services during the work day, and 44% expect to increase their purchase in the next 12 months1. And the PC is a key touchpoint for the Workday Consumer, with 56% of consumers using their work devices and applications for personal tasks. Notably, over 65% of Australians are conducting financial services-related research and purchases, and 60% research household appliances, all on their PC. 1.

The research unearths the full extent of this shift in consumer behaviour and what this means for marketers, who currently aren’t equipped to adjust to this new reality. As 51% of consumer respondents indicated the number of online purchases, they made during worktime has increased since the start of the pandemic1, the boundary blurring is likely to have a profound effect on consumer behaviour and advertisers risk missing out on reaching this crucial audience unless they adjust their strategy.


Blurring the boundaries between work and life

The blending of work into our personal spaces quickly changed everything when the pandemic began. As work and school shifted online, so too did shopping and services. Groceries and other items were delivered to our doors, healthcare was provided over the phone or via video, exercise classes were held on demand and digital happy hours became a regular feature of our online lives.

Had these changes been temporary, they might not have stuck. However, almost three years since the pandemic began, these behaviours are now ingrained, and the Workday Consumer mindset is the result. Many of us now prefer to receive services online and order deliveries to the comfort of our front doors and it feels natural to find a balance by incorporating personal tasks into our working time, giving us more flexibility throughout our day.

The study found that 68% of respondents worked from home during the initial lockdowns, and 48% continue to do so now.1  In Australia we continue to see many workers resisting the call to return to the workplace, with September data from the Property Council of Australia showing that office occupancy rates still sit well below pre-pandemic levels – and at just 41% in Melbourne. For marketers looking for effective advertising strategies, that’s a big, permanent shift in digital marketing approach – one which should prompt a re-evaluation of their platforms, personas, and budget allocations, taking into consideration their business, brand and acquisition goals.

Nick Seckold at Microsoft Advertising explains: “Our lives are becoming increasingly blurred. Our personal and professional lives now co-exist, whether it’s emails over coffee, booking a holiday pre-meeting or grocery shopping afterwards.

“Digital marketing must operate at the intersection of work and life – it's not enough for marketers to continue to use demographic targeting the way it’s used today, but to incorporate consumers’ mindset into the advertising strategy. It’s a case of throwing out the playbook and no longer running on digital marketing autopilot. Your customers have moved on, but have you?”

The boom in PC use

With 63% of consumers spending more time on their PC than they did before the pandemic1 and a rise in personal tasks being conducted on PCs, it only followed that consumer behaviour had shifted – giving advertisers a competitive advantage to shift too. This finding is especially true for advertisers who are targeting would-be Australian holidaymakers that are researching and purchasing. For example, nearly 70% of respondents reported they preferred to research travel options on a PC, while 67% of Australians also preferred their PCs when purchasing tools, hardware and garden supplies.

In fact, Microsoft Windows, the largest PC operating system by market share now powers over 1.4 billion monthly active devices, with an overall time spent up 10% on pre-pandemic levels. So, it’s no surprise that Forrester predicts that despite the rapid growth of mobile commerce, 56% of online retail sales will occur via PC in 20243.

Advertisers must meet the Workday Consumer where they are

The more empowered advertisers are to better understand how their target audiences are thinking and behaving during their customer decision journey, the more likely they will be to succeed in reaching them. Savvy marketers know that new consumer behaviours give them a chance to build better strategies, but many are yet to seize the opportunity the Workday Consumer presents.

Their lack of optimism in their organisation’s abilities was surprising, 67% respondents in the Forrester study1 rate their companies as intermediates or novices at developing in-depth target personas, and 60% brand decision makers indicated their companies do not consider mindset when developing personas.

The research points to brands still relying on traditional approaches to customer personas that focus on demographics and purchasing histories and rarely consider more nuanced cues. They also struggle to convert customer data into actionable insights that drive online advertising strategies.

“Marketers must address this change in consumer behaviour and adapt their approaches, or risk being left behind – they must redefine their target consumer personas to account for the new Workday Consumer mindset,” says Nick Seckold.

“At Microsoft Advertising, we’ve been building the platform and tools to do just that. We now have access to 724 million monthly unique PC searchers on the Microsoft Search Network and 250 million unique users through native advertising on brand-safe experiences. It’s by connecting across platforms and sites people use every day to get things done across work and life, that we’re able to help our customers engage with the Workday Consumer,”

“Marketers now have a choice – continue on a path of digital marketing autopilot or meet the audience they’ve been missing out on. The Workday Consumer audience is in a task-oriented mindset, with higher buyer power, spending more online and more likely to engage with ads to try new offers.” 

To find out more about how to attract, convert and retain the Workday Consumer, tune into the video here.

1 The Workday Consumer Has Logged In,a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft, February 2022  2 Internal data

3 Forrester Analytics: Search Marketing Forecast, 2019 To 2024 (US),” Forrester Research, Inc., March 4, 2020

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