Does COVID-19 demand new preference and intent data?

/ 21 July 2020

David Eldridge, CEO, 3radical

Poll Reflection: Does COVID-19 demand new preference and intent data? (78% say it does)

There is a feeling amongst many in the marketing industry that consumer behavior will be so altered by COVID19 that existing models and preference datasets will no longer be valid.

This was reflected in a survey of my Linkedin network, where 78 percent said brands would need to refresh their data, while the remaining 22 percent said pre-COVID19 data was ok.

John Regan, CEO of mymyne commented that both existing and new data have their part to play; “Post-COVID behavior will be influenced by external factors such as the recession, and the acceleration of on-line vs the high street, but people will still have similar wants and desires as they did pre-COVID.”

It’s a good point; legendary advertising executive Bill Bernbach once said, “It took millions of years for (wo)man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing (wo)man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging (wo)man.”

There is an important difference between motivations and behaviors. The former are fairly rigid and enduring. The latter mold to the circumstances. People don’t need to fundamentally change, to shift behaviors. A strong argument for valuing ‘old’ data while recognizing the importance of the new.

Allan Engelhardt, a Principle at Barnett-Waddingham flagged the importance of the transition period (between pre and ‘post’ COVID19). In a recent blog, he wrote that we don’t know how long the transition itself will take, let alone what the eventual post COVID19 world will look like. Allan says that existing predictions and forecasts are likely to be wrong, but rather than give up, “on the contrary, this is the time to double-down on data and analytics… you need to make sure that data is flowing through your organization so you have clear visibility of what is happening now. This is nothing new, so take the current situation as a wake-up call to prioritize this now. This is not just “hard” data but also the softer information: What are your customers saying? How are they feeling? What are your competitors doing?”

Agreed; this ‘softer’ data is, and will continue to be, vitally important. I believe though, that it’s only obtainable through genuine value exchange and trusting relationships between organizations and consumers. It is highly unlikely that brands are going to get accurate soft data insight through data scraping and inference. It can (and should) only come as part of a willing and consenting exchange.

John Regan points to increasing consumer awareness around personal data and the way it’s used, because of the pandemic, “awareness of personal data and how it’s used has been raised by the debate around track and trace so earned data an authentic ‘data relationship’ is of increased importance.”

Agreed again. Consumers were already fast recognizing the true value of their data, and regulators have been taking significant steps to provide protection. Mainstream discussions around track and trace systems have only increased awareness of the importance of how data is handled.

Like Andrew Davies, Head of Brand & Digital at Episerver, I believe that everyone will need to revalidate previously help assumptions, and i agree with his comment that, “depending on country and product/service sector, some behaviors will revert to pre-COVID19 (but dampened by an economic drop), but some will change dramatically in one direction or another.” 

I think we’re all in agreement then. At the broad level, there are considerable shifts and, as Oliver Klander of Ignition Ai summed up nicely, “context, behavior, intent, situation and groups will continue to flux.”

It’s just these fluxes may well be more volatile than we’ve experienced in a very long time, which only emphasizes how important regular, reliable data really is.

About the Author:

David Eldridge, CEO, 3radical

David established his first company, age 14, to market the software he wrote, which won first prize in a BBC National Competition. Roles at Shell and GB Group were followed in 1997  by the co-founding of Alterian plc, where David led its IPO in 2000 and its development to become a recognized leader in the marketing platform space. He is joint founder of 3radical.

Featured in BtoB Magazine’s “Who’s who in BtoB” and Data Strategy’s “Power 50 in Data”, David sits on the Board of several high growth tech companies.

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