Trends in consumer behaviors have shifted and accelerated at pace due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions imposed on people across the world. Digital activity, for instance – both in terms of content consumption and e-commerce – rocketed during lockdowns with just small declines when greater physical freedoms were granted. In the UK online sales grew by 46% in 2020, driven in part by a 79.3% boost in food sales, according to the Office of National Statistics.
In light of this, Similarweb, the digital intelligence platform, hosted a panel session as part of The Drum’s Agencies4Growth Festival, to discuss the most pertinent consumer trends, looking at how brands can better serve audiences through content and creative, and how agencies can be best prepared to adapt to client needs.
Moderated by Jenni Baker, assistant editor at The Drum, the panel featured Tomas Seliokas, industry consultant at Similarweb; Cathy Butler, chief executive officer at digital agency Organic; and Anthony Noguera, managing director and owner of integrated media agency Ai.
Ai founder Noguera, who works primarily with clients in the movie and theater space, noted that not only did social media and other digital channels grow in importance for brands and agencies looking to connect with consumers, but that “we started to see quite significant changes in the length of time people were spending online and the content that they were consuming. We had classic clips from some of our properties, which were getting 60 to 70 million organic reach during lockdown, that were getting far greater reach than brand new content from new movies.”
Butler at Organic spoke about some of the sectors that have experienced the biggest changes in consumer behavior: “I think there are probably smaller purchases that are doing well – quick service restaurants for example – but bigger ticket items are hampered by financials, and also supply chain.”
What about the role of the agency in helping brands benefit from these changes rather than being left behind? Similarweb’s Seliokas said: “This is a prime example where agencies come in because a lot of companies were not ready to use paid search or display advertising to promote their product when they had the biggest advantage in probably the last 20 years to add market share from that additional demand into their portfolio.”
Noguera added that this changed the nature of the agency/client relationship in some cases: “The good agencies out there ended up taking on a lot more responsibility with the clients and were able to not just scale up in terms of production, but in terms of support.”
Butler indicated that the growing importance of data and the agency’s role in this remains a significant issue: “It means more deeply understanding specific client segments or audience segments for clients, so that we can help them really identify where and how to spend their dollars in a way, not in big swathes, but as much as their business can handle on a month-to-month basis. So that has brought in more strategy, more data into our business, and built our expertise there.”
But what do agencies need to be thinking about now to build a better understanding of both consumers and brands?
“A lot of clients want that additional comfort that comes from you knowing what is going on, and when it is going on,” said Seliokas. “Like if something changed last week, or in the last two weeks, then it’s about increasing the monitoring, and basically giving the context and as much as possible the comfort that you can provide to them to make better decisions.”
The panel session ended with key takeaways from each of the experts. Noguera emphasized that there’s an increased reliance on data, “but understanding that this data needs to be interpreted is really important”, while Butler focused on the theme of “helping our clients develop a multi-year roadmap for their digital businesses”.
Meanwhile, Seliokas concluded that there’s a danger in resorting to “vanity metrics”. He said that brands, and their agencies, should instead focus on understanding shifting consumer behavior through identifying “the most important data, and being able to have it on time.”
And, he said, the agency and client dynamic has never been more important due to the pace of change: “You need to have a good agency partner next to you with an expertise in executing this.”
You can watch the full panel discussion, Understand your client through the lens of the consumer, here