Brands urged to get in shape for ‘workday consumers’

online shopBrand owners must overhaul their marketing strategies to embrace the rise of the “workday consumer” with the blurring of lines between work and leisure triggering new shopping behaviours.

That is according to a new report by Microsoft Advertising, carried out by Forrester Consulting among 5,329 employed consumers who were 18 or older.

It reveals 60% of global consumers now complete a mix of work and personal tasks during working hours, with a similar number (59%) considering their work and personal tasks of equal importance during the working day.

With this shift in work time behaviour, more than two-fifths (44%) of consumers expect the number of online purchases they make during worktime to only increase during the next 12 months.

Closer to home, a similar proportion (42%) of UK consumers spend more than an hour on personal tasks during worktime, with the most common task being researching products/services they are considering purchasing (56%). In fact, more than one in ten (11%) are spending over three hours during their working day researching or purchasing products/services.

Even so, more than two thirds (67%) of global advertisers rate their own brands as novices or intermediates in building in-depth understandings of different personas.

As the study is quick to point out, not so long ago, from Monday to Friday, many consumers commuted to physical offices where they engaged in “work-life” activities. They then travelled home, where they spent time immersed in their “personal-life” by completing chores, admin and any shopping.

Of course, advertisers could count on this set pattern of behaviour, that was until the pandemic hit. Now, for many, the need to work more flexible hours, and the increasing blurring of boundaries between work and life, has led to a permanent shift in the patterns and ways in which we spend our time online and the purchasing habits that match this.

The “workday consumer” is an individual who unapologetically switches between employee, personal, and consumer modes throughout the day online.

This new persona seems here to stay but what this could mean for employers and brands marketing to this new behaviour is only just being discovered, and most marketers are currently unaware of, or unequipped to handle it.

The research identifies that the PC is a key touchpoint. While 76% of respondents stated they use a mix of devices when researching and buying products and services online, their overall device preferences for high-consideration, complex purchases suggest the PC is king.

Travel, hospitality, hardware supplies, financial products and services are the top categories purchased on a PC, whilst travel, household appliances, home furnishings and cars are the most researched using this device.

In fact, in 2021, the PC market saw the most significant growth in a decade. Global PC shipments surpassed 340 million last year, and according to Canalys, that growth is 27% more than in 2019.

Alongside the consumer survey, Microsoft Advertising conducted an additional survey of marketing and advertising decision-makers which showed that brands are falling behind, stuck using outdated consumer persona strategies.

Some three-fifths (60%) of brand decision-makers indicated that their companies do not consider “working mode” or “mindset” when developing target personas, suggesting they are yet to tap into the new opportunities.

Interestingly, 50% of respondents rated their brand as “intermediate” and a further 7% rated their brand as a “novice” in using the right mix of digital advertising tactics for key audiences, suggesting room for improvement in the application of digital ads.

Brands may be missing a key customer base by not prioritising more nuanced cues such as where and how consumers work online, what kind of tasks they are undertaking and what kind of mindset they are in during their working day and during breaks.

The report insists marketers would do well to adapt their customer personas and invest in new ways to target this key group, by converting customer data into actionable insights that drive their online advertising strategies into the future.

Microsoft Search Advertising director of marketing EMEA Sean O’Connor commented: “This research has given us a unique perspective, not only on consumer behaviour in a hybrid working world, but also among the marketers trying to reach these customers.

“Advertisers can better understand how their target audience is thinking and behaving during their buyer journey. Not only that, but there is also real insight into what the competition is doing too. Sophisticated marketers are quickly targeting these new behaviours.”

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