The last 18 months have been filled with events that none of us could have expected. The toll on individuals and businesses has been enormous and as we slowly start to come out the other side, we’re simultaneously keen to get back to normal but must also recognise that things have changed, too.
We know for example that ecommerce has been accelerated light years ahead thanks to the pandemic and the fact that digital was an overnight lifeline with non-essential stores and other businesses told to close their doors and shut up shop. Digital is now more important than ever, but what many businesses are now grappling with is finding a new happy medium.
Data plays a big role in decision-making and campaign planning but, one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that it has wreaked havoc on the numbers, making decision-making today more of a challenge:
- When the pandemic first hit, some businesses failed.
- Others found sales going through the roof with record sales figures, high demand and high profit.
- Some businesses were forced to pivot to survive, with demand falling or non-existent during lockdown, they needed to find other ways to stay afloat.
This upheaval is reflected in the data with some numbers soaring and for other businesses, losses rising.
Now, lockdown has lifted and things are changing once again:
- Some businesses have been able to reactivate and return to work
- Those who pivoted have been able to return to normal or,
- Businesses who pivoted have seen the value in their new direction and will continue on that same path or
- They will combine normal operations with the pivot, allowing for growth
- Some businesses have ceased to trade, forced to shut down entirely by the pandemic
- Others have found their market has disappeared with the return to normal as their pandemic-specific offerings are no longer in demand
The problem here is that the waters are now very muddied, no real benchmark exists and expectations need to catch up accordingly.
It’s very dangerous to assume that because your level of business performance or sales were at a certain point in 2019, that you’ll be able to achieve those same results in post-pandemic 2021. The world has changed.
For those who have no market left, the picture can seem bleak. With the realisation that sales and revenue are falling and 2021 bears no resemblance to 2020’s results, it’s all too easy to rush in and make sweeping changes to ad campaigns and SEO strategies. What’s worse is that many campaigns will soon be running blind as we prepare for the cookieless world to bite and data to disappear.
When performance has changed dramatically, there’s a temptation to declare that it’s now rubbish and campaigns aren’t working. In fact, what we are seeing is that performance is actually going back to normal after a very unusual period. Data analysis with context is key here, along with the ability to set realistic expectations. It’s crucial to be able to look at pandemic data with a critical mindset and ask whether lesser performance this year is actually closer to what is normal than pandemic data has led us to believe.
Let’s take a look at a real world example:
If you were looking at numbers alone, this data from July 2020 would suggest that performance is terrible in comparison with prior months. It’s easy to hit panic stations and start to rebuild. However, take a better look at the data and you can see that July’s performance was actually better year-on-year.
In the same way, if you were to compare March / April / May 2020 v 2021 just on numbers alone, you could easily be misled into thinking that something has gone very wrong. In fact, when the data is observed in context, it shows that performance in 2021 is actually better than the year before.
Context is key here because it means the right decisions can be taken.