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Cast your mind back to your pre-pandemic working week. Like most consumers, you would probably split your time, your tasks and your mindset between one of two camps – your ‘work life’ and your ‘home life’. The last decade or so may have seen more flexibility creep into the workplace, but up until early 2020, advertisers could still rely on a clear divide between work and play for most consumers. Working and shopping were mostly mutually exclusive.

Then the pandemic hit. The lines blurred irrevocably, giving rise to an entirely new category of online consumer. The world saw a fundamental and permanent shift in how people spend time online, as we switch seamlessly and endlessly between professional and personal modes throughout the working week. This is one of the conclusions of new research by Forrester Consulting,¹ commissioned by Microsoft Advertising, which heralds the rise of the ‘Workday Consumer.’

The Workday Consumer has logged in

By surveying more than 5,300 employed consumers around the world, Forrester revealed that 59% of respondents consider their work and personal tasks to be of equal importance during their work time. Almost two-thirds (62%) regularly research or purchase products and services (more than regularly browse social media) and 44% expect to increase their work time purchasing in the next 12 months.

The research also shows that 63% of consumers are spending more time on their PCs than before 2020. 56% of consumers report that they are using their work devices and applications for personal tasks. The categories that appear to be top of mind during work time are usually high-consideration purchases – from appliances hotel and luxury goods, to appliances and financial products.

In fact, last year, the PC market saw the most significant growth in a decade, with more than 340 million PC shipments globally in 2021. Canalys reported that the number of shipped units in 2021 was 15% higher than the year before, and the largest shipment total since 2012. This data is reflected in the trends we saw at Microsoft. Windows powers over 1.4 billion monthly active devices, and time spent on these devices is up 10% over pre-pandemic levels.²  The PC is a powerhouse for the Workday Consumer, and despite the rapid growth of mobile commerce, 56% of online retail sales are predicted to occur via PC in 2024.³ 

Switching off digital marketing autopilot

This leaves marketers with both a challenge and an opportunity. Those stuck in autopilot and in their pre-pandemic strategies risk missing the shift in consumer behavior and seeing the ROI of their digital campaigns nosedive. On the other hand, those savvy to the Workday Consumer’s mindset and behavior can score significant competitive advantage by meeting these new consumers where they are.

But this won’t happen by accident, it’ll take a fundamental re-valuation of your strategy, including your platforms and personas and how you are dividing your budgets across each. Surprisingly, 67% of the 1,301 marketing and advertising decision makers also included in the Forrester study rate their companies as only intermediates or novices at developing in-depth target personas. More concerning still, 60% indicate that their companies do not consider mindset when developing personas.

Marketers can’t rely solely on the demographic targeting of yesteryear – they must incorporate consumers’ mindset into their advertising strategy. Brands will struggle to convert customer data into actionable insight if they just rely on traditional customer personas that use demographics and purchase histories, but don’t take into account more nuanced cues. By understanding customer thoughts and behaviors during the decision journey, the more successful brands will be in reaching the Workday Consumer.

And at Microsoft Advertising, we’ve been building the platform and devices and applications to help do just that. We bring an audience of over 1 billion people who turn to Windows to get things done - from browsing and searching, to learning, gaming, and shopping.? The Workday Consumers are doing this every single day. As usage continues to grow, we are seeing a flywheel emerge between content, consumption, and commerce, which allow us to help marketers connect with people who have greater purchasing power, engage more with ads and are more likely to make a purchase online.

Digital marketing must operate at the intersection of work and life. More than half (51%) of the research respondents indicated that their online purchases made during work time has increased since the start of the pandemic. Your customers have moved on – have you?

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

¹ Base: 1,301 marketing and digital advertising decision-makers at companies in North America, Europe and APAC. Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Microsoft, November 2021.

² “Global PC shipments pass 340 million in 2021, and 2022 is set to be even stronger,” Canalys, 2021.

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

? Microsoft internal data and comScore data, March 2021.