Insights November 9, 2020

Using data to enhance the customer experience – how the food and drinks industry is responding to the pandemic

Living Word
By Living Word

Where is the food and drinks industry going next? Looking at some leading players, consumer behaviour data is steering strategy towards more appropriate, timely communication.

Online food order and delivery service Just Eat has seen a change in consumption patterns this year. For example, customers are using the service not just for dinner, but also for breakfast and lunch. Throughout the pandemic, the company has collected huge amounts of data – around 1 million data points every day, according to Marketing Week. “We’ve gone on an incredibly accelerated journey,” says Matthew Bushby, UK marketing director. “As lockdown eased we are constantly learning about behaviour and trying to understand where food’s going to go next.”

The challenge lies in figuring out how best to use this huge volume of information effectively to improve the overall customer experience. Interestingly, there are two main priorities for Just Eat moving forward, according to Bushby: to deliver more personalised experiences for customers, and to share learnings with partner restaurants so that they in turn can expand their offering.

Empathy, insight and customer experience

Another food company seeing a boom in business is Gousto, the direct-to-consumer recipe box service, as more customers have been looking for at-home meal kits during lockdown. The company is trying to understand what exactly customers are doing and why, and focusing its marketing efforts on relevance and personalisation instead of merely gaining sales.

In this recent article on Gousto’s ‘empathetic’ data strategy, Tom Wallis, Gousto’s CMO, stresses that marketers should focus their data strategy on empathy, insight and offering a better customer experience. In particular, he emphasises appropriate and timely communication with customers: “You want to make sure all your use of data is something that people will value and not recognised as something that is interruptive in an unpleasant way.”

Consumer behaviour in drinks and snacks

Similarly, Diageo, which owns brands such as Bailey’s and Guinness, is using data about consumer behaviour to help improve marketing effectiveness during the pandemic. In this article about Diageo’s marketing efforts in response to Covid-19, Molly Fleming reports that the drinks giant is expanding its marketing capabilities with the new tool Radar. It sits within the existing Catalyst tool and combines the latest data about the pandemic with insights and consumer behaviour information.

Diageo’s global consumer planning director, Andrew Geoghegan, points out the importance of human analysis in combination with computer generated data by tools such as Radar. “Ultimately marketing is not about spitting out an algorithm from a computer,” he says. “It’s about combining business objectives, brand activation and creativity, which is then turbo charged [by data].”

PepsiCo has seen a change in consumer behaviour too, writes Fleming in a related piece, with sales of snacks soaring and increased demand for products such as Walkers crisps and Quaker porridge as more people are working from home. To meet the shift in demand online, the company has launched two new direct-to-consumer sites: and As explained by PepsiCo’s CEO Ramon Laguarta in an investor call: “The penetration of ecommerce or e-grocery just accelerated by three years. It’s happening now.”