Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How waves of city workers seeking countryside lifestyle impacts your marketing strategy

By Colin Grieves, Managing Director of Marketing Services at Experian

Know your customers. We’ve heard the mantra time and time again, but it takes on true significance when seismic events occur in real time – creating visible ripple effects on businesses, their customers and society as a whole. COVID-19 has been one such catalyst, accelerating digital transformation and the flexible working phenomenon, permanently changing how we interact with the workplace and technology but also with brands. 

Look no further than video call backgrounds to see the lasting impacts of the pandemic on our everyday lives. Several colleagues that started the pandemic making do with the kitchen or bedroom now sport greener backdrops, having moved to a more rural location when it became clear that hybrid working was here to stay.

Flexible working means people no longer need to be tied to their office, with a longer commute an acceptable compromise for more space, greener living and a better work-life balance.

But how is this changing the demographic distribution? of the UK, and what impact will this have on businesses and their marketing strategies?

Shift in work patterns changes demographic of towns

The average house price in the UK now stands at £275,000, and £521,146 in London, according to the ONS House Price Index. This level of expense, coupled with many of us now working from home at least for part of the working week, has inspired people to relocate to find a healthier work life balance.

Experian’s latest analysis of moving data reveals a fundamental change in where families and homeowners are looking to base their lives. Workers are now swapping urban centres for smaller hubs nearby. The rural district of Harborough in the Midlands has seen an influx of movers from Leicester, while the scenic market town of Selby in North Yorkshire has seen arrivals from nearby cities Leeds, Bradford, and York. Both areas have seen the highest incoming mover populations, at 26%. Meanwhile the London boroughs of Camden and Brent, along with the urbanised areas of Oxford and Cambridge, have seen substantial population drops.

It is true that movers tend to stay within the region in which they already live, but they are relocating outside of city locations. London saw the largest proportion of movers leave their region, with 12% relocating elsewhere in the south-east and 8% heading further afield into the East region.

The significance for marketers

While the country’s high streets are evolving due to the surge in online shopping, business owners have the chance to reflect on the consumer habits of these new groups which have swapped the city for the country. For local businesses, the incoming city-dwellers offer new spending power and opportunity. But it is vital that a retailer setting up in the town of Selby, or a marketing professional targeting customers in Gloucestershire, considers the area’s evolving demographic to have a complete understanding of their target market.  It’s also true that brands need to understand what mattered to their customers may not matter in the am way now, and that in turn is reflected in spending habits.

The migration of working families and young professionals is creating a new customer base, with new interests. An East London couple moving to Kent might be on the lookout for independent outlets, vegetarian food, or a trendy brewery in their new town. Meanwhile the increase of commuters from towns into cities could impact travel trends and influence peak times for demands on local businesses. More liberal-leaning views could also change the makeup of a traditionally conservative suburbia, impacting voting patterns in these locations.

Marketing professionals should be aware of the background and previous interests of this new audience, to fully personalise their approach. To respond to shifts in demand, local authorities, businesses and others like transport planners will need to map out the latest data and insights to ensure there is sufficient provision in place for goods and services.  In short, people have changed and places have changed.  Understanding that change is key.   

Analysing insights to tailor marketing

It is crucial that marketers analyse the latest moving data and amend their approach accordingly. Only by tailoring their strategy and messages to reflect the new demographic can marketers effectively reach their audience. Insights can reveal whether customer segments are ready to visit venues on the high street or would prefer to stay at home and order online; if they’d be happy to receive communications by email or text; times of high demand, and key images or words that pique interest.

Armed with knowledge of the customer base, marketers can build targeted marketing campaigns that deliver the greatest possible return on investment. For local authorities and councils, analysing the latest moving data will inform the implementation of reliable transport links, housing strategy, leisure facilities, and investment into local business.

In short, knowing your data is a fast way to knowing your audience and ensuring that the right goods and services are reaching them.