When the COVID-19 disruption erupted in early March putting the economy into a national lockdown, senior executives made bet-the-business decisions based on the best data available.

Companies found themselves making decisions in days that they would typically spend months planning. In the fog of the moment, data became a critical asset driving the response, but what data did they need, and how easy was it to access.

Covid-19 and its impact on the economy was a classic black swan event, defined by Investopedia as an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected and which has potentially severe consequences. 

And it was especially unusual as the impact was global in nature, yet the responses around their world were uniquely localised.

One of the biggest, immediate consequences was the mass migration to work from home arrangements. Large organisations like Australia’s ASX saw the number of staff working from home skyrocket from 10 per cent to over 90 per cent almost overnight. 

While the challenge for large national organisations were significant,  even smaller organisations, which are typically more nimble found themselves facing quite extraordinary challenges.

Steve Perissinotto, co-founder of Vetshop Group, Australia’s largest online retailer of pet health products had to deal with the problem of getting his call centre staff in the Philippines home safely. The government had imposed restrictions so suddenly that staff was stuck at the office at the end of their shift.

Steven Perissinotto, cofounder, Vetshop Group

“We moved our Manila office to work from home overnight after the government there gave just a few hours notice of lockdown,” he said. The rest of his operation – those who were Australian based – followed shortly after.

With the immediate challenge addressed, the company needed to understand the likely impact of Covid-19 on its operations. 

“In terms of looking at the data, we need to remember that the data may necessarily trail the events. So in our case for example,at least initially,  the data on slow order deliveries wasn’t available when people were ordering, it only became apparent once customers started reporting delays,” he explained.

“I would also say “don’t just look at the data yourself or with your management team. Get the views from across the company, as sometimes a frontline team member will see something you won’t see. For example, sales data tells a different story to customer service reps than it does to the dispatch team”. 


For WW (Previously Weight Watchers), the sudden change extended not only to staff working from home but to the very nature of how the business operates.

A big part of its traditional business involves customers getting together to meet, but COVID-19 removed this option, As a result, the company moved 30,000 face-to-face meetings affecting a third of the company’s members into the digital realm.

With such a huge disruption to both staff and customers, WW’s ANZ director of Marketing and Commercial Nicole McInnes understood the critical role data would play in responding to these extraordinary circumstances.

 “We ran this weekly and used the data to iterate and optimise our offerings. This helped us develop some live experiences, member challenges and the way group members experienced WW virtually.”

“We use data a lot in general to communicate and substantiate actions but this went into hyperdrive during COVID. We increased our normal weekly meeting schedule with our agency to daily initially (now we are at twice a week and will revert to weekly in July) and we used our daily dashboard for media ROI.”

In addition, she says, the leadership team met daily so data could be picked up and shared to back up any big pivots that were required. 

 WW also quickly launched a global research project into how its members were coping,  including their state of mind, along with general consumer sentiment, as well as how they were feeling about WW’s temporary solutions. 

The ability to utilise and leverage data was critical to its success, says McInnes.

 “Our media ROI data was crucial in making daily and weekly media spend decisions and in tracking consumer sentiment live which informed the rest of Q2 planning. I was able to see where there was an opportunity by channel to increase spend really quickly and take advantage of that opportunity.”

For more details on the impact of the WW marketing supply chain, and from Sarah Kruger, Managing Director Human Resources Australia and New Zealand at Accenture Australia of the criticality of data on helping employees bounce back, read the full article at ADMA

This article was produced by the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit for ADMA


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