Could changing demographics hold the key to new business success?

Small business owners continue to face challenging time following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Could changing demographics hold the key to new business success?

Small business owners continue to face challenging time following the Covid-19 pandemic. The threat of inflation and supply chain disruption looms large, but amid this disruption businesses cannot afford to ignore their day-to-day operations. In this environment marketing and growing new customers can easily fall by the wayside. 

But perhaps more than ever now is the time to evaluate what is happening with your current customers and identify who your potential new customers are. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about permanent, seismic changes to consumers lives and the way they  shop and consume. Businesses of all sizes need to be aware of these changes in order to reflect and meet these new demands.

For example, if your business isn’t based in a large city, you might consider how the growth of ‘flexible working’ and the impact it has had on the lives of city-based office workers would affect your products and services.  

In fact, lockdown restrictions could leave a lasting impact on the whole of the UK. As most city-based employees are continuing to work from home at least part of the week, people are realising they no longer need to be tied to their office. They can have the best of both worlds; a longer commute becomes an acceptable compromise for more space, the countryside and a better work-life balance 

But how is this changing the demographic of the UK’s market towns, and how can your business take advantage of it? 

Home working impacts city living and small town demographics 

House prices are rising, with the ONS House Price Index showing the average house price in the UK now stands at £275,000, and £521,146 in London. When combined with the fact that many city-based employees work from home several days a week, these costs have inspired people to relocate and start new lives. 

Experian’s latest analysis of home moving data reveals the pandemic generated a significant change in where homeowners are choosing to put down roots. City employees are now switching urban centres for smaller market towns nearby.

For example, the rural district of Harborough in the Midlands has seen an influx of movers from Leicester, while the market town of Selby in North Yorkshire has seen arrivals from nearby cities Leeds, Bradford, and York. Meanwhile the London boroughs of Camden and Brent, along with Oxford and Cambridge, have seen substantial population drops.

Movers tend to stay within the region in which they are already familiar, but outside of the main 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.

What this means for your business

Local business owners in towns and suburban locations outside can capitalise on these demographic changes, as it means a new audience is opening up to them. Families that have swapped the city for the country bring their disposable income and interests – if you’re able to bring these potential customers on board, they can spread the word about your business and boost sales. 

However, research is required to ensure you’re targeting that audience as appropriately as possible. And this new audience will likely have different interests to the ones you’re used to catering to. They might want different products and services, or their need to commute to cities could impact travel local trends. Their tastes could vary significantly. For example, Londoners who moved out to the suburbs might still want trendy artisan coffee shops and breweries, vegan food or be used to a multitude of takeaway and online delivery options. 

How they want to be communicated with is also different. Most businesses now engage their customers across several marketing channels using different targeting methods but by understanding new and existing customers’ actual preferences, you can talk to them through the channel they are most likely to respond to.

Moving with the times 

Of course, many business owners dream of being able to spend big on advertising and hire a marketing specialist to help them reach their audience. But, with some desk research, there are quick and budget-friendly ways you can make to ensure you don’t miss out on this new opportunity. 

You’d be surprised how much data you can access online for free. Organisations such as YouGov or the Office of National Statistics host data on their websites that you can use to find out your audience’s attributes, including where they live, their education level, the media they consume, their politics and how affluent they are. Experian also offers a range of services and tools which can quickly and easily help businesses better understand the likely characteristics and preferences of existing and potential new customers.

These insights can be invaluable in adjusting your brand strategy to meet ever-changing consumer habits in times of uncertainty and change. They will help truly understand your new audience, tailor your tone of voice and adapt your products accordingly. 

As anyone who’s owned a business in the past two years knows, flexibility and willingness to adapt to change are vital to survival. Data, and research into your local audience, could also help you thrive.  

Colin Grieves
Colin Grieves

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