Monthly Archives

September 2020

Lightbox Loves: Accelerated e-Commerce

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The start of lockdown heard the phrase ‘new normal’ countless times in relation to all areas of consumer behaviour. One of the most notable areas that was referenced was in relation to online habits (in part because there wasn’t a huge amount else to do in the height of lockdown); rising to an average of 4 hours and 2 minutes in April 2020 versus 3 hours 29 minutes in September 2019. However the area that saw one of the most notable growths online was consumer adoption of digital retailing channels, with bricks and mortar shutting.

This trend of shifting to online has been seen before. In the 2008 recession in-person retail stalled as consumers moved online to be more savvy in their shopping and seek out better deals than what was on the high street.

COVID-19 has seen half of Brits shop online, resulting in a 10% growth in the online customer base, following the same pattern that has been seen previously. The biggest contributor to this growth has come from online grocery, with Nielsen Data stating that it totalled £1.12bn in the four weeks ending May 16, a year-on-year increase of 103%.

What’s interesting about online shopping is that, unlike other behaviours adopted during lockdown, online shopping is already set to stay, with 80% of shoppers stating that their new behaviours are here for the long-term. Interestingly, this isn’t just driven by the more digitally native Gen-Xers and Millennials favouring online; data published in early August from eMarketer shows that 62% of US Baby Boomers will buy online this year.

What is different about this growth in online shopping in the pandemic to the 2008 recession, is that where the momentum slowed as the UK came out of the 2008 recession, this time round it is set to continue on an upward trajectory. The August wave of the7stars QT measured increased usage of online shopping; in May 38% had increased this behaviour, this grew in June to 48% and in August 50%, highlighting the momentum around this consumer shift.

The brands that look to understand this evolving consumer habit and embrace the online shopping space will place themselves in a really strong position, not only to retain existing customers but also attract new customers.


Ofcom, UK’s internet use surges to record highs. June 2020

Lost in transaction research

the7stars QT, August 2020

Wagamama crowned winner at the Effies

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wagamama back in 2018 launched with their first ever brand ad into cinema. By embracing its distinctive soulful philosophy, and mastering the secret art of cinema, wagamama attracted a new swarm of urban butterflies through its doors. While others closed shop, our campaign delivered a 6% point penetration increase, grew like for like sales 8.8% vs. market growth of just 1.7%, and achieved a profit ROI of £5.21 for every £1 invested. Through meticulous media planning and an innovative cinema strategy, we broke the stereotypes of cinema and flipped it on its head. This successful campaign has been recognised and is now the winner of the 2020 Media Strategy & Idea category for the Effies.


Lightbox Loves: The Growth of esports

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“G2 are the greatest team we have ever produced in Europe and have gone back to back and won the summer season!” Unless you are a G2 or Fnatic fan you may be wondering which sporting final this line was captured from.  Sunday the 6th of September marked the final of the League of Legends European Championships (LEC) and this quote came as esports team, G2, closed out the match to become European champions. For those yet to come across esports, it is a form of sport competition using video games (e.g. Fortnite) and has turned previously casual gamers into serious stars.

This LEC event was streamed for over 10 hours and broke viewer records for the league, passing one million concurrent streamers. These record-breaking numbers, alongside the continued growth seen during this year’s pandemic, has encouraged many brands to seek out opportunities in the esports arena. In 2019 alone, esports had 454 million followers and was expected to grow to 646 million by 2023. Now, this viewership figure is expected to rise even higher. Our quarterly tracker, The QT, saw a 26% increase in online and mobile gaming in May this year.  So, who is getting involved?

A whole host of brands across multiple categories. The audiences that view and participate in esports are now seeing household names such as BMW, Pringles, Coca Cola, Audi and Red Bull advertising in streams and in-game, or even making larger moves to sponsor teams and events. The popularity of esports has also gained the interest of news publishers with the likes of Sky Sports and the BBC now regularly reporting on high profile tournaments and team updates. TV broadcasters are looking to gain esports eyeballs at an accelerated pace this year due to the absence of other sports, with Sky and BT both striking deals to show the official Premier League and Formula One esport tournaments respectively. Anyone watching the financial markets may also notice David Beckham’s esports team Guild Esports will be floated on the London Stock Exchange, looking to raise £20m and expand outside the UK market.

Whilst the events of this year have helped grow esports popularity, this is more than a passing trend. Four months into lockdown, we continued to see an increase in online/mobile gaming according to our very own QT (up 17% in August). Brands new to this space will have untapped opportunities when crowds return to packed arenas and stadiums, since many brands already have had to move to virtual or crowd-less events like other live sports this year. It’s time to leave behind any further assumptions that esports is a niche interest and start thinking about whether your audience are going to be streaming the next big event and how you can engage with them.

the7stars quarterly tracker, The QT

Ancestry’s Look Back at WW2

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To commemorate the 80th anniversary of The Blitz this September, Ancestry commissioned 80 pieces of art to tell stories from their records about what everyday Britain was like during WWII. Our campaign marked the moment by transforming key UK cities into real life art galleries, showcasing the bespoke local art across cherry-picked print and outdoor. This activation bolsters Ancestry’s current brand campaign which includes brand TV, sponsorship of Sky History and an original content partnership with The Times.


Lightbox Loves: The Fast-Track to Frictionless

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If you ate out to help out last month, you probably interacted with a QR code more times than in the last five years put together. QR codes have popped up everywhere, from the check-in desk at the pub to the menu at Nando’s, allowing customers and staff to minimise contact with each other and reduce waiting times. As if overnight, COVID-19 has fast-tracked us to the frictionless world, where life is made easier through the automatic transfer of data.

Last year, the7stars Trends team predicted that frictionless technology would be a defining force in 2020. Back in 2019, wearable technology was becoming increasingly popular, as attested by Google’s £1.6bn purchase of Fitbit. This year, COVID-19 has accelerated the drive to track personal health data even further. Fitbit has just launched a new watch that has the added capability of measuring stress levels by tracking skin temperature and heart rate. Not to be outdone, Amazon has launched their own version of the fitness tracker called Halo. Halo measures a whole host of health indicators, including the energy and ‘positivity’ in users’ voices.

Retail is also getting a frictionless makeover. MasterCard is piloting its first check-out-free shopping technology that will work across a range of retailers, from shopping malls to airports. They are also piloting AI-powered, personalised drive-through menus. These smart menus suggest orders based on historical customer data, reducing the time taken for employees to take orders so food can be prepared faster.

Still, the unexpected winner of 2020 is the QR code. Designed with businesses in mind, the QR codes can be printed out to link customers to their pages. Businesses are already learning how to use QR codes better than before, by displaying them with a clear call-to-action. In the case of restaurants, it connects the customer with everything from their menus to track and trace forms. As consumers become increasingly familiar with using them, we expect that this time around they are finally here to stay.


The Seven Trends in 2020

Lightbox Loves: Lipstick on the Napkin

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As the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme comes to an end, figures from the first 3 weeks show that Britons used the scheme over 64 million times. This staggering number accounts for people who have moved their chosen evening out to earlier in the week and those who would not otherwise have gone out. The offer has represented a real change in the UK’s restaurant behaviour; OpenTable, the online reservations platform, reported a 61% rise in Mon-Weds bookings vs 2019. This spending takes place against the backdrop of the worst UK recession since records began. Therefore it seems strange that consumers are so keen to spend their disposable income. However, the lipstick effect helps explain this phenomenon and provides an opportunity for brands to offer real value to consumers through this difficult period.

For those who have not come across the lipstick effect before, it is an economic theory that suggests a reduction in big-ticket luxury expenditure in times of a recession leads to an uplift in small ticket luxury expenditure. This explains why people are looking for affordable ways to treat themselves. ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ aligned the core aspects of the theory – treat and low price point – and combined them with ease of use to create value in the mind of the consumer.

As we’ve been confined to home for large portions of 2020, treat has become synonymous with being out and about, and with holidays less accessible than they once were, eating out is filling this gap for the time being.  the7stars quarterly tracker of UK adults, highlighted this month that Brits are planning to spend less on long holidays (24%) and short breaks (22%), while 8% plan to spend more on eating-out and takeaways in the year ahead. Food is, in fact, the only surveyed category that has seen an increase in plans to spend. Nonetheless, price, offers and deals are the most important factors reported for grocery selection over the next six months. It stands to reason that this price sensitivity effects their out-of-home food choices too, with the government framing the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme as a saving representing a powerful, time limited offer of value to consumers.

In combining high value propositions with messaging that speaks to the current moment, brands can steer consumer behaviour as they start to look for small luxuries. Recent research from TVSquared demonstrated that TV ads explicitly mentioning the Coronavirus Crisis are three times more likely to resonate with viewers. What that ‘value’ is for a brand will depend on the price sensitivity of their target audience, but combining this messaging with products that are considered an indulgence is an impactful way to acknowledge the challenging times we face and enable consumers feel good about treating themselves to life’s smaller luxuries this year.

The QT, August 2020


What Life Looks Like For OOH Now?

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As more people become accustomed to the one-way systems and sanitisation procedures in the dining and retail sectors, the easily observed reduction in consumer visits to stores and restaurants is starting to plateau and hopefully this means a return for one of the channels that was heavily impacted over lockdown – OOH – however, the game has inevitably and certainly changed.

Covid has accelerated the evolution of brand-to-consumer and even B2B interactions and relationships – we only need to look at the increase in use of apps like Zoom and Teams to appreciate this trend. Innovations in the OOH space have also been fast tracked due to Covid  – and we expect to see this include the adoption of DOOH tech. [3]

OOH is famed for effectiveness through high reach but the pandemic has led to its large scale audiences decreasing in certain demographics [3]. Key areas for OOH such as airports and the London Underground are still experiencing a dramatic decrease in footfall[2]. This means that OOH will likely have to become a more targeted and outcome-based channel to justify its use. Luckily there has been ample investment into digital screens and infrastructure over the last decade.

Bitposter and Clearchannel’s partnership with traditional OOH key-players has meant that many paper and paste locations have been digitalised, whilst Global’s purchase and integration of Exterion and Primesite (linking DAX with their digital outdoor sites) has meant data-led buying has become a reality. This also goes beyond media buying and into execution, with Ocean Outdoor releasing mid-air haptic interaction, to replace their touchscreen equipment [4].

Whilst innovation development has been fast tracked, the dynamic of clients that they were designed to serve has shifted.

The ad spend market has shifted in line with the change in consumers priorities. Essential goods, tech, and the high-frequency Public Health England campaigns have recently ramped up media spend [5], whilst industries like the restaurant sector have seen dramatic cuts. Ironically, OOH was a key channel for PHE in communicating key messages and provided a smart, empathetic and trustworthy platform [3].

So, what’s next for the restaurant sector? American super-chain McDonalds have bucked the trend, as even though they reduced their budgets by 100% during lockdown, they are now keen to use their ‘war chest’ of advertising budget for Q3 and Q4 [6].

As for the restaurant sector as a whole, total media spend was down dramatically for May and June YoY (-91% and -86% respectively), and OOH is no exception. Whilst we are seeing an improvement in August spend and expect to see more buoyant results in Q4 overall, it will be interesting to see how brands use OOH in Q4 – particularly for Christmas which is typically a strong period for OOH [1].







Back To School, Back To Reality

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In previous years we’ve looked to September as a time of optimism and a moment to reset after the highs of summer. This year, the backdrop of recession and returning to work and school after many months of life at home means advertisers need to think a little differently about what this period holds for their audience.

2020 has seen uncertainty reflected in a delayed interest in “back to school shopping” with Google search trends rising two weeks later (from the 3rd week in July) vs the last 5 years (typically beginning to rise from early July)1. As the government’s campaign for a safe return to schools gets underway, here are three ways we’ve seen advertisers shift their approaches to Back To School marketing in line with the new reality:

Continued growth of online: Back to school shopping is no exception to the significant growth in online shopping. According to research over 90% of parents with kids and university students will shop online for back-to-school2. For retailers in particular we have seen an increase in “buy online” messaging, with Sainsbury’s and Tesco both reflecting the wider shift to online grocery shopping within their creative copy.

A focus on hygiene: Sanitiser, masks and cleaning supplies have made their way to the top of the list of essentials2, displacing historical focus on items like technology. As a result, new brands are finding ways to be a part of the back to school moment. Dettol’s recent campaign focuses on laundry detergent as parent’s get ready for the school uniform laundry routine while Boots have recently launched a radio campaign focusing on children’s vitamins.

The importance of empathy in uncertain times: Back to School represents a significant milestone for everyone in the context of lockdown easing, and with this reassurance is key. Research in the US has show that advertisers treading the line between positivity and empathy are seeing their ads resonate stronger with consumers3. This sits at the heart of Very’s back to school campaign, which focuses on “back to school joy for everyone” – acknowledging the positives in a distinctive way that helps cut through an increasingly competitive moment4.

For many marketers, seasonal milestones like Back to School involve tried and tested methods and well-established consumer behaviours. But as we move through these milestones in the context of the pandemic, challenging what we know about consumers and their behaviours is key to maximising opportunities new and old.







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Minority ethnic groups account for 8.1 million people in the UK: that’s 13% of the UK population and is continuing to grow. Yet no matter how sophisticated its techniques, consumer research is somehow failing to break through and extract insights from one of Britain’s fastest-growing and most influential demographics.

The same oversight applies to other minority groups, such as those who identify as LGBTQ+ (2.2% of the UK population). These are all significant consumer groups. So how can brands move from “we think” to “we know” – the golden mantle of all robust market research – if these voices aren’t included as an integral and assumed part of that knowledge?

In short, they can’t and we run the risk of creating generalisations about groups, who can be vastly different. But this lower level of representation is in part driven by a number of practical barriers; reaching robust sample sizes in these groups is expensive. As an example, to send a questionnaire to someone who is LGBTQ+ would be £8-£10 compared to someone who is a main shopper, which would be £1.25-£2. In addition, to translate a questionnaire to Polish (the second most spoken language in the UK) would cost £350-£390. Equally the repercussions of mishandling sensitive data such as ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation due to GDPR paired with a fear of offending has in some instances created an avoidance of ensuring these groups are represented in research.

But when we are conducting nationally representative research, we shouldn’t be hindered by these practical barriers and a definition that doesn’t reflect modern society. Currently within the UK the definition of nationally representative research requires quotas on: age, gender, social grade and region meaning that ethnicity and sexual orientation are not included with the definition. If these aren’t included then research cannot claim to be nationally representative if it’s not based on an effort to reach all sections of society. Worse still, by failing to do this it runs the risk of making clumsy and misleading generalisations.

At the7stars we believe that the research we conduct should reflect the views of all voices in society, therefore one of the first steps we have taken is to come together with five other founding partners to create Voices4All, a movement committed to improving diversity and inclusion standards within research services.

We have signed the open letter that calls for action to make ethnicity and sexual orientation (in addition to age, gender, region and social grade) quotas a minimum requirement for all NatRep research samples. As such, moving forward all new proprietary nationally representative research from the7stars will include ethnicity and sexual orientation within our quotas alongside age, gender, social grade and region.

We invite you all to sign up to join us in raising diversity and inclusion standards across the Market Research and Marketing Industries, Ensuring that all voices are heard.