“We’re taking on more than a million data points every day,” said Bushby on Just Eat’s access to an unprecedented level of information about restaurant offerings and the meal ordering habits of consumers. “The challenge is then how do you use them effectively to improve the experience of customers, of restaurants and couriers?”

The coronavirus lockdown gave rise to some distinct and noticeable shifts in terms of how and when people would order food. For instance, Bushby explained that the “dinner peak”, which normally took place between 6:30 and 7pm, moved forward to around 5:00, most likely due to the lack of an evening commute. The company also saw an increase in the amount of food ordered for lunch, and an increase in breakfast ordering, which Bushby dubbed “The emergence of breakfast”.

With few other sources of novelty and variety in their lives during lockdown, people were turning to food to provide something different. Bushby recalled that as the lockdown had worn on, there had been big increases in orders for things like Greek, Turkish and Thai cuisine – “almost those holiday destinations that you’re longing after – you just want a little taste of those. We’ve seen… almost people living vicariously through food.”

Bushby admitted that the volume of data can be “overwhelming” and that the company tries to be “quite practical” in the way that it uses data, passing on key insights to restaurants and advising them on how to adapt, and using data to inform its own decision-making. “For consumers, it was all about, ‘How do we personalise the experience?’” he said. “Your experience needs to be relevant when you arrive at lunchtime – there’s no point showing you a dinner menu at lunchtime.” Just Eat also had to adjust its operations, such as call centre staffing and infrastructure, in line with the new peak times.

“We’re constantly learning about behaviour and trying to understand – from a food perspective – where people are going to go next,” Bushby said when asked which habits he thought were likely to “stick” long term. “I think we’ve probably done two years’ worth of learning in six months.”

“I think people are developing new food occasions,” he added, “and looking for ways they can maintain some degree of normality – or adopt a new normality.”

Digital brand-building: Bringing TV and online together

Just Eat has embarked on a number of major TV ad campaigns and sponsorships, from X-Factor and Love Island to – most recently – an extremely well-received campaign featuring Snoop Dogg that launched in May, during the depths of lockdown. The brand uses digital channels to augment those campaigns, creating digitally native content across platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok and Twitch.

“For us, it’s really about saying, ‘This is our core sponsorship asset; how can we now take this and really magnify it, and get the best value we can from it as a business?’,” said Bushby. “We know that digital gives us so much reach but also so much engagement as well.”

While Bushby acknowledges the brand-building power of television, he doesn’t believe that that power lies solely with TV advertising. “I think one of the undeniable truths is that there is a diversification of people’s viewership – how they’re engaging with content, how they’re spending their leisure time. With the meteoric rise of certain platforms, as a brand you’ve got the power to really reach out to customers.”

For instance, Just Eat previewed the Snoop Dogg campaign via snippets of content online before launching it on television, and then later extended the life of the campaign via TikTok takeovers and programmatic advertising.

“Digital gives us so much reach, but so much engagement as well,” Bushby said.

A fifteen-second teaser created by Just Eat to preview its upcoming campaign (and collaboration) with Snoop Dogg

Looking towards the future of television, Bushby believes that TV will need to take lessons from digital as TV-watching becomes less and less “linear” and digital and TV “come together around buying platforms”. “It’s about how do we take the things that we’ve learnt from a digital world, and apply those into a TV world – and vice versa?”

As IAB UK’s James Chandler noted, however, it isn’t about making TV and digital more alike, but about playing to their respective strengths. “The worst thing you want to do with TV is make it like digital entirely … but when you put the two together, they work exceptionally well.”

“You’ve got different moments, you’ve got different environments, and I think it’s important that you play into those in the right way,” agreed Bushby.

Just Eat is also keeping a close eye on the rise of platforms like Twitch that combine content with community, and how they might disrupt the consumption of ‘traditional’ content like music and football. “I think that is a really fascinating evolution, and one that has been accelerated exponentially through lockdown,” Bushby said.

He also credits the digital content and activity that Just Eat created to complement its television campaigns with allowing it to better understand and reach customers as their behaviour changes. “Digital has given us a fantastic platform to go and engage with people – and we’re able to understand more about them as a customer, more about them in terms of their behaviours.

“I think that’s the key: digital is at its very best when you bring the best content to the fore and you think about where people are in the moment, how people are consuming that media – and then how you as a brand play into that authentically and in a fun and interesting way.”

Browse the Festival of Marketing tag for more of our coverage from five jam-packed days of marketing learning and insight.