Launching a new product during a global pandemic could be classed as a bold move. However, given its customer-centric approach, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) team knew the time was right. “The feedback from our clients was they didn’t want things at EIU to change. But they wanted to navigate our products more easily, so that they can compare information at speed,” EIU’s Chief Digital Officer, Sharon Cooper told DCN.
Launched this month, EIU Viewpoint integrates EIU’s subscription-based services into a unified digital platform. It combines the EIU’s expert insights and analysis with forecasts and proprietary data to offer clients a 360-degree view of the world, encompassing politics, policy, and economics. “Before, these were separated, so clients might only have one aspect,” says Cooper. Now EIU has integrated them under one umbrella product. This allows them to provide “a more nuanced perspective of the world and the forces shaping it.”
However, EIU Viewpoint wasn’t launched in response to Covid-19. It launched in spite of it. “We had to deliver Viewpoint remotely, with every single person working for home. We didn’t miss a beat.” She says that “It’s testament to the global nature of our business, as we have over 650 analysts in 130 countries. It was also our ability to pivot quickly, but not lose sight of the thing we needed to deliver for the client. We stayed focused on our end goal. But were flexible to the changes brought about by Covid.”
A customer-focused approach is at the heart of EIU, which was created back in 1946, in response to the needs of The Economist’s readers. They wanted to know how to better run their business in a challenging and changing post-war environment. Today its team of economists, industry specialists, policy analysts, and consultants help businesses, financial firms, academics, and governments understand the shifting global landscape.
It’s a business model that clearly works. EIU revenue increased by 1% for the six months ending 30 March 2020. And The Economist’s circulation revenues rose by 6%. EIU Viewpoint hopes to build on these figures by combining EIU’s award-winning political insights, policy analysis and economic outlooks, with curated forecasts and proprietary data.
This global view includes forecasts for the global economy, daily insights, and country economics. It also incorporates political analysis, medium- and long-term forecasts, macroeconomic datasets, and proprietary ratings and rankings. But what makes Viewpoint’s offering unique is the editorial team.
“Anyone can access the data we produce. But our key differentiator is our analysis. It’s a critical part of what we do” says Cooper. “EIU Viewpoint isn’t a news business, it’s a forecasting business. We are saying what will happen as a result of the news. EIU Viewpoint allows clients access to our editorial team’s thinking. We try and contextualize the news for each of our clients.”
Creating a platform that offers such a tailored user experience had it challenges, as their clients range from industry experts to total amateurs. “Bringing this context to life and making it simple to navigate was the toughest part of the build,” says Cooper. “We had to ensure lots of different types of users could navigate the same system and get all their questions answered in a consistent way.”
Preparing for opportunities
The product is a great example of how listening to your audience and responding to their needs adds value to a brand. The Economist is a well-respected title that offers news. EIU is a trusted resource that explores the impact of that news. The two go hand in hand to offer an independent and authoritative voice, which has resulted in loyalty and high levels of engagement with some of the biggest brands in business.
“Our content is about looking forward and thinking ‘what does this mean for our clients?’” explains Cooper. “There might be 101 things that happen in a day. Rather than just giving a bunch of facts, we weave them together to make a comprehensive overview of a country and how its changing.”
As a result, EIU has been able to guide their customers during the toughest times over the past 12 months. This includes providing a “huge amount” of additional data, to help with risk management and forecasting. The EIU also built its own Covid tracker, which looks at when the global economy will get back to pre-pandemic levels. It also reports on vaccine rollouts and how they impact the economy.
“It’s all about preparing for opportunities and helping our clients understand the whole market” says Cooper. “There are different models for different countries. We think about each one, in terms of what is happening today, what this will look like tomorrow, and what this means for our clients.”
EIU Viewpoint manages to hit that sweet spot that all media are trying to achieve: identifying opportunities for customers that translate into revenue opportunities for their own business. By working closely with their clients, EIU has become an integral part of their business. Thus, its clients have a “strong commitment” to the brand.
“If you look at most big banks, NGO organizations and governments around the world, you will find EIU at the heart of them,” Cooper says. “We believe Viewpoint will consolidate this relationship. It will help both our clients and the Economist Group plan for the future in order to operate effectively and profitably.”