Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Building a Market Model and Market Sizing (22-slide PowerPoint presentation). A key choice in any business strategy is 'where to play'. This understanding the market that the business chooses to compete in with a clear understanding of key customer, geographies, products, growth, value, competitors and shares etc. A fundamental requirement for any market assessment is the [read more]
Should Brands Continue to Invest in Market Research amid Coronavirus Pandemic?
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When 2020 approached, no one would have imagined we would be spending nearly half of it stuck at home. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic turned our lives upside-down and reshaped the way governments, businesses, and healthcare systems behave. As a new decade emerges, businesses are compelled to rewrite their business strategies and change their operations in order to keep afloat.
Market research is paramount for the good evolution of a business, but the recent situation forced market researchers to conduct their surveys solely online.
In a recent survey, more than two-thirds of businesses stated they are either postponing or cancelling their research during the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of them being concerned such activities would come out as unsympathetic for the cause. However, the same survey reveals an overwhelming 86% of consumers in the US, UK, and Australia feel it is entirely normal for companies to continue their research even during a pandemic.
With this being said, should companies take advantage of consumers’ openness to participating in surveys? And, if they do, given the ever-changing climate we live in now, are those results going to be relevant for tomorrow’s market?
What are companies’ main concerns?
In order for a business to call itself successful, it needs to listen to consumers and respond as fast as possible to their needs, especially in a time where consumer behavior changes unpredictably. While many companies still wish to carry on with their research, some can’t help but express their concerns regarding issues such as misleading results, appearing insensitive to the situation or low response rates.
One of the main concerns has to do with the relevance of these surveys in a post-COVID-19 landscape. Consumer behavior changed since the beginning of the pandemic and will most likely continue to do so once the pandemic is over. This means data collected now may only be relevant for a limited period, which makes companies wonder if they should continue investing in market research.
While this is a legitimate fear, and it is normal to worry about the future, businesses should keep in mind that we don’t know for sure how much longer the current situation is going to last. Hence, the best thing to do is focus on the present and the near future, rather than waiting patiently for the crisis to be over.
The next most pressing concern for companies in both the United Kingdom and the United States is, if they carry on with their market research and advertising campaigns, they could appear too insensitive in front of consumers. After all, the world has more significant problems now, right? Well, consumers do not agree.
The end user understands brands can’t shut down their operations or put their development plans on hold, because that’s simply not how businesses work. What’s more, many consumers consider market research an important area for businesses to continue investing in. After all, this is the only way companies can understand how people feel during these times and how they can tailor their approach to adapt to these changes.
Another legitimate reason why companies are postponing market research is that they fear they may not have the capacity to collect and analyze data because many businesses are not running at full capacity. Technology will once again prove to be very efficient in such situations, as companies can rely on artificial intelligence to automate most of their market research tasks. Automation can help cover for personnel shortage, as well as deliver results in a faster and cost-effective way.
How are consumers responding to market research amid pandemic?
While consumers seem to be open to market research, even during a pandemic, we can’t pretend the current situation is not impacting their response. Consumers’ reactions will most likely not be the same as before the pandemic, which means companies need to acknowledge the situation and treat these issues with as much normality as possible.
In the UK, for example, consumers used to be a lot more pessimist at the beginning of the pandemic, but their perception has slightly shifted over the past month. While UK consumers are less likely to roam around in stores hunting the next sale, they have turned to online shopping to satisfy their needs, including grocery shopping, and many of them have stated they will continue to do so after the pandemic.
Properly conducting market research right now can reveal some vital information about consumer behavior during a global crisis and can help businesses come up with a better plan for the future.
Should you continue with market research despite concerns?
Fearing your business would come around as insensitive or too invasive is a legitimate concern, but this should not stop you from continuing to conduct market research. You should, however, be more mindful of the current situation and adapt your strategy accordingly.
In short, yes, businesses should continue to conduct market research, but they do need to make some changes in their approach. And, surprisingly enough, consumers are now more willing to pick up the phone and have a short chat, even if it’s with pooling interviewers. Anxiety and prolonged isolation seem to be the leading causes, especially for people who are forced to shelter in place alone.
The importance of conducting market research remains just as significant as it was before the pandemic, as companies still need to gather information in order to develop products, tailor their marketing campaigns and understand how consumer behavior is changing. Businesses should take this climate as an opportunity to learn, discover new trends, and adapt their operations to the current environment.
The aspects businesses need to keep in mind, in order to conduct successful market research during the pandemic are safety, empathy, and transparency.
To protect their participants and researchers, companies need to forget about in-person surveys and move entirely into the online. When contacting participants, do keep in mind that we are navigating some troubled waters, which means you need to empathize with them. Last but not least, be open about the intention of your survey and the benefits it can have for both your business and the world. If consumers see their response matters, they will be much more willing to cooperate.
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About Shane AvronShane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.
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