The focus: Markets that are most impacted.
There’s a consistent pattern emerging: Online research is working well so far and seems to be continuing in all geographies.
These are exceptional times however – today’s reality could be very different tomorrow.
We will continue to update this report next week and keep you posted!
Stay safe everyone!
Happy Thinking People/ Sven Arn
THE OVERALL SITUATION
Over the past 7 days the global and regional impact of the pandemic has changed significantly. The USA now has the most cases globally and cities like Madrid and New York City have joined Lombardy and Wuhan as epicenters of the crisis.
In the research world by contrast, the perspective of most of our partners around the world is consistent.
Market research is continuing and online research projects are running well, even in countries where the impact is severe.
One interesting observation from our partners: participation is extremely high. Whether it’s Online Communities, or screen-to-screen groups and interviews, attendance levels are at almost 100%.
The depth and quality of contributions are also exceptional. More about that later.
Whilst some client companies have put all research on hold, many are continuing. There seems to be a high (and understandable) level of uncertainty out there, but the experiences from the agency side are generally positive.
New client/agency collaborations seem to be emerging as we all try out new ways of doing things:
- How do you run co-creation sessions online?
- How do you use breakout groups on Zoom to enhance the way you do online workshops?
It’s likely that some of these newly acquired skills will have a longer-term impact on how we conduct research projects, particularly in an international context.
VOICES FROM ITALY, SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES
As we mentioned last week, research has been ongoing over the past weeks in Italy. This is still the case.
In one online community, the respondents wanted to stay in touch with each other – unfortunately for this project there were GDPR issues with keeping the portal open. It’s something we should consider for future projects during times of self-isolation and home working.
Research is also continuing in Spain – that’s the feedback from our partners there via LinkedIn in response to our update last week.
One of our partners points out that anxiety in the business world seems to be greater than for market research participants. They are not witnessing a distress level that is impacting responses, so the information and outputs are robust and reliable.
From the USA we were reminded that things are quite different regionally. Our recommendation would be against planning any face-to-face projects at present, even where these are possible.
Engaging people in online research is, however, perfectly feasible. Even in New York – where the situation is extremely challenging – life for many people is going on. New Yorkers are notoriously resilient!
For the US it’s even more important than elsewhere to make sure the people we are talking to are happy participating.
Compared to Europe the social upheaval is probably greater, with even more people experiencing greater job uncertainty.
ARE CONSUMERS’ REACTIONS AS THEY WOULD BE IN NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES?
Obviously, it’s not possible to just pretend the current situation isn’t impacting. We need a measured reaction.
Alberto Sidrach from www.bigband.es has some useful tips in managing this. “It is important not to ignore the situation, acknowledge it… we are not ignoring or avoiding the issue, just treating it with normality.”
Taking this approach on board, participants seem to find it easy to focus on the research tasks in question and to actually welcome the ‘break’ from crisis-mode.
It’s important that researchers provide context, allow some space and time to discuss the current situation – and then move on to the research tasks. If we do that, people seem to be quite relieved to be talking about something other than coronavirus.
Some clients have voiced concern that with the high involvement levels and time people have to spend on research tasks, reactions might not be as natural as they would normally be.
In purely behavioural or observational market research this would indeed be a problem, but in discussion-based qualitative research, deeper involvement in a conversation is what we are looking for and is beneficial to the outcome.
We just need to make sure that the ‘mental space’ in which these discussions take place are as separate as can be from current affairs. This seems to be the natural instinct for participants anyway.
Our attention in next week’s update will be on markets that don’t have the same level of development of digital infrastructure.
We are talking to colleagues in South Africa about how to manage this in lower SECs where a strict lockdown is extremely challenging on so many levels.
The fact that internet access and availability of devices is difficult clearly raises many questions about what we can and can’t do in the current situation.
And of course, we will continue to gauge the sentiment amongst our participants. As images from around the world become more shocking and worrying, we need to be extremely sensitive and re-evaluate from week to week.
We will keep you posted!