Market research during the coronavirus epidemic – 7 april 2020News
Following the past weeks’ posts on the impact of the coronavirus situation on the global market research industry, this week’s update is based on what we’ve heard back over the past 7 days from clients, partners and suppliers.
The focus: What types of insight objectives and in which categories are people still feeling comfortable researching.
(The focus on developing countries will be out next week!)
Conducting research doesn’t seem to be the challenge. The general insecurity and concerns about a looming recessionary phase are however leading to postponements and frozen budgets. Clearly this is an issue that goes beyond consumer insight departments.
We hope this summary provides encouragement, inspiration as well as some directional pointers for when things change back for the better.
Again, today’s reality could be very different tomorrow. We will continue to listen to our partners across the globe on a daily basis, and keep you posted with weekly updates.
Happy Thinking People
THE OVERALL SITUATION AND DIGITAL ACCELERATION
Even as the global number of cases passes the highly symbolic 1 million mark, we see that market research activity is continuing and the shift to online projects ensures that research agencies continue to deliver valuable insights – in new and innovative ways.
We highlighted high participant involvement in previous weeks and this remains unabated – in all countries and cities.
What we are seeing now, however, is that the forced innovation effected by the current situation is delivering new approaches, new ways of conducting research.
In their absence, we also recognize the value of classic qualitative approaches like focus groups. We really see how effective it can be to get a group of people in a room and discuss a whole range of subjects. Digital works differently.
This is less the case obviously for quantitative approaches, where the shift to digital isn’t new. The ins and outs of successful online questionnaire design in quant have been largely addressed. In qual it’s more complicated.
Qual requires new, clever combinations of approaches and different types of digital interaction in order to provide the depth of some of the more traditional face-to-face methodologies.
A concept or ad might, for example, be tested with a combination of an online insight community and screen-to-screen focus groups.
Scenario techniques help to anchor discussions in ‘normal’ life (whereby participants don’t seem to find this particularly challenging). Setting discussions in the daily routines of the past or those anticipated in the future, for example.
Multi-stage approaches using various digital platforms are being developed to deliver on more complicated tasks like co-creation. Starting a project with an insight community to identify the issues, setting up an online workshop with different virtual rooms to build solutions and then quickly validating ideas via a quick quant check of value propositions to identify the routes with most potential.
WHICH SECTORS ARE CONTINUING TO CONDUCT RESEARCH?
From our feedback across the globe, there doesn’t seem to be a clear pattern.
Amongst those that continue to execute market research projects – digitally of course – the range of sectors represented is very broad.
It includes categories where people are continuing to consume, are probably currently consuming in different ways like food, household products, media.
Also, categories that are probably not suffering at all, like online retail.
There are also categories that are probably more long-term and maybe less affected – the insurance industry, home electronics for example.
We also see categories carrying out online research that probably currently play a limited but perhaps different role in people’s day-to-day lives: sports and fitness equipment, mobility.
There are even some quite unexpected contenders busy with digital insight gathering such as sun care and champagne!
In all cases we hear and witness ourselves that consumers appear very able to respond in similar ways that researchers are familiar with from research prior to the coronavirus crisis.
Even talking about one’s next holiday doesn’t seem to be a major challenge – though probably slightly more emotionally loaded than before the shutdown.
IS THERE A FOCUS IN TYPES OF RESEARCH OBJECTIVES?
The research objectives we see in briefs seem to be equally varied.
There are some market research goals that are very difficult to cover at the moment – explorations of behaviour that require a strong ethnographic element for example. Or customer journey projects with a strong lifestyle focus which require observations in normal circumstances.
The projects that seem least affected are concept tests and communications pre-tests with scripts, storyboards and animatics. Here the issues are usually not research-driven – but more whether an innovation is going to be pursued, or which ad will go into production.
Some design research (packaging and product) is also taking place. Where designs cannot be shown ‘live’, video seems to be being used more to show them from a 3D perspective.
Concept Labs and other projects combining consumer research with ideation sessions require rethinking in terms of how various elements are combined and which tools and platforms are used. These also seem to be working well.
It is probably still too early to say (in Europe and the US at least) how more complex. multi-phase projects will be handled. These usually involve higher budgets and strong internal team commitment. The current focus in many organisations is understandably elsewhere.
We are beginning to notice some interesting changes; fundamental shifts are also emerging.
It’s important for both practitioners and client side researchers to follow these closely, begin to anticipate what they might mean for the future, regardless of whether you are currently in a position to conduct research or not.
The switch to digital is significant.
On the one hand, we’re sure that we will resume conducting face-to-face market research once this is possible. But there is equally a sense that the acceleration in the adoption of digital tools will change the way many future projects are conducted.
Those using online tools and approaches seem to be extremely satisfied.
Some voices see digital as the way forward even post-coronavirus.
The way brands communicate also seems to be changing.
There are signs that certain brands (and categories) will need to prepare for the way they engage with consumers as the coronavirus curve (hopefully soon) begins to flatten out.
Brands that don’t acknowledge the current situation in their communication are beginning to look out-of-touch, tone-deaf, disjointed. It will be interesting to see how this develops over time and at which point the consumer impact is noticeable.
All of this is connected to an almost certain fundamental value shift in societies or segments thereof.
At the moment It would be pure conjecture to anticipate what this will be. Given the current dynamics, however, keeping close and regular track of what’s going on across the world is valuable.
We will keep you posted!