This week’s post in our series of weekly updates attempts a view into the future – at market research post lockdown!
During the coronavirus crisis traditional face-to-face research has been almost completely substituted by online approaches. Although online seems to be working extremely well and in quite unexpected ways, many of us in the market research community are missing the closeness of real-life interactions… not just in research.
When we will be able to get back to running groups in viewing facilities and talking to consumers in their homes? In real life, rather than over a screen.
We thought the best thing to do would be to take a closer look at what is going on in China – a country that has been through a lockdown and is now emerging from it.
There are some very positive signals of a post-lockdown consumer rebound which is encouraging for brands, products and services.
But from a research perspective, it seems that digital methods are likely to be with us for a while. And probably to stay.
We are extremely aware that today’s reality could and very likely will be very different tomorrow.
For us that means 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
A Spring Awakening?
This week, a number of European countries are slowly loosening their lockdowns. And in many countries around the world, discussions around the pace – albeit sometimes tense – are underway.
In Denmark, children are going back to school, in Austria and Germany smaller shops have started to open and in Germany school exams are taking place. Even in Spain and Italy – the most affected countries on the continent – some people are going back to work and ‘confinement’ is gradually being eased.
The changes are gradual and will probably continue to be so. It seems clear that everyone wants to avoid a replay of some of the scenes of the last few weeks.
In China, this shift started a couple of weeks ago. And first effects are now visible – both with regards to consumption as well as with respect to market research.
Let’s take a look at what we might be able to expect in other parts of the world.
The $2.7 Million Question – will Consumers Return?
As widely covered in the press, the Guangzhou Hermès flagship store turned over $2.7 million on its first Saturday of opening! The appetite of Chinese consumers for luxury certainly does not seem to have disappeared during lockdown.
Nicholas Ho from Intuition Group points out that China has coined the term ‘revenge spending’. This describes the idea that people are emerging from lockdown, from cabin fever with a certain crisis fatigue and are eager to compensate for what they have missed over the past few weeks.
He also points out that the mood in advertising has changed. Shifting from a ‘wartime’ spirit of heroic, stoic defiance to one of hope and optimism. Similar to what advertising was like before the crisis.
And in cities like Shanghai and Beijing many people are back at work, restaurants are filling up, the business districts and public transport are becoming more crowded again. Albeit with masks and frequent temperature checks in public places.
This is the immediate picture. Of course time will tell whether the pace of this ‘return to normal’ or to a possible ‘new normal’ is sustained.
And what about Research?
Face-to-face research is apparently starting up again slowly amongst some agencies, though all of our partners are still working only digitally. Boni Lui (www.mindslab.cn) anticipates a return to face-to-face research in June, when the situation has further stabilized.
The lockdown has accelerated and broadened the shift to digital in a whole raft of sectors (and China has always been a very highly digitalized market!): – e-commerce, deliveries, online education, digital entertainment have all grown massively over the past few months – as has digital market research.
Online participation in digital methods continues to be high and many companies are now using these tools to understand their customers better and to anticipate how consumer preferences and behaviour are likely to develop post Covid-19.
Although face-to-face methods have been missed, and likely will return, the last few months have certainly led to a burst of innovation in the digital space and the emergence of new, exciting tools and methods. Not only in China but all over the world.
Face-to-face may find it’s no longer the automatic choice in a post-lockdown world.
With digital changing behaviour in many different sectors, there is a growing need to review and renew some of the existing thinking around consumer behaviour, touchpoints, purchase journeys etc.
Companies for whom digital has currently only been a strategy ‘for the future’ will quickly have to review how they present and tell stories about their products in a digital space.
It is probably still too early to predict changes in values, or in people’s long-term relationships with brands and products.
But what does seem to be becoming clear is that some of our existing data and current assumptions will need to be reviewed and revised.
– People’s relationships with their homes have changed. And with this, the way they live, cook, eat and socialise.
– What effect will the inability to travel have on people in the long-term? Will they travel less or more? Can we anticipate a ‘revenge travel’ pattern emerging when travel becomes possible again? Which modes of transport will likely benefit – how will eco-consciousness impact?
– How have people’s attitudes to bigger themes like sustainability changed. Are we going to be more aware of nature and the planet? Or are the economic hardships ahead going to continue to make ‘the environment’ something we might think about more in the future, but not just now?
– And in this context, what role are science with its exponential curves, data and statistics going to play in our societies? Are we going to take scientific approaches and voices more seriously than we have been when it comes to questions like global warming?
– Or on a more basic level, is the new-found fascination with science something that some brands might be able to profit from or change the way we look at some types of communication?
All very fundamental questions that we cannot begin to answer in this series. But areas in which companies, brands and insights professionals will need to find answers and orientation in the months to come.
Brand purposes will need an urgent revisit.
We will keep you posted!