Coronavirus update 26.05.2020 – the emerging new normal
After many weeks of lockdown, it seems the first signs of normality are returning to many societies and market research activities across the globe.
The opening Keynote discussion of the (inaugural) 2020 Woche der Marktforschung virtual market research conference took place recently.
The topic: The New Normal in Market Research – what’s changed, how do key stakeholders see the market developing in the short-to-medium term under different scenarios.
The panelists provided three very different viewpoints: Quovadis’ MD Ute Wetzlar talked from the perspective of studio operators, Peter Wiegelmann shared a helicopter take as BVM Board Member as well as that of Interrogare CEO, and our own Sven Arn who shared H/T/P’s angle.
It was a fascinating discussion, excellently moderated by Holger Geissler, and well attended with between 130 and 150 listening in.
For those of you who missed it, here are some key take-outs:
From Ute Wetzlar: studio facilities’ workflow recovered unevenly as from May 2020 post-lockdown. Sensory testing, anything needing physical stimuli, shelf tests, quant. studies, all these came back strongly. Focus groups have been more seriously hit – many clients are working well with digital alternatives.
Adjusting to more digital work has both upsides and challenges for studio managers and recruiters. On the plus side: involving participants from less urban areas allows a broader coverage, as well as more difficult-to-reach (geographically dispersed) target groups. The downside: organizational and administrative tasks are more onerous digitally than F2F, and studios can’t pass the cost on. Overall the cost of renting studios situated in A1 inner-city locations is a major and ongoing challenge.
Sven Arn stressed how H/T/P’s digital ambition and transformation activities were accelerated due to the coronavirus restrictions. Read more about that here. The process of adapting and offering the whole range of methods in a digital version was done in three weeks, which otherwise would have perhaps taken a lot longer to achieve.
Global qual projects in particular have become more flexible and agile thanks to the newly enhanced digital qual options available. In some aspects this makes digital superior to F2F versions.
Peter Wiegelmann stressed the internal organizational challenges brought on by a high degree of home working. For example: ensuring that all employees were in a position to function effectively over a longer period of time, given the dual challenge of working and living in the same space. On the plus side: recruiting had become easier, location being less important a selection criterion.
On-boarding digitally was seen as a challenge – and difficult to imagine without a F2F component.
Future developments were envisaged in the area of automatization, IT, artificial intelligence and more familiar pre-corona themes – driven more strongly by what Peter Wiegelmann described as an economic crisis comparable to those of 2000 and 2008/9. Corona to him was a secondary force.
Whilst H/T/P was agnostic in anticipating what the MR landscape might look like in 2025. This was due to the complexity of the sales mix nationally and internationally. Both Ute Wetzlar and Mr. Wiegelmann (wearing his BVM hat) saw smaller, more financially challenged operations having difficulty navigating ongoing tough economic conditions. MR doesn’t have particularly high margins. There was the strong possibility of there being less studio operators and indeed less MR agencies overall in future.
Overall the tone seemed a mixture of accepting pragmatism and optimism tinged with extreme caution. None of the panelists could imagine the industry simply reverting to the way it was pre-coronavirus. All underlined the need to manage costs very tightly, whilst remaining flexible.
The words “winners and losers” were not spoken as such, but listening between the spoken lines, this seemed to be the general expectation. All three stated their continued desire to invest in 2021, with the areas of IT and additional possibly more specialist skills mentioned.
If you’d like to discuss more about how H/T/P has expanded its ability to deliver People Understanding digitally, both nationally and globally, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org