As you begin development of your post-COVID 19 crisis response planning, you may be weighing your need for consumer data against concerns whether the consumer research value chain is even functioning. Additionally, there is concern that COVID-19 is so anxiety provoking that consumers will not provide useful feedback or that the effects of COVID-19 will be short-lived, and everything will go back to normal as soon as Shelter in Place is lifted.
We are here to say that the quality of respondents and the thoughtfulness of their responses may never have been better. How so? Surprisingly, global Shelter in Place requirements have created perhaps the most ideal conditions for consumer research we have ever encountered. And, as we outline in a previous article, one thing is certain: the consumer landscape has drastically changed for the immediate future and the marketplace will undoubtedly be altered post-pandemic.
Why are we so sure now is a good time for research?
Seven Areas of Focus to Respond to COVID-19, April 2020
NOW IS THE TIME FOR BUSINESS AND MARKETING PLANNING
All of us have received many messages from business around the globe assuring us that things are business as usual despite skeleton staff, limited hours, and a general lack of services. It seems that business around the world has jumped on the same bandwagon. It has been an extreme “me too” situation. In terms of the stages of bereavement (denial, anger, bargaining, depressions, and acceptance), this probably fits best into the category of denial. This is not the best strategy for business. Just as we collectively lost our innocence following September 11, is no doubt we are entering a time of a new world order. Now is the time for predictive research to inform business and marketing strategy in response to change in the consumer landscape.
CONSUMER NEEDS AND BRANDING
COVID-19 is forcing individuals to rethink strategies for maintaining physical, mental, and economic health during this crisis. Consideration of this idea in context makes understanding existing and potential customer needs important, because those needs likely differ compared with a few weeks ago. Considering COVID-19 in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Physiological, safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization), it is evident that consumer needs have been destabilized at the three most basic levels (Physiological, safety, and love and belongingness), while the impact is not absolute, destabilizing humans at these levels will have long lasting impacts on long-term needs and behaviors. Research into customer needs can yield a wealth of information that will guide strategic planning on everything from communications to product development to employee policy.
While brand and awareness campaigns are not recommended during the COVID-19 period due to massive distraction, business should be gearing up for future efforts. More importantly, business should be considering and planning for changes in consumer behavior.
Even in “normal times” brands must continue to evolve and change with the times. This is likely a good time to consider brand positioning and messaging, as well research to understand customers’ rational and emotional needs, and changes in behavior.
NEW IDEAS AND THE TESTING OF CONCEPTS
One way to make good use of this self-isolation time is to research new ideas and test new concepts to determine which ones will result in the most success now and in the future.
It is not unreasonable to expect some form of social distancing to continue after the COVID-19 crisis period is over, a distancing period that may last well into 2021. The home environment and home office will take on greater importance. Having a backup supply of food and toiletries will be the norm. Digital marketing, online consumerism, and working remotely will dominate to an even greater extent. As such, this is a good time to gather consumer evaluations of new web designs, new commerce channels, and new product or service ideas.
Given the valuable time and headspace COVID-19 has afforded us for new product/service development, there has never been a better time for the iterative process. Research can tackle one phase or the entire process, from developing a range of ideas for consumer evaluation to prioritization of product/service concepts and then optimization of product/service concepts.
CAPTIVE RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS
People of all ages and walks of life are complying with public health guidelines to self-isolate and to practice social distancing in nearly every market in every country where we conduct research. Many consumers are suddenly facing weeks of down-time and are looking for ways to stay occupied. Additionally, many are finding it necessary to take breaks from the anxiety producing minute-to-minute COVID-19 updates and are eager for distractions. This has produced the world’s largest ever captive audience for research and innovation! The research Q2 was conducting in international markets last week completed in record time.
We have also observed during data cleaning that participants are providing thoughtfully considered responses to surveys at higher rates. Because there is usually a small percentage of participants whose response patterns indicate they did not thoughtfully consider survey items, we routinely conduct validity checks on our data such as looking for speedsters, straight lining, and junk open-end responses. Recent validity checks of data indicate that in this time of COVID-19, research participants are considering their responses to research inquiries much more thoughtfully.
This is an excellent time to conduct research because many people have the time and attention for research participation. Just as important, the data will be top quality and maximally useful for guiding marketing strategy and development of new concepts.
Clearly, this is not the time for in-person research; however, even before COVID-19 the research industry knew that online research was limited by some variability in at home internet access. The home internet access situation has changed very quickly in the last few weeks and the quality and diversity of sample is now truly representative of the populations under study.
The research industry has long acknowledged that there is a place and a need for both in-person and digital research methodologies. Both approaches are employed for quantitative, qualitative, and ethnographic research through internet-based channels and platforms. Currently, digital methods are moving to the forefront out of necessity. It is also a great time to employ state-of-the-art methods such as artificial intelligence (AI) fueled data collection for rapid fire qualitative and quantitative research.
Even after the current crises subsides it will be necessary to meet the amplified demand for online access to services and products. To navigate online consumer demands, companies will benefit from conducting research with a variety of both AI-fueled and other digital methods used to explore branding strategies, test new product and service concepts, and check in with customers regarding their needs and wants.
Out of necessity, Shelter in Place consumers are broadly adopting digital tools that the research industry has been using for qualitative and quantitative research for many years. For example, platforms such as Zoom are being called “hero” services in the COVID-19 pandemic and there is greatly enhanced use of all forms of digital communication. Consumers are quickly adapting to these digital tools. Social distancing and increased use of digital communications will provide researchers with even more access to sub-populations that have been typically hard-to-reach in the past.
IMMEDIATE REACTION TO COVID-19 IS NECESSARY, BUT NOT SUFFICIENT
While a proactive approach to coping with COVID-19 now and in the post-pandemic market is necessary, being proactive alone is not likely to be enough. Businesses should thoughtfully respond to this pandemic in measured, strategic ways. Understanding new consumer needs and behaviors, rethinking brand strategy and marketing, reworking brand positioning for the post-COVID-19 world, testing new concepts, and testing new messages are just some of the ways in which research can help guide the successful targeting of marketing efforts and decision-making.
Kirsty Nunez and George Murphy are frequent collaborators on marketing strategy and insights projects for their clients around the globe. Kirsty is the President and Chief Research Strategist at Q2 Insights, Inc., a research and innovation consulting firm with offices in San Diego. George is the Owner of the Seattle-based consulting firm Modo Group. Evette Joyce is a Research Strategist at Q2 Insights. If you would like to learn more, please reach out to Kirsty at (760) 230-2950 ext. 1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This entry was posted in Trends and tagged on April 7, 2020 by Q2 Insights