Making the right business decisions is never easy in uncertain times, and it is fair to say that 2020 has given new meaning to the word “uncertainty.” It is in times like these that the power and value of market research truly come to the fore. Everyone knows that change is necessary, both from a practical point of view to meet government rules, and to cater to evolving needs as we adapt to the “new normal.”
It is something that we within the market research sector have experienced just as much as everyone else. Yet we also know that the evidence-based full colour insights and advice that we provide are more vital to our clients now than they have ever been.
Fortunately, the methodology we use at Turquoise means the show can go on regardless of lockdowns, social distancing rules and the like. In fact, in times like these, consumers are more willing than ever to engage in online communities to share their experiences, needs, fears and aspirations. By gathering data using online tools, we can process information and deliver tangible insights and actionable recommendations faster than ever.
Of course, as Lewis Carrol taught us, getting the most valuable answers is all about knowing what questions to ask. Every business is different, but here are some areas that everyone needs to be thinking about in these difficult times.
How are customers behaving in reaction to the crisis?
There is no “one size fits all” answer to how behaviours, expectations, fears and needs evolve as a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. At Turquoise, we can keep our finger on the pulse, using tools like the Turquoise Game Changer to track changing behaviours and attitudes as they happen. At the same time, focused surveys allow us to dive into issues that might not ordinarily be at the forefront of people’s minds.
What do customers expect of you?
When the crisis hit, businesses were tripping over their own feet in their hurry to share their COVID response plans with customers and to put various emergency measures in place. These included social distancing measures, online ordering, contactless shopping and so on. But what do you need to do next? Social media platforms are awash with horror stories from unhappy consumers finding it impossible to get the services, products or advice that they desperately need. Understanding their expectations goes beyond keeping things afloat and avoiding complaints. It also means understanding changing needs and adapting your service offering accordingly.
Is your marketing on-message?
During times of lockdown, people have more time on their hands than usual for consuming and sharing media. That can provide a golden opportunity to put your marketing message across, but it also means that message has to be on-point. We all saw examples of TV ads going out the day after lockdown that depicted the sort of social gatherings that we had all been forced to forego – the timing could not have been worse. Understanding the mood, behaviour and sentiment of your customers will help you decide what content to retain, what to pull and where to focus new efforts.
What about the longer term?
It’s understandable that over recent weeks and months, businesses have focused their attention on the here and now. However, a state of normality will return, even if it looks somewhat different to the market environment of 12 months ago. Now is the time to make sure your business and your brand are prepared for that new normal and will be as relevant as ever. When things settle down, will people still be using your products or services in the same way as before? If not, that could as easily constitute an opportunity as a threat, as long as you are appropriately positioned. When you look back on the global recession, for example, financial institutions faced enormous challenges. But the ones that came out on top adjusted their message to build closer, more supportive, bonds with customers.
Don’t forget to look internally
Let’s not kid ourselves, these have been scary times. It is not the first pandemic to hit the world, but it is the first since the age of the internet and social media. At times, we have all felt like we have stepped into some apocalyptic Hollywood movie set. Some people have found this harder to deal with than others, so this is an important time to understand how people are feeling within your own business. Look beyond the obvious needs relating to remote working, PPE, social distancing and the rest. What other emotional or practical needs should the business’s leadership be addressing? How is the workforce reacting to the communications and tone from the top? For any business, its people are its most important asset. Understanding how they are feeling and ensuring they are ready for the challenges ahead is vital if all the other areas we have touched on are going to succeed.
Market research – more important now than ever
Businesses are being forced to make some tough decisions right now, and managing costs is vital. It is understandable that some companies are looking to scale back what are seen as non-core projects and activities. For some, that has put market research activities under the microscope.
However, the truth is that research activities are more important now than ever. Scaling back might seem like a tempting course of action in the short term. But the consequences in terms of customer satisfaction, brand image, staff morale and the long-term positioning of the business could be little short of devastating.
That’s not just our opinion – it is also borne out by market research on the topic of market research.
In a survey of consumers across the UK, USA and Australia, a resounding 86% felt that businesses should be carrying out market research during these uncertain times.
Ultimately, research helps ensure organisations take the right actions to safeguard not only their future, but that of their employees and the community in which they operate.