How Coronavirus Is Impacting Market Research
Many entered this decade with an expectation of change. But no one could have predicted what’s taken place.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social restrictions turned life upside-down. Governments, healthcare systems, education systems, economies, capital markets – you name it. The pandemic impacted all aspects of our society in one way or another.
In response, companies had to rewrite their strategies and pivot their operations.
Market research firms have been no exception.
How Has the Coronavirus Impacted Market Research?
Market research firms faced their fair share of curveballs over the last few months. Digital capabilities allow market researchers to conduct studies and surveys online. So, quantitative methods were unphased for the most part.
You can’t say the same for qualitative research.
1. Disrupted Qualitative Market Research
Social distancing introduced a few setbacks for market researchers. They can’t perform in-person interviews and focus groups. Virtual alternatives exist, but this introduces concerns about reliable data. Face-to-face interactions yield different results than screen-to-screen conversations.
Digital sessions make the interviewer’s job much more challenging too. Reading body language through a screen isn’t the same. Neither is connecting with an interviewee or engaging a focus group. It’s hard to replicate the same efficiency.
Beyond this research method, market researchers have also experienced a mindset shift.
2. Hesitant Market Researchers
Market researchers are hesitant – for good reason.
Qualtrics recently surveyed market researchers based out of the US and UK. 43% of US respondents cited concerns about coming across as insensitive. 44% of UK respondents cited the same concern.
But it doesn’t end there. 30% of US market researchers believed this concern justifies canceling or postponing research.
It’s understandable. Companies don’t want to come off as insensitive or oblivious to the world around them. That sends a bad message and can have costly repercussions. As a result, business leaders and company executives face a dilemma.
Should businesses suspend market research until the pandemic and recession subside?
Why You Should Proceed With Market Research
There isn’t a universal, one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Companies feel the need to limit communications that seem invasive or insensitive. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the world.
So, it’s a justified concern.
If you’re on the fence, here are two reasons why you should proceed with market research.
1. People Are Ready and Willing
While it may come as a surprise, many people want to partake in surveys and polls right now. The New York Times interviewed various pollsters and market researchers. They found that people want to participate.
Why? Many researchers believed prolonged isolation and feelings of anxiety could be the catalyst.
In a time of social distancing, people crave connection. Consider the individuals who live alone or who’ve self-isolated during the pandemic. Limited human interaction can be a major damper on one’s mental wellbeing.
Even a phone survey could serve as an outlet for someone who feels isolated.
2. Companies Still Need Information
For many, it’s easy to overlook the importance of conducting market research. But how else will organizations determine consumer preferences, wants, and needs?
Market research helps companies adjust to budding social and economic trends. Even if trends show conservative behavior, companies need to know that information.
New trends breed new opportunities. And companies need to be aware of them. Why? So they can adapt to the current environment and revitalize fading operations.
3 Characteristics of an Appropriate Market Research Campaign During the Pandemic
Market research firms should continue to conduct analyses during the pandemic. But research efforts must consider the widespread uncertainty people face now. An effective campaign has to manifest these three characteristics to do so:
First, current market research campaigns must prioritize the safety of its participants. In our digital age, plenty of online alternatives to in-person surveys exist.
Remember, we’re in a period of heightened sensitivity. Connect and empathize – don’t treat your research like a transaction.
During uncertain times, it’s important to be open about the purpose and benefits of your research. Participation rates will improve if potential respondents see the value they can provide.
Should Current Market Research Data Have an Asterisk?
According to the same Qualtrics survey, some market researchers think so. 51% of market researchers believed behavior will radically change once the pandemic concludes and we return to normal. That belief spurred concerns about the value of current survey data.
Context has and will always be important to market research.
We’re in a recession. But it’s not a typical recession – the catalyst was a global pandemic. That’s a dangerous combination of financial and health stressors. As a result, people are more on edge, cautious, conservative, tense, and so on.
Does that mean current data should have an asterisk?
No, market research is about diagnosing current preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. If respondents’ answers show more conservative tendencies, that’s important to know.
Sure, current research results have temporary use. But isn’t that the case for most market research anyway? Consumers’ behaviors and perspectives change. Environments change. Policies change. Business models change. What makes this situation’s impermanence any different in that sense?
Also, no one knows when societies and consumer behaviors will return to normal. Companies that neglect market research now risk falling behind.
One Final Thought
Now is not the time to cut back on research efforts. Understanding temperaments, attitudes, preferences, and behaviors during the pandemic is a crucial cause.
We’re living in an unprecedented time. But it’s still important to study consumer perspectives.