Intelligent insight gathering for disrupted times

How can brands approach research as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts our lives and businesses?
09 April 2020
intelligent insight disruption uk

Head of Insight – Brands, Media Division

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In disrupted times, leveraging consumer data effectively to protect business interests, as well as getting set to prosper post-crisis period, is key to brands.

However, this is easier said than done. Even conducting certain kinds of fieldwork during a crisis such as this can be problematic. Consequently, many businesses have seen their existing research programmes and trackers curtailed, just when they most need the insights these would bring.

When it comes to consumer research we are fortunate as an industry that much of it, although by no means all, can continue to be conducted online during an otherwise disrupted period. Online research is naturally already very widespread for the cost savings and other efficiencies it brings to researcher and consumer alike – for more on see this blog by Kantar’s Chief Global Analyst Nigel Hollis.

Brands must embrace two very different, but together very powerful, forms of research

Measuring consumer behaviour specifically over the course of a period of behavioural disruption is, however, very different to ongoing in-depth measures of behaviour and characteristics – whether online or otherwise. For there are two kinds of consumer choices: the choices we make that are bound up with our sense of identity and which tend to be inflexible – the football club we support, or the fact we hate Marmite. Then there are more malleable choices that depend more directly on circumstances and which we might change more readily – e.g. maybe we’ll buy cheaper wine when money is tight.

Combining the more holistic view of consumer behaviour with more on-the-pulse research relevant for a particular set of circumstances – whether that is your own bespoke study looking at a particular consumer target such as that offered by TGI Advanced Profiling or TGI’s re-contact service, or wider consumer insights into how consumers are behaving in the very latest circumstances such as through Kantar’s Barometer – can give you the right balance.

Brands should be thinking in the same way the farmer must balance climate and weather. Knowing that it will rain tomorrow is useless if you don’t know you have to plant your wheat in October. But by the same token, if you don’t check the weather the week before you cut grass, your hay is ruined when it rains, regardless that you know summer is the right time to cut it.

In a research context the equivalent of the climate in this analogy is the holistic view of the consumer that is better at gauging the more innate aspects of behaviour. This is where data sources such as Kantar’s big syndicated studies including the likes of TGI consumer data and Worldpanel are so indispensable – they are fundamentally built to provide an in-depth understanding of what drives consumer choices, which is more crucial than ever to understand at a time like this.

Understanding consumer attitudes and values is more important than ever in a time of emotional stress

One of the most static characteristics of consumers is the contextual side of their lives and their core values. Whilst certain attitudes might change across the population as people react to the current crisis, shifts in fundamental values tend to happen gradually and in increments – just look at views towards the environment and equal rights for women.

Many of us will have received emails in recent weeks signed by the CEOs of big supermarkets explaining how they are dealing with COVID-19 and what that means for how we shop with them. These messages are often carefully crafted - even if they sometimes fall short – to emphasise empathy and be supportive of consumers. To do this with impact you must first understand the consumer’s fundamental priorities and pain points and see them as people and not just category users. This is where a full, holistic view of the consumer is so valuable.

A 360-degree profiling dataset like TGI can provide vital information about the set of circumstances your audience is currently likely to deal with. Whether your consumers are living completely on their own in rural areas, attempting to work full time in a small flat with young children and pets, are worried about aggravating their own underlying health issues, or are scared of technology and computers – you need to understand their situation and ensure you send the right supportive message to the right person.

Strike the right research balance now to come out of the lockdown stronger than the competition

Those brands that will come out the other side of this disruption fighting fit compared to their industry peers are those who strike the right balance between using quick-pulse surveys to take the measure of consumer behaviour under specific and temporary conditions, with the broader, deeper and more contextual insights offered by established syndicated consumer studies.

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