COVID-19 hit hard in the Market Research sector, with lots of companies either freezing the Market Research budget or putting a majority of projects on hold.
The pandemic impacted every aspect of life with lockdowns and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus.
Most companies already have business continuity plans, but those may not fully address the fast-moving and unknown variables of an outbreak like COVID-19
Market Research firms, Information/Communication, FMCG, Banking/Finance, Healthcare, Construction, Retail, Education, Accommodation/Hospitality, Insurance, Arts, Entertainment/Recreation, Real Estate, Media, Government, just to mention a few sectors were heavily impacted one way or the other. As a result, everyone had to take a second look at their strategies regarding operations and Market Research.
With the gradual easing down of restrictions, the economic sector is not out of the woods yet as there are still some level of restrictions regarding social distancing and a sudden gradual increase in numbers of affected Covid-19 patients.
All the same, life must go on. Market research provides invaluable direction to almost every aspect of a business, especially product or service design, marketing, and sales. Market Research needs to be done to keep up with the dynamic nature of consumer preferences especially in these times we are in. The question is, “What can be done?” “What strategies can be put in place to keep up with needs and preferences?” “What can be done to stay in business?” Adopting the following strategies would help particularly Market Research, Telecoms, FMCGs and Banking/Financial firms re-strategize their Market Research goals.
Market Research Firms
This is the time to make use of clients’ saved data over the years. If you have a data-base of some of your clients’ consumers/customers, you are surely in luck. Thus, contacts accumulated during online as well as manual interviews will surely go a long way help you come up with more innovative ways to reach out to your clients’ customers in a bid to derive info to assist clients. Start digging and you will be amazed the wealth of info you have in your database to come up with ways to assist your clients. A majority of Questionnaires you have used may have slots for customer contact, mostly for back-check/quality control purposes. You can request customer info from client as well. With this in hand, and in consultation with your client, design various tools to use, in the areas of product testing, customer satisfaction trends, Retail Audit, Pricing studies, Advert tests, usage and attitudes tests, etc. to make their Market Research plans fruitful, but on a budget.
For product testing in particular, in agreement with client, arrange to have respondents contacted prior to project commencement. Arrange to deliver the products at a location suitable for the respondent. Contact the respondent via email or phone for interview and feedback on usage. For service providers such as Telecoms, Insurance, Banking, etc there will be no need to deliver products for testing. Customers can be contacted prior to commencement, to seek their consent to partake in the study. Afterwards, they can be contacted again and presented with services (adverts, short codes test, etc) to test and feedback. Qualitatively, customers can be contacted and recruited for online Focus Group Discussions or Online in-depth Interviews on products to be tested.
Customer Satisfaction studies especially in these times we are in can help your clients drive customer loyalty, connect with their customers online, regular feedback to constantly improve on websites or Apps user experience as well as drive a focus on customer service. Assist clients measure these by employing the use of CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing), and other online survey platforms to sought views on satisfaction and Net Promoter Score.
The COVID-19 pandemic—perhaps more than any other event in human history—has demonstrated the critical importance that telecommunications infrastructure plays in keeping businesses, governments, and societies connected and running. Because of the economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic, people across the globe rely on technology for information, social distancing, and working from home. When it comes to keeping your customers happy, providing them with a voice is crucial. And the channels you provide them to speak that voice through matter more than you may think.
With the wealth of customer data stored in company’s Data Warehouse, this is the time to harness the use of subscriber numbers to its fullest potential. With consumers spoilt for choice due to competitor activities, Mobile Number Portability and Mobile Money Interoperability, this is the time to perform some ‘stop and think’ activities to deliver more value to the customer. This is the time to harness the expertise of in-house market researchers to constantly conduct surveys in the areas of customer satisfaction, deep dive research on various segments preferences, advertising initiatives, promotional activities, events feedback, etc. With budget cuts across various businesses, creating customized questionnaires and conducting online surveys can help you gain a better understanding of what makes your customers tick, gauge customer satisfaction, and gather feedback so you can adjust your marketing efforts to better meet the needs of your target market. Online Survey platforms such as Survey 123, ThinkData, SoGoSurvey, ForteGate, etc are great tools to assist with online surveys.
In-house Call Center also comes with added advantages of personal touch, offers a level of anonymity over the phone, which allows people to be more open and forthcoming with their responses, increased Quality Control, appropriate for non-smartphone users as well as boosted response rate as compared to online surveys.
What separates successful FMCG product launches from the rest is market research. By investing in market research, FMCG companies can not only maximize their ROI (Return on Investment) but also gain in-depth insight into their consumers, the market and their brand within the category. Covid-19 has proven that life and our attitude to it will never be the same. Owing to Covid, several shifts in consumer’s actions in the immediate to medium term require FMCG businesses to shift their customer acquisition and retention strategies. An increased focus on health, eating well and hygiene have become the norm.
The key importance of market research, particularly for the FMCG sector is to determine the direction and strategy that will optimize returns and to discover deeper insights that will result in making informed decisions. FMCG research not only gains insight about the consumer e.g. shopping and eating habits, taste and scent testing, demographics and target audience but also analyzes the market size, growth drivers, segments, suppliers, distribution and the competitive dynamics.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and new consumer behaviors play out, it’s time for manufacturers to reimagine their innovation portfolios to lead in the next normal.
Product testing during the pandemic can be done in two ways: online and physical presence with limited number of people/testers. For online testing, randomly select participants in retail outlets, markets, supermarkets, etc and have a short conversation with them about the product in mind and their willingness to partake in the product test. Their contacts can be collected and later reached out to deliver products to their homes and feedback collected after usage on phone.
With Covid protocols such as social distancing in place, participants can be invited to a central location with products offered and feedback collected as well.
COVID-19 has generated significant instability and high volatility in global capital markets. While the full impact is yet to be determined, it’s expected that the adverse impact are likely to continue from the virus’ knock-on effects.
Market Research in the banking and financial sector can hardly be considered as a luxury as market demands are changing as well as everyone trying to grasp the opportunity to grow their revenues, most banks have undergone (or are in the process of undergoing) disruptive digital transformations too. What banking and financial sector companies are often missing is the need to gain customer insights and understand intangible customer needs and perceptions. Gaining such insights and using them to finetune corporate strategies is at the core of delivering sustainable products and services.
In this era of social distancing and increased use of e-products, players in the field of banking and finance can adopt various online strategies to engage with their customers for feedback. Market research, just like the financial industry itself, largely depends on figures and metrics, and knowing the number behind customer needs and behaviors, banks and other players of the financial industry can effectively sell their services, improve customer loyalty, and increase their share of a wallet.
Most players in the financial industries have made available Apps and other digital platforms to enable customers have access to products/services at a touch of a button. Survey/Feedback can be pushed on these Apps or digital platforms to seek views on customer experience, new product development, usage experience, etc. Ensure however that surveys pushed to customers via these platforms should be short, straightforward, easy to understand and very interactive to avoid respondent fatigue. Periodic use of Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) by in-house personnel to seek feedback on usage and experiences of some services such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), reasons for account closures, how often the representatives cross-sell other types of financial services to the bank customers during the time of sit-down, customer satisfaction, etc. These channels are not only cost-effective but offer the advantage of gaining first-hand knowledge of behaviors and attitudes of customers regarding the services you offer.
For other research requiring larger numbers to make more informed and strategic decisions however, there is a need to seek the services of external research partners/agencies to conduct research on behalf of the bank or financial institution. Research studies to unearth Primary Financial Institution (PFI) share (i.e. how many people name the bank their primary financial institution), Mystery Shopping, Employee Engagement, etc can be outsourced to external research partners, whiles ensuring all COVID protocols are put in place. With the right tool, banking and financial institutions can make customer insight a seamless process that integrates into day-to-day operations and inform managerial decisions.
Francisca is a creative and seasoned Customer Insights Analyst with over 15 years’ experience, straddling both Agency and Client side as well as local and international markets.