Snapshot : COVID-19 will not dramatically change the methodology of how market research is carried out. BUT, as our quick post on market research after COVID-19 will show, it puts an even tougher challenge on market researchers and marketers to build empathy with consumers. Our target audiences are worn-out and fed up of the challenges COVID-19 has brought to all our lives, so bring something new that changes that.
New normal market research after COVID-19
A little bit of a shorter post this week. Mainly prompted by thoughts around how market research after COVID-19 will work. But rest assured, this is not a post where we claim to have all the answers to life, the universe and digital marketing post COVID-19.
You must get those too, right?
Seriously, if we see another sponsored badly executed Facebook ad, we could lose it. You know the ones? A badly staged image of some grinning buffoon we’ve never heard of. A key message that tells us with just one click for their free download, they will solve all our social media content / SEO / e-Commerce needs. Like every other agency / guru ad that offers the same thing.
Don’t these guys check out what the competition does and try to find something better? We are going to start leaving poo emojis on their Facebook pages, seriously. You think those guys would be using the downtime to work on their creative skills.
Anyway, all the various agency strategists, entrepreneurial gurus and assorted other numpties on social media feeds are doing right now, is making themselves look like self-serving, pompous dickheads.
And we have more than our fair share of those in the marketing world already, thanks.
Our much more sensible colleagues in the world of market research seem to be spending their time like many others, in the world of Zoom conferences and education webinars at the moment. That’s is you count LinkedIn as a reliable source of market research on what people actually get up to during work hours.
Market research and consumer proximity
But for an industry that prides itself on consumer proximity, how is that world going to look when the people you want get close to, don’t want you to get close to you?
When they don’t want to get close to anyone outside their immediate household?
When they still back away from people in the supermarket queue. Or the pedestrian crossing. Because let’s face it, who know’s where those people have been? Or how hygienic they are.
As our slightly tongue in cheek market research checklist shows, with this new normal, we don’t think there will be too much of a change from the “old normal”.
With one major exception.
Because, let’s face it, when market researchers talk about proximity, they mean “mental” proximity more than “physical” proximity anyway. They want to get in consumers heads, not physically touch them.
It might be that those weird ethnography research type experiences when you go into some stranger’s house and poke around in their cupboards might take a while to get going again. And to be honest, those always feel kinda weird don’t you think? But no, there other stuff, that was always about mental proximity.
A lot of market research is already socially distant
Think about the more traditional research methods of qualitative research through focus groups and depth interviews, your quantitative research and secondary research. Wasn’t much of this already carried out at a physical distance?
So, in reality, methodology changes will likely be minimal after COVID-19.
Yes, your qualitative research group of strangers sat in a room together, you may want to space the seats out a little more. But for anyone who commissions research, you will still be sat behind a two-way mirror watching the goings-on. While you eat too many snacks. Just like the old normal.
And when you put a room full of strangers together, unless you have the type of out-there extrovert hugger you only seem to see on reality TV shows, most people are generally happy to keep their distance.
Then, look at most quantitative research gathering under the old normal.
And you realise most of it is done online already. Just like it will be in the new normal. The odd telephone survey survives. But the face to face quant questionnaire has more or less disappeared.
When were you last stopped on the street or the mall and asked to complete a research questionnaire?
And then you’ve got that fall-back of any market researcher or small business on a budget.
There’s vast amounts of information out there through Google Trends and your own online data. There’s no physical proximity when you do surveys on your website to generate insights. Hell, you don’t even need to be even on the same continent as your target market to do this type of research.
No, we think from a pure methodology point of view, the impacts of market research after Covid-19 will be pretty minimal.
Market research and consumer empathy
What will be the challenge though is more mental than physical.
How do market researchers start to build that empathy with consumers after what is arguably the most globally impactful event since World War 2.
When you have consumers who have lost jobs?
Who have had to manage complex family and relationship matters at a distance?
Who have had to live lives from the couch and from within a 5km radius of their house for the last few months?
So, the challenge then is how do you build empathy with those consumers?
We said at the start, this is not an after COVID-19, we have all the solutions post. We don’t. Nobody does.
The same common sense rules need to apply
But we do think some basic common sense rules need to apply. And they were the same basic commons sense rules that applied in the old normal.
You need to understand where the consumer is at in their lives when you do market research with them. They give you their time, so you need to use that time wisely and with respect.
From what we see, most consumers are just tired of the restrictions. The challenges. The constant stream of bad news that seems to be going on right now. We can’t even begin to comprehend what’s going on in the streets of America right now.
The challenge for market researchers and in fact, marketers and businesses is to not to remind consumers of that. They get that on the news and from their social feeds every day.
But to look for ways to bring some value and positivity. How will you meet the needs those consumers have.?
If that’s means you spend an hour to mock up a tongue in cheek market research checklist. Because it helps you build your Adobe Illustrator skills. And you bang out a short blog post with the hope that it’ll to stop at least one marketer banging on about the ‘new normal’.
Then maybe that’s an hour well spent, in this new normal?