Why COVID-19 Has Made Market Research the #1 Tool to Help Businesses Make Smart Decisions

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Research helps navigate market changes, assess customer demand and shines a light on how customer expectations have shifted

Consumers run the world — the business world, that is. 

Why? 

Because they hold the buying power and, without buyers, brands simply don’t have a business. With this in mind, brands (regardless of industry) need to play their cards right. It’s not enough to have a product or a service that your internal team believes is the next best thing; what does your target consumer believe? What problem are you solving? How does your consumer want that solution delivered? What user experience are they interested in and, moreover, willing to carve out space in their budget for?

Of course, right now we find ourselves at a rather complicated moment in history. A few months ago, as the coronavirus pandemic made its way across global communities, the economy came to a grinding halt. ‘Business as usual’ was no longer possible amidst the on-going introduction of safety regulations, restrictions, and lockdown protocol. Not only that, but consumers were suddenly uncertain, budgets were tightened and/or cut, and both B2B and B2C business slowed to a trickle as we awaited insight on this ‘new normal’.

Presently, we aren’t out of the woods, but we are armed with more information than we had a few months ago. As our economy slowly reopens and we, as a society, work to embrace a changed landscape while adhering to new guidelines, we’re (cautiously) getting back to business. 

But getting ‘back to business’ doesn’t mean doing things as we’ve always done them. More importantly, understanding consumer needs before, doesn’t mean we understand them now. The only thing that hasn’t changed, is that consumers still hold all the power and, if your COVID-19 strategy doesn’t include market research, it’s time to change that.

Changing Consumer Opinion

Right now, consumer attitudes are changing across both the B2B and B2C landscape. Those attitudes directly impact subsequent buying behaviors and, although we hope the pandemic will soon come to pass, some of these behaviors are likely here to stay.

Purchase decisions are increasingly influenced by pandemic-related uncertainty and reduced revenue, and hyper-aware of emerging safety standards and reform. Brands selling to consumers must consider the shifts they’ve experienced in their personal and professional lives over the last few months. Are they managing isolation? Are they prioritizing basic needs over wants? Are they favoring local businesses and services? Are they embracing digital commerce and touchless service experiences? B2B companies, on the other hand, need to gain a clear understanding of what their market now needs in a product or service. This renewed understanding must take into account insights surrounding current economic shifts, the behavior(s) of their clientele, the needs of their staff (the end user), and current market trends and related developmental opportunities for innovation.

Now, you might be wondering, how exactly does a brand tap into those insights? By going directly to the source, so to speak. Leveraging the power of consumer feedback, surveys, and questionnaires, brands are able to comprise an accurate, holistic view of the end-user of their product or service. Without this, you run the risk of not knowing who your customers are or what they’re actually looking for and, as such, delivering the wrong product or service to the wrong market. In simpler terms, you’re taking a ‘shot in the dark’, rather than making an educated decision. In a post-pandemic world, that’s a chance brands simply can’t afford to take.

The Power of Market Research

According to Google, 40% of marketers are using consumer research to drive decisions. Studies also note that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers. It should come as no surprise; data is powerful, and should inform all software development decisions. But in the era of COVID-19, the demand for consumer insights reaches a fever pitch, and shifts to a more continuous model. The pandemic brings with it uncertain timelines and, as such, markets are subject to continuous change and ongoing fluctuations. With this in mind, the need for continuous data collection delivered via surveys and questionnaires becomes paramount. Brands should aim to not only keep their finger on the pulse of customer needs, but to establish a support-driven relationship that conveys empathy, flexibility, and consumer-centric value. If the target consumer is, for example, a hotel, consider the following:

– What do they currently need from vendors? Is it touchless technology? If so, what guest touch-points do they need that technology to address?
– What should the user experience of that product/service look like?
– What are their guests most concerned about as they return to travel?
– How can you help to streamline and improve both the experience of the hotel, and the guest?
– With respect to buying decisions, what is the foremost consideration of the consumer? Is it the price? Is it the support? The guest experience?

Right now, brands should approach business with a genuine concern for their customer and markets, and tailor their offering according to those present concerns. Market research allows your brand to ‘get to know your consumer in crisis’, and should act as the foundation of your COVID-19 strategy. 

One-size-fits-all marketing and product development simply won’t cut it anymore. In the coming months, data and insights gleaned from surveys and market questionnaires will provide brands with a real-time view of evolving trends and consumer preferences which will prove pivotal to the recovery of brands across industries.