Phil Ahad, Chief Digital Officer at Toluna, explains why investing in market research is so important, especially post-COVID.
Many of the world’s largest brands have historically designed and built their next product, solution or offering based on market trends. They’ve used years of past consumer behaviour to predict behaviours, expecting consumers to follow the same patterns. Can today’s business leaders continue with this same strategy?
The answer is no. Today’s pandemic-influenced market has changed once relatively stable market trends, and resulting consumer sentiment and behaviours are understandably uncertain. We know that consumer insights are the lifeblood of a successful marketing strategy and product innovation. Leaders now more than ever need to harness these insights to make data-driven decisions to maintain momentum, pivot to meet consumer demands, and navigate through disruptive times. Let’s explore the case for investment in market research during times of volatility.
Understand consumer changes in an uncertain market
Market research and insights empower businesses. Consumer sentiment and behaviours are uncertain in today’s dynamic market, and leaders must understand how the needs and desires of key consumers change from one week to the next – and then must be agile enough to quickly respond to these changes. Is your brand’s message hitting the appropriate tone? Are consumers over-saturated with pandemic messaging? If leaders don’t commit to and invest in tools that allow them to fully understand the current and future needs of their audience, they set up their business for failure. Businesses that invest in tools to understand changes in the consumer mindset and confirm the direction of their marketing and ad campaigns are the ones that will thrive and emerge stronger post-pandemic.
React to consumer mindset shifts in real-time
A powerful consumer insights programme that returns high-quality results in real-time is vital for any business’ success. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that what consumers spend their money on and why can change literally overnight – and quickly determines who wins and who loses in the market. We’ve seen that consumers’ priorities prior to the pandemic may not be as important to them today. How brands communicate and engage with their customers will shape brand perception– and ultimately the brand’s future success. It’s never been more critical for brands to understand what offering appeals to them in a COVID-19 world, and when and how they want to consume it.
We have conducted a Global Barometer since March to understand the changes to market trends and real-time changes to consumer behaviour. Almost half of consumers globally consider themselves less well off now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. And less than one in five are confident spending money given the situation. This has (and will continue) to evolve as the situation with COVID-19 plays out in different markets – and has a massive impact on brands. They must have access to the right research to adapt to theses shifts almost instantly to ensure successful customer engagement and drive effective marketing strategies. This is why we launched Toluna Start, an end-to-end, real-time consumer intelligence platform. It’s never been more important to understand the changes in your customer – not just their behaviour, but their attitude and sentiment as well.
Access to real-time insights gives businesses vital “in-the-moment” understanding of their audience – how they want to engage, what their needs are today, and how they expect their needs to change in the future. Collecting this information continuously means brands can avoid a delayed reaction and strategically react in real-time.
Armed with insights and knowledge, business leaders can action findings into critical business decisions. But remember – authenticity is key. What does this mean?
Let’s say your business offers a great product that fits a huge need in the market. However, if your target consumer group has an inkling you are taking advantage of a situation and virtue signalling, they will simply look for other solutions. One of the most important aspects of brand health is remaining authentic while responding to market needs.
This example came to life during the pandemic. Amid the crisis, almost every major company broadcast “we are here for you” messages to consumers. But many of these companies did not offer products that would be helpful to the everyday customer during a health crisis. Some audiences might appreciate the messages of solidarity, but brands should always offer authentic value to the consumer. So, how do you do this? Use insights to understand what consumers expect from your company. Then, communicate your offering with authentic messaging and keep your finger on the pulse for any shifts in consumer needs.
Consumer sentiment and behaviours are changing every moment, and the news cycle is getting shorter and shorter. Marketing trends can be born one day and become irrelevant the next. Take advantage of market research tools to peek into the consumer’s mind. Find out how they really feel about your messaging, products or solutions in that very moment. Today, insights collection can be done efficiently and cost-effectively – not utilising these tools is to your detriment. To thrive in the marketplace and compete for consumer loyalty, investment in market research today pays dividends tomorrow.