Without a doubt, COVID-19 has had a pervasive impact on the business ecosystem across the globe. From airlines to energy companies, and of course retail companies, many corporations have started to face significant headwinds as they push through the remainder of 2020.
In light of these headwinds, many key corporate functions have been put to work. HR is responsible for administering layoffs. Finance is responsible for cutting extra fat across the organizations’ significant areas of spend. IT is responsible for identifying risks across the company’s various technology systems, many of which have been overloaded due to the large percentage of folks working remotely.
Amidst all of this cross-functional evaluation, however, many wonder about the future of consumer insights. Will companies downsize their consumer insights and research initiatives, given economic uncertainty that is expected in the months ahead? Or is it that companies will actually increase their investment in consumer insights research, given the rapidly evolving business environment, much of which is significantly impacting corporate reputation and consumer engagement?
In this blog-post, we aim to, in a prescriptive manner, provide our community of consumer insights professionals with tactical recommendations that they can use to navigate these tough times.
Imperative I: Find a nimble mechanism for measuring real-time engagement
Many organizations conduct periodic surveys and focus groups in order to understand the priorities of key internal and external stakeholders. In times of crisis, however, the importance of keeping a pulse on stakeholder engagement is crucial, especially in a rapidly evolving business environment. In many cases, market research studies are not refreshed very frequently. This has to change for consumer insights professionals to navigate COVID-19 effectively. There is no doubt that the top issues for key stakeholders have dramatically evolved. There also no doubt that the top drivers of business impact have correspondingly evolved. To tackle these challenges, consumer insights professionals must find a nimble mechanism to measure real-time engagement.
Imperative II: Minimize the time from insights to action
For years, a major challenge in the consumer insights discipline has been translating research insights into actionable campaigns aimed at engaging key stakeholders. The conventional model for this has become quite archaic: refreshing surveys on a monthly or quarterly basis, synthesizing the takeaways for weeks, and finally launching new initiatives. This has to change in the COVID-19 era. External stakeholders, such as consumers, expect companies to be taking a stand during these challenging times. As such, any brand that goes through a period of dormant consumer engagement activity will face significant business headwinds. To solve this problem, brands must simplify their consumer’s insights workflow and utilize solutions that offer a healthy balance of efficiency and comprehensiveness.
Imperative III: Use authenticity as the foundation for research and engagement
The reality of the coronavirus pandemic is that most corporations are going to cut back. Not just on marketing initiatives, but all kinds of programs such as HR, technology, etc. Such changes create a particular sensitivity to any external initiatives the companies may have. Many brands are going to make the mistake of pursuing purely sales-oriented initiatives, which is going to result in the creation of brand detractors. In contrast, authentic campaigns that reflect the current state of affairs will actually create brand advocates, a hallmark of robust consumer engagement campaigns.
In summary, we believe that this needs to be a more active time for consumer insights and not the other way around. The last time we experienced a significant recessionary period of time, the consumer insights functions were not nearly as mature as they are today. Over the years, things have changed so dramatically. As a profession, we’ve succeeded in convincing our C-suite and management teams that these programs will deliver value for our companies. But now we face a major test, as a profession. How strategists and tacticians in the space navigate change these days will affect their long-term standing both internally and externally.
Tim Wilson is the co-innovator, CEO, evangelist for Qutee Social Asking and thought leader in collaborative AI solutions. Tim and his co-founder Flint Barrow are intent on raising the standard of global on-line discussion via Natural Language Processing comment filters. Simultaneously, democratizing qualitative consumer research for SME's via automatization of analysis and reporting. Qutee is the first platform that fully embraces data democratization in a revolutionary way. Qutee not only empowers audiences by providing them the opportunities to easily access data, but it also provides a way to truly understand trends without professional training or IT experience. This is the beauty of data democratization, and how Qutee is helping it to thrive.