COVID-19: Accelerating a new approach to consumer insights?

As new challenges emerge, read our two rules for using consumer insights to shape decision-making, engage with consumers, and build resilience.
28 July 2020
Consumer insights
Adele Jolliffe

Head of Brand Domain Consultant Team, Insights Division, UK

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It’s a winning combination: data and insights that can drive action in your business to engage better with consumers. But the people who are source of the data and insights have had their lives, needs and behaviours radically changed during the pandemic.

How can we ensure that what consumers tell us in surveys, or post online, is representative enough to make decisions from? Humans are notoriously bad at predicting their own behaviour, so asking them now about what they’ll do or think in two months’ time will be about as reliable as basing your strategy on a poll of New Year’s Resolutions.

As you navigate the next phase of COVID-19, how can you make decisions and make better use of multiple data sources to build resilience? How can you engage more effectively with your consumers? The rulebook of consumer insights has seemingly being thrown out, as we see trends that were bubbling under the surface before COVID-19 accelerating. Innovations and ways of working that felt like something to consider in the future have become everyday essentials. There are two rules to help you navigate the new way:

1. Single-source data will get you nowhere.

If you’re coming with us, you’re heading for a world of blending, integrating and triangulating. You’re going to be making intellectual leaps and informed assumptions. You’ll want to lean on approaches that you know are robust and collaborate with people who add a compelling voice based on varied and solid expertise.

2. Today won’t have all the answers, but it doesn’t have to.

The best way to answer some of the most critical questions around which media channels will help you win, what impact some of the meta-trends are having on your category, and whether the drivers of demand are changing, will not be with a single shot. Use cost-effective ways to look at today... and expect to look at a new ‘today’ in a few months’ time when things are changing apace.

So what should you be asking yourself right now?

What is the fall-out so far?

Now is the time to take stock and brace for the next phase. Triangulating the impact on your brand equity, your sales and your customer experience is vital. Did your Equity remain resilient whilst sales took a hit? Did your customers’ experience suffer from surging sales creating a supply chain glitch? Where are you now as we head into recession? Strong brands are better insulated and recover nine times faster in a financial crisis. What’s the outlook for your brand?

How can you get ahead of changing consumer needs?

For most brands in most categories, now will not be the time to invest in a heavy-duty needs segmentation, but thinking smartly about how to get some insights here is key. Use an established framework as your lens, blend in revealing inputs like search data with online qualitative research, and extract insights in a series of digital sprints. From this you can figure out whether there are new needs to be meeting, whether shifting emotional layers underneath functional needs put you at an advantage or disadvantage vs competition, or what your brand needs to dial up or down to win.

Is your brand guidance programme a finger on the pulse or a rear-view mirror?

Astute design and use of a brand guidance programme will be a deciding factor in business agility and success over the next 12-18 months. It’s a fact that only a handful of brand guidance indicators move very sensitively: communications awareness, cut-through of an advertised message, association with category entry points and online search and social volumes. Now’s the time to build in these faster moving metrics, review them frequently and use underlying trends and forecasting intelligence to keep the business informed.

Understanding people has never been more important and the ways to do it have never been more numerous, but in a topsy-turvy time a creative approach to how data are accessed and applied is the secret sauce to turning insights into an advantage. The new way is already here – get in touch if we can help you.

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