Role of Market Research in battling COVID-19 Impact

Market Research

Praveen Nijhara, CEO, Hansa Research pens down the role of market research during a pandemic and the significance of staying informed to battle uncertainty.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in corporates and businesses swimming in unchartered waters. In these times of crisis, it has become hard for marketers to know where to begin. Corporate appetite for market research has held fort to an extent, but the world remains in uncertain times. The current state of flux is likely to continue, since consumer demands and behaviors continue to change. Over the lockdown period, existing clients have reached out to us to guide them on:
  • Whether to continue with research?
  • How to conduct?
  • Which Research to conduct?
Some sectors like Hospitality, Travel, etc. have stopped functioning like before, while some like E-commerce thrived, and new projects have also been initiated in some sectors like BFSI & FMCG. The situation is fluid. BFSI BFSI did see a short lull concerning Market Research, but it has now gained full steam again. COVID led to a BFSI consumer seeking alternative paths for service and purchase. Brands are conducting research that focus on understanding how consumer behavior and preferences, for both purchase and service, have changed. Given the competitive landscape in the BFSI sector, brands are keen to ensure that a seamless customer experience continues, and are closely monitoring the customer feedback. An increased focus on ‘Digital experience’ vis-à-vis physical touchpoints, has also led to brands in the BFSI sector using MR to measure customer metrics on the platform. E-COMMERCE It was business as usual for E-commerce. Since most of their research was already being conducted in the digital space, through online/mobile surveys, the restrictions on travel and face-to-face interaction did not hamper any of their research projects. Even Qualitative research was commissioned to be conducted online. FGDs / IDIs that were conducted predominantly ‘in-person’ earlier, are now being executed over digital platforms like DigiQual and other VC tools. This was possible as most of their TG were already online. With a focus of essentials rather than indulgence from the consumers, the issue was more on the logistics of delivery rather than the product mix. The E-commerce sector expanded its consumer base with new users adopting the online channel during the lockdown, even if the move was forced rather than planned. Research was conducted to fine-tune their loyalty programs for tapping the growing market and increasing their share of the user base. Concept tests was conducted to gauge acceptance levels for own-label brands across new categories. Own labels were earlier limited to apparel and personal grooming, but may now foresee a foray into durables and other household products.

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FMCG FMCG has always been one of the largest consumers of market research, but the sector went through a drastic slowdown in commissioning research projects during the lockdown period. The sector is currently grappling with a forced shift towards tech-based solutions, instead of contemporary research methodologies. A significant proportion of their TG is not yet connected online and hence the sector is dependent on face-to-face interaction with the respondents. Brand Tracking studies have suffered a huge setback as it was impossible for these projects to be executed via traditional (face-to-face) methods. A significant number of enquires now pertain to how can they make the transition to digital solutions using online/mobile. The lockdown has forced a significant change in consumer behavior, and the category faces a challenge in understanding the sustenance of this change. Some questions that are now being asked to be addressed by market research:
    1. Will the consumer redefine what is ‘essential’ post the lockdown?
    2. Will ‘indulgence’ regain its erstwhile levels or will there be a correction?
    3. With a newfound appreciation towards hygiene, will there be a different trade-off between Price Sensitivity vs. Product Quality?
Unquestionably, there is a forced acceleration of the digital transformation. As we recognize how quickly customers have embraced digital experiences, Brands will also have to think, operate, and lead in new ways. Market Research is now playing an ever important role in enabling this transition, forced as it may be due to unprecedented circumstances.



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