Back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was moving full-steam ahead, businesses prepared themselves for short-term changes in consumer behavior. However, many companies didn’t anticipate that almost a year later, we would still be in the thick of quarantines, shutdowns, and a “new normal.”
As we enter the third wave of COVID cases sweeping across the country, organizations must adjust to a prolonged period of uncertainty and the ever-increasing likelihood that certain things will never be the same. Though this year has been nothing short of chaotic, many brands have risen from the ashes, ready to take on the challenges and sail ahead, with market research at the helm.
These are a few of the key takeaways for brands to remember this year and beyond.
Customer Experience is Everything
The customer experience has become an increasingly popular focus for many companies in the last few years, with COVID-19 only accelerating its growth. This year specifically, online customer research has helped brands identify improvements to a rapidly shifting customer journey. According to research, the brands that have focused on their commitment to their employees’ and customers’ health and safety have been more successful in the pandemic era.
From curbside pickup, appointment-only shopping, glass dividers at registers, sanitation stations, and more, companies that have put on their innovation-hats and implemented new ways to make their customers feel safe, stand out from the pack.
Businesses Have to Stand for Something
In 2020, the world is not only fighting a dangerous pandemic but also economic distress, political polarities, and racial injustice. Unemployment has soared to levels that the US hasn’t seen since the great depression, and tensions grew between the public and the police.
Today, customers expect the brands they love to support issues they care about, like social justice, COVID safety protocols, and community initiatives. Brands don’t necessarily have to get political, but the ones that ignore this customer desire and remain silent on important matters will face backlash and experience dips in sales. Organizational connection across the board is imperative to growth.
Be Equipped to Pivot in Real-Time
If market research in 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be agile and ready to adapt to changes in real-time. Building real-time data dashboards, re-formulating brand strategies at the drop of a hat, and supercharging decision-making processes is key to business success and increased market share.
Big brands are doubling down on technology that gives them access to real-time consumer insights that help them determine which new trends are here to stay and which are just temporary. The ability to react in real-time will be an essential skill for marketers going forward. One major US retailer in fact, launched curbside delivery in just two days versus the eighteen months it had planned for to meet new customer expectations.
In addition, businesses have been forced to reduce expenses, which has meant prioritizing tools that help them do more with less. Not only has technology-facilitated collaboration with customers become more vital, but access to fewer, better tools that forge internal bonds within organizations has become a major differentiator for those that thrive above others. For instance, Clorox has been using Fuel Cycle’s research solutions to align decision-makers and drive informed action that ultimately won the trust of customers.
Despite a year of chaos and change, brands are continuing to transform and lay the foundations for future growth. Moving forward, companies should focus on customer experience, living their values, and achieving agility by partnering with the right technology providers.
For more information on how market research experts responded to the changes brought by 2020, check out these takeaways from this year’s FC Connect Digital Insights Summit. To learn what lies ahead for the market research industry in 2021, keep your eyes peeled for our annual State of Market Research report, slated for early January.