13 Apr 2020


As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on our health and economies, businesses, governments and not-for-profits are struggling to keep pace with circumstances that are changing day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour. While organizations try to find their operational and financial footings, many activities are being put on hold. Decision-makers are struggling with the question – should we be doing any market research now, when our customers, partners and stakeholders are likewise trying to adapt?. But at the end market research industry is being falling down.

I don’t have any hard data to report, but anecdotally the answer for many seems to be: Let’s put on the brakes. Over the past two weeks, we have seen multiple clients pause or cancel multiple projects. This response makes perceptive sense in the recent circumstances. There are lots of good reasons to pause or call off customer insights or market research studies right now – shifting business plans and priorities, and concerns about preserving cash chief among them.

Market research budgets, which include qualitative and quantitative, brand tracking, and product development research, have been on a downward since March. None of the marketing categories studied saw growth in their budgets, with main media advertising recording the sharpest downward revision since 2009 with a net balance of -9.9. Direct marketing (-6.6%) and sales promotions (-7.2%) saw the slowest reductions, while public relations and events were hit harder (-14.3% and -15.9% respectively). Looking beyond the current environment, marketers appear optimistic for a quick economic recovery, with a net balance of +16.2% of companies expecting to increase their spending on marketing over the next year. However, the outlook for spend on market research in 2020/2021 was still negative, at -0.6%.

I would like to highlight some point on other industry that why should you proceed with market research as your business plan.

Things are changing, and quickly. Organizations need to adapt to changing social and economic dynamics. As consumers and businesses adapt to the pandemic and its economic fallout, organizations need to understand how they can support their customers and partners. This starts with understanding their changing needs and concerns. That’s what insights functions do best.

There will be new opportunities. As people change, they will need new goods, services and messaging. Where are the opportunities for your organization? How are they evolving? How do you position your products, services and brand in the new atmosphere?

People actually want to provide input. Let’s face it, we are always “bothering” customers when we ask them for input on new product ideas or messaging approaches. However, in stressful times like this, we are actually seeing increasing interest in participating in research studies. Anecdotally, we are finding it easier to recruit participants for B2B studies right now, and our participation rates are up.


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