That was the overarching theme of the recent TMRE @ Home virtual event held from June 7-10. The event brought together market research professionals from various sectors for discussion around various market research topics.
Discussions at TMRE also had a heavy emphasis on consumers returning to in-store shopping and dining in, suggesting that the expectation is that life will return to some sense of normalcy sooner rather than later. Retailers, restaurants, and CPG professionals are all grappling with questions of how to make this transition comfortable and sustainable for their physical shoppers or diners.
Newer market research strategies including smartphone-driven research methods like crowd empowerment and data collection through business websites have become more common or even best practices.
Traditional market research techniques like panels, face-to-face interviews, and focus groups were limited heavily by the pandemic. That’s because restrictions imposed during the pandemic limited in-person gathering. More surprisingly, in-office collaboration and communication were interrupted with sometimes unforeseen ripple effects. That meant remote data collection methods gained ground since they had fewer limitations during the pandemic.
Three of the main takeaways from all the discussions and presentations:
- Agility doesn’t necessarily equal speed. Instead, presenters discussed how agility involves organizational structure, mindset, and being capable of recognizing when change is necessary.
- What’s “normal” now isn’t what it was pre-pandemic. Limitations posed by the pandemic forced brands to become more innovative when it came to servicing shoppers across multiple channels. That meant that shoppers got more accustomed to shopping on their mobile phones and picking up online orders in-store. Brands should take a hybrid approach to best manage the return of in-store and on-premise consumers.
- The more resources at your disposal, the better. No matter how large or how specialized, a single source of data is not adequate for stitching together an accurate picture of conditions on the ground. Consumer behavior is changing on a location-by-location basis faster than ever before. That means brands can’t afford to rely solely on store data anymore. They need detailed, on-the-ground insights that complement store data in order to get a more holistic picture of what’s working and what’s not.
Ken Cassar, Head of Commercial at Premise, and with over a decade of market research across the board from traditional to electronic and mobile phone innovations, participated in a panel discussion: The Next Big Opportunity: Agile Research & Hacks to Accelerating Breakthrough Innovation. He and other panel members discussed agility at different points of the process of analyzing consumer needs.
Large companies, whether brands or research vendors, tend to lean towards conservative and established research techniques. Most recognized that nontraditional sources could provide hard-to-reach and winning insights. These emerging methods may be discoverable if both the vendor and the brand can agree on some level of flexibility in technique or execution. In summary, everyone agrees agility is a good quality to have, but not everyone can agree on what defines agility, and decision makers can be reluctant to embrace truly agile data providers.
In the words of Kristin Luck, president of ESOMAR and speaker in the future of consumer experience (CX) session, it is important to remember that there is no company that can provide the ‘single source of truth.’ And as another track emphasized, it’s through the combination of techniques, technology, and small innovations that retailers and brands can synthesize data sets to get closer to the truth.
Businesses need to continue to adapt to the new “normal.” By experimenting with emerging methods of research such as incorporating cameras onto store shelves in order to monitor compliance in real-time or utilizing crowd empowerment to refine existing services on a location-by-location basis, businesses set themselves up for long term success.
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