One thing we now know about the global pandemic is that patterns were interrupted. A fall and winter without a vaccine means that people’s behavior remains in flux.
A significant part of this behavioral change is related to the CPG sector. The purchase of items used daily by consumers that require routine replacement or replenishment, such as food, beverages, clothes, tobacco, makeup, and household products, have experienced the greatest amount of disruption, second only to changes in air travel. In other words, this is a once-in-a-generation reset for marketers, especially in the CPG sector. Brands have to adapt, and they can’t do that by relying on pre-2020 insights and attitudes that may simply not apply anymore. New research is required for timely insights.
Why is COVID-19 a reset for household goods brands? The pandemic has changed four crucial factors that determine consumer behavior: money, routines, availability, and attitudes.
Household budgeting is under pressure from a multitude of factors. Job insecurity and healthcare concerns loom large for many families, and consumer confidence is still below pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, more people are at home for more time, which creates a need for larger or more frequent shops.
People are working from home more, dining out less and have had their routines upended in countless minor ways by COVID-19 precautions. This alters how and when a lot of household goods are used. To make things more complex, the change isn’t uniform - city, suburb and town routines are affected in different ways and the picture shifts from state to state.
On the supply side, brands themselves are changing. Some categories have seen pricing changes, some are simply not available due to supply chain interruptions. Competitor price ranges are constantly shifting under the pressure of the pandemic, and that has its own effect on loyalties and behaviors.
Are your customers scared and anxious? Are they frustrated or angry? Are they longing for comfort, or bored and looking for new experiences? Mindsets and motivations are changing as the pandemic continues, but without knowing how people feel, predicting what they will do or buy becomes far harder.
It’s hard to think of a consumer factor that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19. You need new research and fresh insights to help adjust.
But there’s a catch. You know that the insights needed are tough to derive from a simple survey or a tracker. At best, surveys track the outcome of these changes. They don’t explore the underlying causes. In particular, they don’t work well for getting at the profound shifts in emotion, attitude and motivation that COVID-19 has created.
To uncover the rich insights you're looking for, you need qualitative research. In particular, you need face-to-face qualitative research, giving you real, undistracted quality time with people which will lead to the insights that underpin your strategy. Focus groups and other in-person research allow for open-ended and iterative questions to allow consumers themselves to explore their newly formed ideas and affinities.
Face-to-face qualitative research in a pandemic presents challenges, of course. We reopened our best-in-class research facilities when we were sure in-person research was as safe for your research partners, clients and our respondents to use our facilities with complete peace of mind.
As one moderator put it:
"It was amazing to see just how readily respondents moved past the mask and the socially distanced room setup, and engaged in productive conversation. It was a positive experience for everyone involved: the client, the respondents and the moderator."
- Farnaz, Moderator, Sept 2020
We’ve become adept at mixing in-person and virtual face-to-face research, a best-of-both-worlds approach that gives you the time for deep dives and the ability to capture insight at home. Qualitative research has adapted rapidly, but it’s still the gold standard for understanding the motivations and emotions that underpin the numbers.
The time to invest in new insights is now. For CPG brands, the most challenging part of the pandemic lies directly ahead. The end of the year is upon us along with busy holiday seasons, and for many CPG businesses, these are critical moments. To navigate them successfully and thrive, you need the truths and insights you can only get face-to-face.
Ready to talk to a Fieldworker about your next research project? Contact us today!