How to Manage Your Market Research Wisely in a Time of Crisis

March 19, 2020
How to Manage Your Market Research Wisely in a Time of Crisis

We are in the midst of the most significant health crisis most of us have ever seen. Every day holds a new challenge, and the news is continually reporting something that previously would have seemed out of the realm of possibility—such as canceling March Madness or shutting down Las Vegas. What does all this mean for your business? How do you continue to move forward with your marketing and market research? And, could the current state of mind impact the value of the insights you get?

The answer, as you might have guessed, requires thoughtful consideration.

The economic and business environment is changing rapidly. Major decisions will continue to be made, and they will have long-ranging impacts. A misstep in action or tone will have outsized consequences with nervous customers. In addition to immediate decisions, preparation for what comes next is critical.

It is important to have good data to make good decisions. The key is to ensure you can get that data along with the context and consultation needed to rapidly put them into action. There are some cases where it may make sense to revisit your market research plan, for instance if your research is with respondents on the frontline of the crisis (i.e., state officials, certain physician specialties, hospital administrators). On the other hand, hitting the pause button on must-have key strategic work for new product development or a tracker could mean losing critical business insights.

Here are a few questions that you can ask to help you make the right decision:

  • What am I trying to discover? The answer to this question will lead the way. While this is a temporary crisis, it could change people’s behavior and attitudes in the long term. Consider not only what you want to learn today, but what you’ll need to know tomorrow.
  • Could I learn something by asking about the crisis directly? It sounds simple, but you could gain insight by asking if the crisis has influenced how respondents answered your survey, and it could provide guidance into how to interpret your results.
  • What could I learn from revisiting past research? It is amazing what our team can discover from revisiting existing data and studies. We can cut data in a different way or delve into existing transcripts and videos to find new insights. It is worth asking.
  • Is there value in connecting with people other than in person? Face-to-face interviews are a great way to engage with respondents, but there are many virtual and online options that provide as good—and sometimes even better—insights while still supporting social distancing.

Concerned about data quality?

Escalent has been monitoring all projects before and after March 11, when the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, to make sure we have a clear understanding of whether or how this crisis is impacting response rates. Overall, we are not seeing a lot of change, but here are some specifics on what we are seeing from the field:

  • Email-to-web surveys continue to survey well and response rates are comparable to pre-March 11 rates.
  • Consumer telephone survey response rates have improved. We attribute this to more people being at home while practicing social distancing.
  • Business telephone survey responses have shown mixed results. We expect business research by phone to be the most susceptible to a significant drop in productivity. We are monitoring this closely to quickly identify performance issues, and will pause dialing, if necessary, to assess our options if certain projects experience significant fielding challenges.

We will continue to monitor customer sentiment, research productivity, and potential changes in results on a daily basis, and we will advise our clients immediately if we recommend taking action.

Escalent recognizes the significance of the COVID-19 disruption. We are dedicated to delivering the high-quality insights you expect, and we are here 24/7 to help you navigate this situation—together. Have more questions? Send us a note.

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Christopher Barnes
CPO, Managing Director

Chris is chief product officer and managing director of the Financial Services Research division of Escalent, with a deep background in market and public opinion research. His background includes co-founding the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut where he led ongoing studies on the business climate presented to regional economists quarterly. He has led studies for many of the nation’s top companies in insurance, banking, wealth and health insurance sectors. His studies have appeared frequently in the national media, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times and Time cover stories. Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Kenyon College and a master's degree in political science with a concentration in survey research at the University of Connecticut.