Why now is the time to invest in consumer research

Why now is the time to invest in consumer research

There has never been a more important time to stay attuned to your customers through a flexible research approach.

Research should never be seen as a ‘nice to have’: brands who put people first see real results.

The most recent IPA Bellwether report revealed that market research budgets were bucking the trend of overall marketing budget growth, with research budgets decreasing quarter-on-quarter.

We know that long-term brand building is vital during economic downturns, and it’s great to see brands investing in building their strength through advertising.

But to deliver a successful customer-centric marketing strategy, it should be underpinned by quality research into the people we’re trying to reach.

That’s why I would argue that listening to consumers has never been more important.

Why now?

The past few years have demonstrated the importance of using research to maintain empathy in difficult times.

Over the coming months, consumers’ lives will be even more challenging.

In our latest round of consumer sentiment research tracking, our proprietary Quarterly Tracker saw the greatest rise in discomfort on income in the last three years (source: The QT, the7stars proprietary consumer tracking study. Base: All Respondents, Nationally Representative survey (n=2000 per wave)).

With uncertainty over personal finances, consumers will have to make carefully considered decisions about their budgets.

This is where listening to how people feel, and understanding what they really want, can help brands. Staying grounded in consumers’ day-to-day lives and understanding how to land the right tone of voice has never been more important.

At the7stars we put a huge emphasis on being people first when it comes to thinking about channel planning and strategy.

The advice we’re giving in the current evolving cultural and economic climate is grounded in listening to people to better understand how we can reach and engage them with brand communications.

More research not less

During lockdown 2.0, we amped up our national consumer sentiment studies from a quarterly to weekly cadence. We launched our weekly pulse using our mobile research panel to get real-time insights when everyday behaviours were changing so quickly.

Continuing this post-lockdown, we began to notice concerns about rising energy bills and food costs as early as September 2021.

This enabled us to start planning early for the consumer impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the implications for brands (see the full whitepaper: ‘A People First Response in a Crisis’).

The fact is, there has never been a more important time to stay attuned to the changing need states of you customers. It’s also important to have a flexible research approach to continue to meet evolving research needs and questions.

Make the most of what’s available

There’s already plenty of existing information that can be turned into insight and actions.

From the wealth of industry syndicated and performance data available, to mining social and passively tracked data for more emerging trends.

the7stars’ proprietary planning framework is rooted in the concept that consumer journeys are not linear and that there are ways to shortcut to desire and purchase.

Using consumer intelligence to inspire how media can best play a part in this process will enable brands to reach people in moments of opportunity.

To add a layer of emotional understanding, social media and forums can be mined for unfiltered evidence of how consumers feel throughout the purchase journey.

Whether accessed through a social listening tool or through desk research, these can be valuable sources of information about sentiment, language and conversation drivers, which can be used to ensure that the right tone of voice is applied at different points throughout the consumer journey.

Tap into brand communities

If time and resource allow, private research communities are an indispensable tool for building an exchange between a brand and its customers over the long-term.

Speaking directly to customers can generate valuable insights into how customers are thinking and feeling, test ideas, and humanise a brand. Done right, it also creates loyal brand advocates out of community participants.

If this isn’t an option, organic passion-based online communities are also emerging as a space for brands to cultivate meaningful two-way exchanges with real people.

Brands can establish their own community (in a high interest category) or leverage an existing one to cultivate community feedback and steer future content and actions.

Shannon Sinclair is insight manager at the7stars, and Mediatel Young Researcher of the Year, 2022.

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