Matt Bell-Watson • 16 June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses to adapt. To stay afloat and seize new opportunities, businesses must take calculated risks. Now more than ever, executives need data and insight to develop intelligent strategies. But how do you conduct research during a pandemic? And what are the important questions to start asking?
We spoke with Andrew White, Managing Partner of Sapio Research to find out. Since the start of the lockdown, Sapio has tracked the impact on business leaders. The report offers a glimpse into the long-term effects of COVID-19 on decision-makers in the UK.
Andrew offers smart insights into the challenges and opportunities facing this priority audience. As well as the best practice to consider before starting new research in the current climate.
What are the challenges keeping business leaders awake at night?
Sometimes the biggest challenge is not knowing what’s around the corner. Uncertainty over when changes in restrictions will occur, or whether there is going to be a second wave of the virus is worrying even the healthiest businesses.
One key element business leaders will be focusing on is their supply chain. According to our research, 66% are currently receiving a reduced level of service from their suppliers and 34% expect this to still be in the case in 3 months time. Knowing and diversifying your supply chain is crucial because if one cog breaks, you’ll need to avoid the whole machine falling apart.
What new opportunities are business leaders targeting at the moment?
From an internal perspective, working practices are currently under a microscope. 50% of business leaders say an increase in working from home or a reduction in commute time due to lockdown is having a positive effect on productivity. One obvious opportunity is to reduce office costs by allowing more people to work from home long term. Another is how other changes in working practices (the tech they use is a key factor) may improve labour productivity – the UK has long been behind other major countries in this area.
How can research help brands to take action with greater confidence?
Navigating the ‘new normal’ won’t be an easy task as brands try to figure out what has changed and what hasn’t. By listening to customers, brands can keep track of how circumstances and perceptions are changing. If brands are entering new markets or repositioning their products to serve a different audience, understanding potential customers will also be important. Cost-effective and fast turnaround research methods such as online surveys are an easy way for brands to keep a finger on the pulse.
What should brands consider before conducting research right now?
With an ever-changing landscape, brands need to get answers to their questions quickly. If research programmes take longer than a couple of months, the data could be out of date by the time it comes to review.
Brands should also consider whether or not certain topics are appropriate to ask questions about. With many workers furloughed, and many families experiencing grief, there are some areas that are off-limits, and others where sensitive questioning techniques should be used.
What opportunities are there for brands to better understand priority audiences?
A traditional way of splitting out key audiences and digging deeper into their profile has been to look at demographic data such as age, gender, job role etc. As much as this data is useful, it’s not the only way to segment audiences. By asking questions around attitudes, personality traits, and approaches to decision-making and you can often get a much more detailed picture by using this data to create buyer personas. These can help brands create the right messaging as well as identify the audiences most likely to buy their products and services.