Standing in line at the grocery store last week to get some essentials, the existential crisis we have all been going through the last several weeks since COVID-19 hit the U.S.A. hit me hard. As a business owner, the economic reality playing out in front of us is bleak and we are all doing what we can to service existing clients. But standing in line, knowing that my brand preferences are out the window when it comes to groceries, I realized that it is out the window for all consumers. People don’t care about which brand toilet paper they get; they are just looking for some to get them through the week. And when we are facing questions about protecting our family through social distancing, unable to see friends and family who are at higher risk to suffer complications from COVID-19, selling market research to businesses seemed meaningless.
But in the depth of my existential angst I realized, we will get through this. As the famed existential philosopher, Albert Camus stated:
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
And push back I did. Not only did I realize that selling market research to businesses is meaningful, it is going to be even MORE meaningful after we get through this pandemic. In a discussion with one of my favorite marketers, Priscilla McKinney from Little Bird Marketing, she stated how the world will be divided into two eras, pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19. This is prescient on multiple levels as life as we know it will be changed forever. Video conferences will be the default norm, the Amazonification of our retail infrastructure will be solidified, new business models addressing a socially distant future will abound…and companies will have to relearn everything they thought they knew about consumers.
The decades long tracker we’ve been running? Weakened. Longitudinal data relies on consistency, the assumption that external factors change only slight over time. COVID-19 has proven to be a global catastrophe, changing our daily lives in ways we could have never anticipated from the decimation of global supply chains to the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. Trackers prior to the COVID-19 outbreak will serve as reminders of how life was prior, but new data will be needed to anticipate how consumer purchase behaviors have changed in light of the pandemic.
The future is bright for market research. The reality is that some market research firms won’t make it through these challenging times. However, those that do make it through will be tasked with providing a new way forward for companies and brands. We will be the new data cartographers, mapping the new reality we find ourselves after this paradigm shifting event. Furthermore, there will be pent of demand for insights as brands and companies begin to rebuild. To my fellow entrepreneurs in the market research space, I hope you all make it through and I am here to chat about business, life, or basketball (the Lakers were doing so well), feel free to reach out at any time. Stay safe.