Last week we launched our Insights Inside Podcast Series where we speak to various experts to hear how they are looking to adapt and remain successful during these times. The extract below is taken from an interview with James Gibson, B2B Insights Manager for Michelin Europe, where I pose the question around how the COVID-19 situation will affect Michelin’s market research activities:
Nick: I know Michelin are very customer centric and use customer insights to drive customer decisions. In terms of the current COVID-19 situation, how are your market research activities adapting where businesses may have shut down or have moved to a more digital approach?
James: It’s a really good question and one that we’ve all been gradually trying to come to terms with and find a path through, but our thoughts echo the advice given by ESOMAR that covers 3 points.
The first point may sound obvious, but it is important to use evidence and data (and with the right confidence) to make sound decisions and not give in to fear or sentiment.
The second point is that research and insight are an essential compass before, during and will continue to be after this crisis and should be maintained, encouraged and extensively used by businesses and governments alike.
Thirdly, with the recession almost certainly coming, we need to focus on proving value to fight a focus on upfront price. For research and insight at Michelin we might need to reprioritise some focus on certain projects, but Michelin understands the importance of focusing on the long-term brand strategy.
Therefore, in the short term there is going to be a need to understand how market conditions are impacting our customers and if, as widely predicted there is a recession coming, it is possible that we will need to do more with less including making better use of historical data so data synthesis and data curation are only going to grow in importance. However, as a company with innovation and customer centricity at its heart, research and insight projects aimed at understanding and improving in these areas will always be ongoing.
“The second point is that research and insight are an essential compass before, during and will continue to be after this crisis and should be maintained, encouraged and extensively used by businesses and governments alike.”
Nick: That picture you describe definitely mirrors what we are seeing in terms of client briefs that we are receiving. There is more emphasis on customer research and speaking to them to understand their current situation and how they are dealing with the present environment and actions they will take post COVID-19. We have also seen a trend of client briefs from around the world looking at NPD research (New Product Development) where we are testing different concepts and different ways of doing business from tracking and tracing products through to remote servicing of machinery.
In terms of other research trends from our side, we are seeing increased response rates for e-surveys whether they be panel surveys or customer e-surveys (I suppose people have more time on their hands to complete these surveys). To this point, where we have mobile phone numbers, then we have seen increased response rates for telephone interviews also due to greater respondent availability. On top of all this we are using different online platforms to gather qualitative data in virtual focus groups that might otherwise have been gathered in traditional face to face focus groups.
James: That is really interesting because as an insight team we have been having discussions about whether it is a good time or not to carry out research and I suppose this depends on which industry sector you are targeting so thanks for sharing that insight with me!