FEATURE4 January 2023

2023 preview: Cost of living

Cost of Living Features

Higher inflation and rocketing energy bills have led to a cost-of-living crisis in the UK. Industry contributors consider how research can help.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
I think we will help by just doing our jobs. To understand people’s pressures and preferences when money is tight, advocating on their behalf and helping our clients to get to products, brands and campaigns that make relevant and positive contributions to people’s lives in straitened times.

Crawford Hollingworth, founder, The Behavioural Architects
Another year and there is yet another consumer headset we need to get to grips with. After Brexit and Covid-19, we now need to understand the impact of a recessionary or inflationary 2023 headset.

It is looking like we’ll be living in a challenging world, with an increasingly disparate society, and it is our industry that can help provide connections and hopefully dilute the bubbling tensions. I truly believe our industry has a key role in keeping society stable and connected and in assuring that all people feeling valued, respected and looked after. 

James Endersby, chief executive, Opinium
Consultancy will grow in importance. Marketers are going to be under increasing pressure worldwide as the economy continues to fluctuate to defend budgets and make tough spending decisions. In turn, we need to be providing them with data-led guidance so that their brands come out the other side fighting.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
The cost-of-living crisis has dramatically reshaped consumers’ spending priorities, presenting businesses with new challenges that require them to walk a tricky tightrope between being sensitive and remaining profitable. Insights is the tool that helps businesses not only survive in situations of constraint but also find opportunity.

It gives us that magnifying glass to unpick the different factors influencing consumers’ decisions and find space to achieve growth, which is particularly important for the more premium brands. We know that understanding brand equity is absolutely vital to justifying your share of consumers’ wallets and the price you charge, and insights is the key to unlocking this understanding.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
Covid-19 was a period of significant economic uncertainty and our clients came to us to provide them with the insights they needed to navigate that challenge. As we enter this economic downturn we will be here for our clients, once again, to provide the data, expertise and critical insights that businesses and policy makers need to ensure they invest their resources effectively.

What’s key in any relationship is conversations, and the better quality the conversation between agency and client, the better the outcome will be. 

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
Above all we need to be imaginative, as we were during Covid-19. This means thinking about the best ways to make use of the insight we produce for clients and businesses.

Key to this is thinking about communications, ensuring that the right people know about and engage with our research. Taking the time to talk is key, so we can adapt to priorities and acknowledge the efforts of our client or wider team. Equally, we should be showing just how much goes into our work. The supply chain for producing insight is complex and making people aware of that now will certainly help us longer term.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
By working with clients to apply thinking on how to grow in a downturn through an even deeper understating of their markets and customers, the pain points and opportunities for short, medium and long-term planning.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
By focusing on and measuring return on investment, so clients get a better sense of what is delivering real value to them.

Ryan Howard, marketing science consultant
The flavour of briefs is unmistakably credit crunchy, with most of my time now spent with proposition development, range optimisation and pricing. I expect this to continue as the crisis bites and businesses move to ensure they land on the right side of the trade-offs households are making. As they do, researchers will be simulating market uncertainty and landing firm recommendations.

Most importantly, we’ll be gauging the shifting needs of 2023, a year where it’s all to play for, and nothing can be assumed. Shall we begin?

Nick Baker, chief research officer, Savanta
The greatest impact we can have is by ‘speaking to power’ effectively to ensure that the whole not the few – whether individuals or businesses – are the focus. Shed light on those vulnerable or niche groups that often are missed by ‘nat rep’, push for better outcomes and use research to create new approaches and push boundaries, not to just measure outcomes of poor decision-making and the prioritisation of those already at the top.

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, BritainThinks
Just like Covid-19, it’s clear from our work that this crisis is being experienced unequally depending on who you are. Research can help clients walk in the shoes of their customers and audiences and make sure they aren't simply projecting from their own experiences.

In this context, ethnographic approaches and behavioural methods are more important now than ever to really understand how people are experiencing and responding to this crisis.

Stephan Shakespeare, CEO and co-founder, YouGov
The main thing the industry will do is provide clients with reliable data that demonstrates what consumers are experiencing, what they anticipate will come next and how they think it will affect their behaviours.

While much of this comes from ad hoc research, the increased use of zero-party data means clients can get a detailed view how and where consumers are spending money and where they have cut back. Many clients will need to know both the general picture but also want a detailed view of their customers or potential customers. Being able to serve up specific samples quickly will make it easier for clients to get the information they need to navigate the coming year.