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FEATURE3 January 2024

Preview of 2024: The cost-of-living crisis

Cost of Living Features

As a year of high inflation, expensive energy and fuel and continued rises in grocery costs draws to a close, Research Live asks our industry contributors where focus should be as the cost-of-living crisis rolls into 2024.

How can the research industry help clients navigate the cost-of-living crisis?

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
In uncertain times, insight is needed more than ever. The reality is that cost-of-living crisis affects some people more than others. Helping our clients to think in terms of the human needs influencing different target segments can help provide guidance for strategy and make more informed decisions. It isn’t one size fits all.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
By understanding the triggers and motivations for purchase when money is tight and the willingness to spend is low. Brands have a crucial role to play here by communicating their value and values, building distinction to stand out against the competition and justifying a price premium.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
Clients need to understand how the cost of living is impacting the lives and decisions of people across the UK, and that’s where good research comes in.

The way people are experiencing the current crisis is incredibly varied, so challenging stereotypes and using all the tools at our disposal is vital to ensure we’re not just reinforcing established thinking, but actually uncovering the lived reality for different groups. Digital data, for example, has a lot of potential when it comes to discovering insights into people’s financial standing, as respondents don’t have the same fear of judgement as they might from being interviewed.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
The industry must come together. This isn’t a one-sided conversation – clients have an important role to play here too. It’s essential that both sides work together to make sure the right areas are being prioritised and addressed. For example, that means agencies may sometimes need to challenge briefs and help clients understand how to get to the most valuable insights.

We’ve seen the sector pull together on other issues such as inclusion over the past year or so and we need exactly the same level of collaboration when it comes to the cost of living.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
What is and will always remain key is agencies really understanding the client’s business questions, challenging briefs to explore new ways of doing things and delivering return on research investment. But what we’re increasingly seeing is the opportunity to interrogate existing data sets or explore alternative data sources, challenging certain pre-conceived ideas about the need to always generate new proprietary data. 

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
Always think about the whole population, not just people like you when delivering work to clients. Regression to a mean is almost always wrong. And actually bother to ask different people our questions, people are not hard to reach, certainly not if you don’t try. Be more inclusive in who you talk to (or in old money ‘sample’).

Bethan Blakeley, research director, Boxclever
I think understanding consumers’ mindsets on this is crucial – and ensuring we don’t just put them in a demographic box (i.e. ABC1s). Financial comfort is relative. Even those who have never really felt stretched before are feeling it now – tapping into the emotions behind that and how companies can help alleviate it will be imperative.

Hannah Rogers, business development director, Kokoro
We can pull them outside their bubbles by showing them the real world context of the people their products and brands serve: we don’t experience things in isolation – real-world trade-offs take into account influences far beyond the parameters of the immediate client sector.

We can all learn from the fast-moving consumer goods playbook and focus on moments that really matter – ensuring these are genuinely differentiated and superior not only gives the consumer what they really need, alleviating the pressure on them, it gives the client the competitive advantage.

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
Broadly speaking, the cost-of-living crisis presents the most significant opportunity for insight divisions to rise, as they hold the keys to helping brands remain relevant in this context: through a more human approach and increased empathy.