NEWS30 September 2020

Market research must avoid short-termism post-Covid-19

Behavioural science Covid-19 Data analytics News UK

UK – The market research sector must avoid “short-term thinking” and focus on deeper listening and longer-term behaviour change if it is to remain relevant after Covid-19, a Market Research Society (MRS) virtual webinar has heard.


The webinar focused on the recently-launched MRS Delphi Group report Fast-forwarding research: How Covid-19 has reset the customer insight function, which considered the research sector’s response to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and its future trajectory.

Speaking at the event, Rhea Fox, head of marketing strategy, effectiveness and insight at Aviva, said there had been a “tsunami of insight” in the pandemic, but added that much of the analysis about Covid-19 and its impact on society was “trite and generalist”.

She said that qualitative research would be more important to sort temporary behaviour changes stemming from lockdown from more lasting alterations to society, and that insights companies should shift away from quick surveys designed to grab media coverage.

“It is very sexy to know you can get some really quick quant, and the media love the surveys, the more inflammatory the better for the findings,” Fox said.

“But I don’t think they are always true, and I think more deeper listening methods will be needed.”

She also warned about “kneejerk decisions” based on flawed insights. “In the rush, some of us forgot our training, and forgot that what customers tell us isn’t always true,” Fox explained.

“While it is exciting and enervating to get caught up in insights when everyone is rethinking their lives, moving to the country and planning their savings, when you look at it from a neuroscience point of view, you can see the commitment to that is rather shallow.”

She said she saw customer experience and voice-of-the-customer initiatives becoming more frequent post-Covid-19, and neuroscience also becoming more popular.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive of Neuro-Insight, said that the market research sector needed to provide people and companies with stories from data and actionable insights.

“We are the gatekeepers of human truth – we are not just data collectors,” she said. “We need to get better at telling stories with our data.

“Our brains are wired to seek stories. I don’t necessarily think – particularly in the current environment when everyone is having a reactive approach to things – we are telling stories, which is what is required.”

She also called for the insights sector to focus more on deeper levels of habit change, rather than the more superficial alterations brought on by the Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year.

“I do have a real issue with short-term thinking – I think it is one of the things that does get us into bad habits and into a rut as an industry,” Ginai explained. “Our value comes from being able to report on the now and looking into the future.

“Our ability and our agility to think about the short-term data need and the long-term data insight implication is incredibly critical.”

Ginai also called for more diversity in the industry. “Diversity is important as it helps us to have different perspectives, making decisions and having a voice as part of a conversation,” she added.

You can download the new MRS Delphi report here: Fast-forwarding research: How Covid-19 has reset the customer insight function.