Let’s start off with a question that people around the world have been asking throughout the past few weeks:
Why is toilet paper such a demand-buy in the current COVID-19 climate?
Customers are heading to grocery stores, chain pharmacies, and even home supply stores looking for just one roll only to find completely empty shelves. In the case of pandemic, such supply shortages are to be expected—but toilet paper? I think it’s safe to say we are all a little shocked.
In order to get to the root of this TP panic, our Strategic Insights Team decided to run a few questions on this topic by our global access panels. Safe to say, the results were incredibly interesting.
- From the 15,000 global respondents that completed the panel pulses: 70% of the population were concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. The other 30% were more likely to note that the media had ‘over exaggerated’ the situation.
- Only 8% of the sample noted that they had purchased more toilet paper this past weekend, in comparison to their regular shopping times. This was mainly to do with the lack of stock offered at the grocery stores.
- Approximately 35% of the comments discussed the importance of purchasing bulk toilet paper as it was considered to be a “last-minute” purchase (not something they actively purchase on a normal grocery cycle).
So how does this relate back to customer experience (aside from the obvious observation that toilet paper is very important to customers at the moment)? Well, it displays the power and absolute necessity of market research and its ability to anticipate new trends based on customer and non-customer behaviors.
In this example, the lack of toilet paper in stock could definitely have been anticipated by simply understanding an individual’s monthly journey in a grocery store.
In our research, we found that while canned foods, fruits and vegetables, and similar food products tend to be an ongoing grocery purchase, items like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and paper towels tend not to be. This “normal” customer approach to their weekly shopping trip causes many stores to invest less in stocking these products on a monthly basis.
This is a crucial understanding that explains why these particular items flew off shelves in a matter of minutes when the crisis began: lower existing stock in stores plus an irregular amount of demand (due to the understanding that we may not be able to grocery shop as usual for the next few months) equals empty aisles where paper products once were.
How Should You Utilize Market Research Capabilities?
It’s evident from this example that market research is key for companies seeking to understand customer trends and behaviors in a time of crisis. But how should brands utilize this research normally? Here are a few good rules to follow when planning out any type of industry-based research:
Rule #1: Define Desired Outcomes
What are you trying to achieve? How will you utilize this data? What actions will you drive with the outcomes?
With every client that we work with, understanding their financial goals is crucial to success. If driving customer acquisition is important, then you should focus on targeting non-buyers to understand their behavior is crucial to getting a proper battle plan in place.
Example: In a recent market study run for a specialty pharmacy brand, we were able to find more ways to convert non-buyers by extending their cash wrap sections with influential products that could drive revenue. (This approach was tested at certain locations to gauge the level of success as well.)
Rule #2: Think Outside The Box
Has this research been conducted before? Why was it conducted? What were the outcomes?
Market research is an absolute gold mine when used correctly. However, before beginning any program with our clients, we tend to take a few days to understand what other research was conducted by other companies and organizations to make sure we don’t simply ‘recreate the wheel.’
Example: One of the largest global toy manufacturers currently runs multiple research studies through our global access panel. For each project launch, our Strategic Insights Team spends a good 1-2 weeks brainstorming, researching the industry, and building unique insights that have never been run before.
Rule #3: Set Core Actionable KPIs
What actions will be taken with the outcomes? How can I confirm that this approach was successful overall?
Informative research is exceptionally helpful, but the challenge for all organizations is how to act on this research. How can they set organizational KPIs that can be traced back to some form of financial outcome and help confirm the success of this program?
Example: A recent market study helped our client, a global specialty footwear brand, understand the importance of tackling a more interactive e-commerce experience. Live chat and touch-point KPIs around resolution were set in place to help continuously measure and track success via executive dashboards to help the client gauge the success of new strategies in the upcoming quarter.
After working in the market research field for over 10 years, I’ve found that the most successful programs are those that go above and beyond. My team and I spend days brainstorming a project with a client before actually beginning to design a survey, sample methodology, and plan the project overall.
If you take the time and do the work, you too will be able to anticipate trends, take action, and grow your organization. Even if it simply means investing into certain seemingly random products, like toilet paper.
In these trying times, we know that it’s more important than ever to focus on CX best practices. That’s why we hosted a new webinar with a panel of CX experts, “Managing the Customer Experience in a Time of Crisis.” You can access it for free here!