The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on market research budgets

The last few years have been a rollercoaster ride for everyone. The challenge for businesses right now is not only how to market products and services to existing customers who may be more cautious about spending, but also how to connect with new or hard to reach customers when marketing budgets are tight and market research budgets even tighter.  

Businesses have obviously been working hard to navigate the current economic climate, regaining ground lost during the pandemic and building back profit margins despite inflationary and other pressures.  

However although there have been some green shoots, it’s no surprise that, yet again, we saw the GfK Consumer Confidence Index dip in October. The cost-of-living crisis and general uncertainty about personal finances means that consumers are struggling to make ends meet and thinking much harder about how they spend their money.  

The recent IPA latest Bellwether Report paints an encouraging picture for total marketing spend and the main media advertising category in particular in Q3, the budget for market research fell in the third quarter.  

Organisations clearly need to prioritise and allocate resources more efficiently and effectively. However this does not mean that insights cannot be gathered and help companies get closer to a higher proportion of their customers – not just those that they’ve already connected with – and understand what their customers need and want in the current circumstances.  

How organisations are optimising market research budgets to understand what customers need now 

A common theme that we are hearing from our customers is that while organisations have established Voice of the Customer (VoC) programmes that provide continuous feedback and tracking key metrics, there appears to be a growing need to really understand VoC is not telling them. They need to find out from customers and prospects if, after so much change and with tighter purse strings, the products and services they are providing are still relevant and continue to meet their needs. 

In order to use research budgets more wisely, many organisations are focusing their time, attention and resources on a deeper understanding of the underlying problems or goals that customers need to resolve or achieve when buying a product or service, as this has a major impact on their decision.  

The benefit of observing customers through this ‘jobs-to-be-done’ lens is that it enables us to understand their needs, view different customer segments, and competitors – from a new perspective. 

We are also seeing increased interest in more depth interviews with customer, prospect, lapsers and rejecters to understand the ‘WHY’ behind tracking studies. They can obviously flag and help companies to manage 1:1 red alert problems but they lack the real insight that in-depth interviews can provide. 

Fortunately, customer panels continue to be a cost-effective solution (over ad hoc research) for brands seeking to get closer to customers and prospects, to be able to engage and really understand the customer journey, the jobs they need doing, and why they may struggle in doing business with an organisation.  

Recruiting ‘brand advocates’ is easier than engaging busy or hard to reach customers but, with the right approach, it can be an effective way to obtain a broader picture of what needs to be changed to make it easier for customers to get jobs done.  

Recruitment is a whole topic in itself, so we’ll be taking a closer look at how to recruit hard to reach respondents in our next blog. In the meantime you can read more about the ‘Jobs to be Done’ approach here. 

Written by Paul Kavanagh, Managing Director

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