As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, insights organizations are expecting a surge in demand for guidance and research to understand the “new normal” to drive business growth. But all this demand will occur amidst a global recession, where research resources are projected to be limited.
In this session hosted by IIeX Forward, I was joined by insights leaders Fenny Léautier, Head of Marketing Insights & Analytics at Philips Personal Health, Rollo McIntyre, Global Head of Innovation, Ipsos UU and Richard Davies, Co-founder of Alchemy-RX.
Even though times are uncertain and budgets are tight, there are silver linings in this crisis. As we heard last month from Unilever’s B.V. Pradeep, “insights managers will be smiling as we emerge from this crisis, because we are amidst the world’s largest experiment in behavior change… the insights industry lives on and thrives on changes in consumer markets – because there are insights there.”
Gartner has provided a useful framework for recovery from the crisis. In phase one, we found ourselves in the react and respond phase. In phase two, we are redirecting to new realities. Phase three will see a rebound to the future, and phase four will see an acceleration of growth.
At Market Logic, we’ve seen our clients profoundly affected by the pandemic in a number of different ways. Some teams are on hold, while others are in overdrive.
Across the board, we’ve seen everyone blending industry news with past knowledge to deliver relevant COVID-19 insights, and platforms providing important support to push insights to remote stakeholders.
Philips has stepped up to address consumer demands in important ways. Fenny said that as the organization enters phase three, they understand that there is an increased need for hygiene and a focus on protection and prevention.
The Philips teams are looking for fast and agile ways to scale insights to deliver the right stories at the right time for faster (and more) decision making, as well as ways to inspire consumers to rebound and find their “new normal.”
Internally, they’ve accelerated their innovation program and the digital transformation on their market insights platform Eureka.
At Ipsos, said Rollo, the post-COVID digital transformation was swift. They are in pole position to serve demand with a 75% digital workforce – a big change for a qualitative constellation.
With that in mind, Rollo emphasized the uniqueness of the times we’re living in. “It’s a fascinating time to explore humanity and human behavior,” he said. People want to express how they feel – the pandemic has brought many insights to light due to an increase in self-reflection and self-awareness.
Think of it as a “massive global deprivation experiment” – empathy, understanding people, the sense of humanity has never been more important for us as researchers, and qualitative research is essential to navigate that experience through the rebound.
It was also compelling to hear a global executive viewpoint from Richard Davies, co-founder of Alchemy-RX. He emphasized that no organization will emerge from this crisis unchanged – and now is the time to re-set ambitions. “That will have a profound impact on CMI investments, both as input to and consequence of the strategy,” he said.
“A good strategy has to align with growth drivers in categories with capability requirements and the emerging trends over the planned period.” In light of changing corporate ambitions, it’s important to use a framework to assess which aspects of category understandings to invest in.
For example, those companies slow to embrace e-commerce probably didn’t have capabilities ready to optimize online shopping when ‘shelter in place’ orders were implemented. In this strategy phase, it’s critical to be able to anticipate trends and align growth drivers with capabilities before it’s too late.
What’s more, as we emerge from COVID-19, said Richard, now is the time for organizations to dust off contingency plans, evaluating them and getting them into shape for the next time – because there will likely be a next time – while the memory of COVID-19 is still fresh in people’s minds.
Richard sees market insights platforms as a key enabler to achieve these objectives. (Before founding Alchemy-RX, Richard was the SVP leading CMI at Unilever and then CMO at Newell Brands, where he introduced and deployed Market Logic software across both workforces.)
Before Philips deployed the Eureka platform, Fenny said insights were strewn across the organization on various SharePoints, so the insights function had to act as the Google search for everyone.
Now, insights are personalized, and experts curate knowledge so it always goes to the right person at the right time. This is more important than ever in these changing times: marketers are fully armed with the insights they need so the insights experts can focus on using their empathetic skills to tell stories that bring consumer insights to life while engaging internal stakeholders.
Promoted search content makes sure that insights experts can promote the most important results, preventing cherry-picking. Beautiful curated stories in knowledge zones help the organization understand category landscapes as well as the values, emotions and hopes of consumers. Knowledge zones are kept up to date so there’s one central source for information. “We connect the dots where others cannot,” said Fenny. “These knowledge zones help the organization ingrain storytelling to understand what’s driving consumers, and how Philips can tap into those opportunities.”
Rollo, the founder of the curation practice at Ipsos worldwide, emphasized the power of storytelling. Ipsos curators help brands anticipate how they can support people in this new world with cognitive empathy.
He said, “empathy has two sides: emotional ‘I feel your pain,’ and cognitive ‘I know how to help you.’” Curated stories help the business understand the person behind the statistics because marketers can’t just make decisions based on statistics and raw data. Video research is an important tool to help them understand the humanity behind the numbers.
Richard said effective market insights platforms automate workflows with standard best-practice templates, AI to retrieve existing knowledge, and collaboration support so all the people involved in the decisions that drive the research forward can align.
What’s more, said Richard, “as we standardize processes, insights managers have more opportunities for career movement and growth. Having standardized techniques, validated and understood by people, helps them focus on what the research is telling them.”
Of course, automation also provides an important line of sight to where the money is being spent and prevents duplication of research and knowledge gaps. A centralized budget allows for quick sign off, along with the ability to negotiate better deals with suppliers, Richard added.
As we go through this next stage, said Rollo, it’s important to accompany consumers on an emotional journey. Fenny agreed, saying we should lean into the demands that are emerging.
Even though we don’t know which trends will be sustained and which will fade, it’s still important to deliver on the changing customer expectations with excellence and use innovation to deliver our propositions. In the end, we can all use our tools to tell a human story and use big data to underpin it.