The importance of post COVID-19 usage and attitudes research
In market research, Usage and Attitudes (U&A) studies are a common tool that provides brands with a holistic understanding of the market in which they operate. Among other things, the purpose of U&A studies is to determine the size and value of the market for a specific product or service. The idea is to continually innovate product and service offerings, as informed by market needs and expectations, and thus sustain a competitive edge in the market.
Brands usually do not conduct U&A studies frequently. This is because consumer needs generally do not change too often, but rather evolve over time. However, there are instances when market dynamics change suddenly and drastically due to some unforeseen social, economic or such other developments. An example is the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic did not only disrupt health systems and economies, but also impacted consumers financially, psychologically, and behaviourally. For example, in trying to enhance their resilience against the virus, families and individuals are known to have changed their diet regimes. People changed product types, purchase frequencies, purchase channels, consumption occasions, and monthly budgets etc.
It is not known if or when the COVID-19 threat will be contained. But what is likely is that even after the epidemic has been fully contained, some of the consumer behaviours adopted during the pandemic will be retained going into the future. This could be because consumers may have accidentally found some relevance and benefits in some of these behaviours. Brands are therefore more-or-less obligated to conduct post COVID-19 U&A studies to investigate the nature and extent of consumer behaviour and other market changes occasioned by the pandemic. Such studies are important in answering the following critical questions, inter alia:
- How has has product/service consumption changed?
- What products/services are consumers now using?
- Why are they using those products/services?
- How frequently are they using the products/services?
- Which channels are they using to buy the products/services?
- How much are they spending on the products/services?
- Are the products/services performing to consumer expectations?
The research methodology for the post COVID-19 U&A studies will depend on such things as the target market profiles, product/service type and specific business objectives, but would typically comprise of both qualitative and quantitative research. As we have argued elsewhere, the most insightful research is where the statistics from quantitative research are given context and meaning by the "lived" experiences and perspectives of the consumers as gathered through qualitative techniques.