Insights Association addresses market research continuity during COVID-19


Never before has the catchphrase “Keep Calm & Carry On” held more meaning. The Insights Association’s most recent article by the organisation’s CEO, Melanie Courtrightprovides guidance for the market research industry, encouraging us to find a way forward in a time of disruption and change. With consumer behaviour changing daily, and sentiment following a rollercoaster alongside our rapid news cycles, it seems that insights and data analytics are more important than ever.  

However, we must strike a balance with sensitivity and empathy to the gravity of the situation we all now face. The article says: “Amidst the tumult, questions of self-doubt arise from those who seek insights and those whose job it is to provide them: Should we even being doing research now at all? Do we hit pause? Do we feel comfortable with the quality of data we’ll receive from an audience in crisis? What’s going to happen to response rates? Should certain topics, like health, illness, or travel be off limits?”

Melanie writes that even though our day-to-day work life may have shifted (with many of us working from home), we should “keep asking, keep observing and keep learning.” Brands want and need to stay connected to their customers, and the market research industry provides that important bridge. Beyond changes in purchase behaviour, understanding people’s fears, anxiety and feelings is important as we find a path back to a new normal.  

Our COO, JD Deitch, weighed in and was quoted in the article, saying, “As a researcher who has worked through periods of sustained crises (September 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Australian fires) I have seen in the market research industry that our work doesn’t stop even in times of great distress.” 

The article dives into how shifting sentiments and temporary mindsets affect insights during extreme emotional times, and why it is important to continue measurement and tracking. Data will help us be prepared for what’s coming next and prepare us for any long-term implications. How we get that data is also shifting, as in-person methods are “now virtually non-existent,” and researchers are turning to web-based platforms and applying best practices to garner ongoing quality insights. Many have been concerned about response rates in the time of COVID-19, and Melanie states that “Insights Association member companies – a wide set of agencies, telephone, and panel companies – report steady response rates overall.”

But it is worth keeping a close eye on. “According to Cint’s JD Deitch, it is impossible to predict whether overall participation levels will change. Tracking and normed studies are special areas of concern. Raw (unweighted) data should be trended across relevant subsample quotas and in affected regions beginning before the advent of the crisis until several months after its completion (whenever that may be), he writes. 

While the patterns of most of our lives have changed drastically in the short term, many are concerned about the road forward for consumer insights.  Behaviours may shift permanently, and measuring over time is vital so we can “see where things settle.” Melanie writes: “we must continue to measure.”

For more reading on this topic, see Coronavirus Pandemic: Response Rates, Participation, and Measurement in Market Research.