How Market Research Has Adapted to COVID-19

More than eight months have passed since the health contingency due to COVID-19 broke into the world. Each country has faced the epidemic in different ways with different results. Market research, like other economic activities, has had to adapt to forced marches to continue operating activities. Today we will talk a little about the experiences of the sector in Brazil and Mexico.

From the outset, when the epidemic broke out in Latin American countries, the vast majority of active projects were stopped, canceled and reformulated in their methodology. This stagnation was accentuated in those Latin American countries with the greatest lag in internet penetration since an important component of data collection among consumers is still done in person.

The multi-site solution was to rapidly adapt traditional methodologies to their online equivalents against the clock. Focus groups were replaced by meetings between consumers and moderator through platforms such as Zoom and Skype, and face-to-face interviews were replaced by telephone interviews or online panels. However, not everyone welcomed this response.

The Brazilian Association of Market Research Companies (ABEP for its acronym in Portuguese) shared a text by Marcos Coimbra pointing out the areas of opportunity for distance techniques to collect data among consumers. The most obvious is that in Latin America there are, even today, large gaps in access to electronic devices and the Internet at home. Therefore, segment rates cannot be guaranteed in all cases.

Coimbra also points out, based on its experience, that on certain issues the guidance of an interviewer in person is essential to properly conduct an interview. In addition, in many cases people quickly lose interest in answering an online interview if it is very long. So face-to-face interviews in person are far from being completely superseded by their online counterparts.

In Mexico, the situation is not very different. Today, various agencies and service providers for market research agencies return very carefully to face-to-face projects. For example, some survey companies are already sending their interviewers to apply questionnaires and some Gesell chambers already offer their spaces for product testing and group sessions.

To this end, the Mexican Association of Market Intelligence and Public Opinion Agencies (AMAI for its acronym in Spanish) published a Sanitary Protocol for the restart of activities. In this document, the AMAI collegiate body assigned to the issue, defined the steps and actions to be applied to the companies in the field to return to work in the field with as many guarantees as possible.

In the published document, despite the number of suggestions to replace the greatest number of processes with their virtual equivalents, it calls for the continuation of face-to-face methodologies, taking care at all times of the health integrity of researchers and consumers. This with the evident increase in fixed expenses of the companies in the industry.

The COVID-19 epidemic is far from reaching its end. Therefore, all the changes derived from the health contingency are yet to be known. We are at a stage where the reaction is done on the fly. The final consequences are just beginning to be seen. For brands, we suggest approaching the market research experts of each country or region in order to continue our work based on the situation of each market. The world will continue to spin with or without us.