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The ongoing storm – why you need research now – markets

A series of ten views – view 3, the market view   

Why you need to research your markets now – the market view

In the last two articles we have highlighted the major shocks that organisations and individuals are continuing to face from the lack of certainty and volatility in the world that we live in now. The transition period following Brexit has ended but COVID continues to have a significant impact on us all.

Many organisations continue to face major challenges due to this.

In our work and personal lives we all need something that we can anchor our plans around.

From a business perspective, we need to understand as best we can what is going on in the marketplaces that we interact with. This has always been the case but in the current climate it is more important than ever that we have this insight to enable us to create a roadmap for the future.

Understanding your markets

After researching the foundations of your organisation – its people and its customers – the next area to explore is your markets.

“Before we do anything from a strategy perspective, it is vital to know where we are now.”

So what are the key things we need to know?

  1. What is the impact on the market(s) that you are in from the major shocks over the past year?
  • How have they changed?
    • Have they grown?
    • Different dynamics. A shift in the way in which the market(s) work.
    • Declined?
    • Stayed the same?
    • Frozen?
    • Disappeared?
  • What are the main factors that have caused the changes and why?
  1. How has your organisation performed against these changes?

Research will usually reveal things that we didn’t know. It is more than possible, therefore, that we may not have been aware of some of the market changes that have happened. Where you have identified changes:

  • What have you done to address them?
  • What has worked?
  • What hasn’t?
  • What measures have you used? For example:
    • Market share
    • Turnover
    • Profit or loss
    • ROI
    • Customer value
    • Customer retention
    • Likelihood to recommend
  • Which are new for the past year?
  1. What about your competitors?

How are your competitors doing? What are they doing?

Think about the wider competitive environment too. What is changing? How are these changes affecting your organisation?

  • We looked at changing customer behaviours and expectations in episode two. How are these affecting your position in your markets?
  • Are there new products or services that have appeared in your market(s) over the last 12 months that satisfy needs that you used to?
  • Are others (new companies or existing competitors) trying new routes to market(s)?
    • Who or what are these?
    • Can you compete with them effectively?
  • Have there been changes in the supply chain? How do these affect you, if so?
  1. What is likely to happen next?

What else might be on the horizon to add further shocks to the business environment?

“Scanning and seeking to interpret future changes to the business environment has never been so important.”

It may seem obvious but continual scanning and reporting on the business environment is vital:

  • What political changes may happen that will affect your marketplaces? Think about your customers and potential customers here.
  • Climate change is a hot issue from an environmental perspective. What might happen that would affect your market(s) in the near to medium future?
  • What social changes are happening that may affect you and your customers?
  • What technological changes are imminent?
    • Which of these are likely to affect the markets that you are in?
  • What likely economic changes will affect you and your markets the most?
  • What regulatory changes might impact you and your markets? For example, we are by no means out of woods in terms of data transfers from the EEA to the UK yet.

Trying to read the future and planning against some of the likelihoods are key to developing a roadmap that you and your organisation can follow.

  1. What do you need to consider?

Having researched the above areas, what do the findings mean?

  • What do you need to change to create a more sustainable business for the future?
  • What opportunities exist for new products and services in markets that you are in now?
  • What about opportunities for these products and services in markets that you don’t currently target?
  • Are there opportunities for your current offerings in other markets?
  • What new market areas could benefit from your organisation’s capabilities – especially your people’s skills and knowledge?
  • Should you withdraw from some of your markets?

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

…are you in the right marketplace(s)?

…are you surfing the waves, stuck in the shore break or sinking?

… how can you pivot your organisation’s capabilities to the meet the opportunities in current and/or new markets?”

If you would like a sounding board for any of this, let’s put a Zoom meeting in the diary

 

 

 

The perfect storm – Why you need research now – customers

A series of ten views – view 2, customers   

Why you need to research your customers now – the customer view

In the last article we highlighted the major shocks that organisations and individuals are facing from the continuing uncertainty and volatility in the current environment.

Ten things to explore now

We suggested that there were ten key areas that organisations should strongly consider exploring right now. The top two are:

Understanding your customers

 

Having understood the foundation of any organisation – its people – the next key area to explore is your customers.

“Without customers an organisation would cease to have a purpose.”

Changes in customer behaviour and expectations

Customers’ perceptions and attitudes are undoubtedly shifting. They were already changing but these have accelerated significantly due the impact of COVID, especially.

“It is more important than ever to find out what your customers think and feel”

The customer view

So, what are the key things we need know now?

  1. How have your customers’ expectations changed in 2020?

In simple terms, what do they want from you?

Gain feedback from them on their experiences with you and your products and/or services. What do they say about areas such as?

  • Usability of products or services
  • Digital communications
  • Website functionality
  • Social media
  • How you could improve
  1. How do you measure up?

Obvious perhaps, but how well do you meet their expectations?

Which of your competitors are better or worse than you, in their view?

  1. What are the gaps?

How close or far are you from what you have discovered?

  1. How have customer behaviours changed in relation to your organisation in 2020?
  • How loyal are they to your organisation?
  • Would they recommend you to others? If not, why not?
  • What has changed in terms of their relationship with your organisation?
    • Are they more or less loyal?
    • Are they considering alternative products or services and/or providers more or less than previously? How is this manifesting itself in purchase patterns?
    • Are they sourcing your offerings in a different way? For example, a marked shift to online vs. physical locations.
    • Are they finding you in different ways? More online discovery, for example.
  1. What is keeping them awake at night?
  • What are your customers thinking?
  • What are their fears and concerns – both now and for the future?
  • What are their levels of confidence and optimism?

What does this mean for your organisation? What can you do to support your customers as a result?

  1. What do they think of you?

What are their overall perceptions of you as an organisation? Explore areas such as:

  • Their view of your values and purpose including: your approach to the environment; the community; societal responsibility and sustainability
  • How they would describe or position you?
  • Your organisation’s relevance to their values and beliefs
  • Do they trust you?
  • Product and/or service quality
  • Price
  • Communications and messaging
  • Responsiveness
  • How well you look after their data
  • Developing new products or services that meet their needs and wants
  • Do they know what your organisation’s aims for the future are? Have they seen your ‘roadmap’? If so, what do they think of it?
  • What they think of your people. How does this match up with the employee view?

Techniques such as sentiment analysis can help give insight into some of these.

  1. What would they like to see you do for them next?

They may just tell you!

THE BOTTOM LINE

“Fundamentally…

…how engaged are your customers with your organisation?

…how relevant do they see what you offer to them being?”

Can you answer all of the above areas with confidence?

If you have answered ‘no’ or ‘not sure’ and need some help with this, let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect storm – Why you need research now – employees

A series of ten views – view 1, employees   

Everyone has their own take on the situation that organisations are facing at the moment. As an experienced researcher, I have always seen my role as being to reflect on the data before providing insights. It seems like now, more than ever, is the right time to publish a series of thought pieces on why we need marketing research.

The perfect storm?

Recent research that we have undertaken for a client has clearly indicated that, in the UK, organisations are keenly aware that we are in the eye of two key ‘storm fronts’ currently – to use the ‘perfect storm’ analogy.

  1. COVID
  2. Brexit

The business landscape

The business environment is being shaken in numerous ways, resulting in the following:

  • Uncertainty

There is a continual lack of clarity resulting from the ongoing ‘storms’.

  • Volatility

This means that the sheer rate of change is affecting our views of the world around us. Constant change can be very unsettling for many of us. It is impacting on previous cultural and behavioural norms significantly.

Challenges

Organisations are facing major challenges including:

  • Sink, swim or surf

Of course, there will be some organisations that will benefit from these times but many others from sectors that will be obvious to most of us are still in survival mode. The impacts on financial aspects and all stakeholders, especially employees, are clear to see.

  • Cash

Tightening the purse strings is an inevitable reaction by those facing survival challenges.

  • Hybrid/home working

WFH (working from home) is on everyone’s agenda at this time. It provides opportunities and challenges in equal measure. It is important to recognise that it doesn’t suit everybody! Depending on our personality and behavioural traits, we will find this shift easy or hard to make.

  • Employees’ work/life balance

WFH has an impact on work/ life balance. Many have found the experience very positive but it remains a challenge for others too. Once the novelty has worn off, it can be hard to maintain a balance.

  • Shifts in the psychological contract

Employees are changing the way they view their relationships with employers. Redundancies, job market uncertainty and fear, both short and long term, are contributors to this.

  • Individuals’ focus on personal safety, security and survival

As a result of all of this, some individuals have been pushed into ‘survival’ mode. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if safety and physiological needs are under threat self-fulfilment is not a key priority.

  • Providing clear direction

A key challenge for leaders in organisations is the critical need to communicate a clear direction during uncertain times.  A ‘roadmap’ for the future, as one respondent to the research described it so well.

  • Changes in customer behaviour and expectations

Our customers’ perceptions and attitudes are shifting too. They were already changing but the catalysts have accelerated this by a significant factor. The move to more online discovery and purchase are obvious, but, perhaps not as immediately visible, are the changes to brand loyalty and the time being spent on exploring alternative options.

Ten thoughts on what you need to research now?

There are plenty of things keeping business leaders awake at night but the key question to answer is:

“What do I really need to know about…?”

I have arrived at ten key areas that need to be considered for exploration now:

  1. Your employees
  2. Your customers
  3. Your markets
  4. Your organisation and internal communication
  5. Your processes
  6. Your products and services
  7. Your competitors
  8. Your strategy
  9. Your marketing communications
  10. Your brand

The first two, in particular, are intended to be in priority order.

Number one must be our people. Without them as the foundation, the other areas would not be important.

Customers would come a very close second.  Without customers an organisation would cease to have a purpose.

The employee view

Back to our core question: what do we really need to know and understand about our people?

As a matter of some urgency, we need to ensure we have a clear view as to the following:

  • Satisfaction
  • Levels of engagement with the organisation
    • Do they feel they belong?
    • Do they feel part of a team?
    • Are they being effectively managed
    • Do they know how they are doing?
    • Are they looking to move to another organisation when the opportunity arises?
  • Emotional states
    • Well being
    • Mental health
    • Self esteem
    • Loneliness
    • Vulnerability
  • Physical health
  • Sense of direction – do they know what the leaders’ plans are?
  • Levels of security or insecurity
    • Financial
    • Emotional
    • Relationships
  • Extent of team working
  • Attitudes to WFH and hybrid working
    • There may be pressure on some to be positive about WFH. Will it be the new ‘normal’? Will people feel able to voice their true feelings about it?
  • Extent to which work/life balance is being realised

Why you really need to know about your employees now…

There is no time like the present to make sure that we fully understand the state of our employee base.

If you need help researching this, let’s talk.