The importance of customer understanding and remaining agile


By Rachel Ditchfield

The last year has been filled with questions for all of us; when can I book a holiday, why can’t I get an online delivery slot, and what will the world look like in six months’ time? At times it felt like there were more questions than answers.

What’s clear is that the past few months have reinforced the value of insight to businesses, as organisations seek to make sense of an increasingly uncertain world and subsequently behavioural insights are playing a greater role in corporate decision making.

One consequence of the pandemic is that businesses have become a lot more agile, setting themselves up to manage the now, but not losing sight of the future as well, as they try to understand to what extent behaviours will shift long term and what new behaviours we will engage in when restrictions end.

This was a key topic at this year’s MRS Impact Conference, with 56 keynote speakers discussing and debating the pandemic and the impact this has had on how they approach audience and market understanding under the banner of Transformation and Recovery. The speakers also explored the importance for organisations to have access to timely reliable insight, whilst acknowledging that there is a fine balance to be struck between gathering in the moment data to stay close to customers now, and understanding longer term trends, to guide organisations with strategy into the future.

Parvez Khan, Global Research and Insight Director at Pearson, discussed how COVID-19 has accelerated product roadmaps, whilst needing to constantly furnish the business with insights about the marketplace. Parvez also expressed thoughts around the stickiness of the behaviours that we’re seeing during the pandemic and to what extent would it last.

This experience was also echoed by Tim Warner, VP Insights at PepsiCo. Tim expressed how the shape of the work has also changed a lot, so PepsiCo have had to pivot. The overriding theme is one of agility and you can’t inform the business unless the insight is timely.

For Elaine Rodrigo, Chief Insights and Analytics Officer at Reckitt Benckiser, stickiness is the big question at the moment. Elaine expressed how we’ve all observed these huge behavioural shifts over the last 12 months, but the question is which of those are going to stay, what or which are going to stick and become permanent behaviours?

One thing that COVID-19 has taught us, is to be okay with not being 100% certain, because you know it’s going to change tomorrow anyway, so why don’t you just go with what you have.

Looking forward it was acknowledged that partners need to provide greater flexibility. We have to change and can’t be wedded to long term or medium term, it is whatever is important in delivering faster, more precise insights. At SMRS staying agile and adapting to change is a key part of our strategic approach with clients, utilising research to deliver actionable and ‘in-moment’ insight, from dissecting decision-making journeys to segmenting audiences through attitudinal and behavioural clustering.