Market research in the times of panic buying


Posted on 20 March 2020 Nik Samoylov


Consumer response to the COVID19 pandemic is not rational, not reflective of our normal shopping habits. Should you wait-off panic buying before resuming market research?

As I am writing this post, our world is facing a crisis that Angela Merkel has described as the biggest challenge since WW2. With this message, I want to first wish good health to all of you, your families, colleagues, and friends. Second, I want to share my thoughts on conducting market research in the coming few weeks.

It is not only a health crisis, but also an economic one and that of consumer behaviour. Shopping is simply not normal at the moment. Here in Australia, we have seen hoarding and panic buying of toilet paper, sanitary items, and food staples. In response to that, the government and supermarkets have introduced limits on sale of some items, including medicines. In your own country, you will be aware of similar behaviour: be it herbal teas in Indonesia or buckwheat in Russia. Consumer response to the COVID19 pandemic is not rational, not reflective of our normal shopping habits.

Since last month we have seen great falls in values of currencies, shares, and other financial instruments. A month ago, the world was living in the era of superabundant capital. Today, not many businesses know exactly what to expect.

Panic and uncertainty have spiked. You and your organisation already know that much. To all our users, I suggest holding off new fieldwork (data collection) for the next two weeks, unless your objective is specific to the current climate. Doing research now means opening your findings to two challenges:

  1. Can we trust data that was gathered at the height of panic buying?
  2. Did we need to reassess our research questions and business problems before starting fieldwork?

When to re-start it? At least, when panic buying subsides. If Australian experience is anything to go by, that takes some weeks from the peak of this behaviour. Quantity restrictions appear to be working in this land. Perhaps other countries may follow suit on the same path to normalisation, at least in this sense.

Life is not set to return to its old self for at least a few more months, but we hope that our collective good mood and good sense will come back to us as shoppers.

What could you do in this holding period?

  1. If you have an ongoing project, we suggest to reassess your research questions and refine your study. Our team are always here to talk through your research needs: https://conjointly.appointlet.com/s/consultation. We are also mostly working from home, so let’s connect and re-evaluate together.
  2. If you are not working on a project now, we are delighted to announce our recent acquisition of the Research Methods Knowledge Base by Prof Bill Trochim, now published on our website. It is one of the most widely referred-to and authoritative texts in social research methods. Enjoy the reading at https://conjointly.com/kb/.

Thank you and stay safe!

Nik Samoylov, Founder, Conjoint.ly