Even as many aspire to be masters of all through the invention of science and technology, change will come when it will. The world was not prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak, which started like the harmattan wildfire, and before long spread across borders and boundaries leaving lots of casualties on its path. This is a sharp reminder that pandemics aren’t new to humans – they have happened before, and I’m sure COVID-19 won’t be the last of such pandemics. Even if we cannot prevent dangerous viruses from creeping in on us, COVID-19 simply warns us to be prepared in season and out of season for whatever may befall us.
The current pandemic has had severe economic consequences across the globe, and it does not look like any country will go unscathed. This not only has dire consequences for the economy; but on all facets of our lives and society as well. Indeed, COVID-19 has resulted in far-reaching changes in how we live, do business, and how consumers behave.
Shortly before we were faced with the reality of the pandemic, Research Intelligence was on the verge of going to press with a different cover story meant to focus on the market research industry outlook for 2020 but when the pandemic happened on us; we got a second chance to look again and re-evaluate the situation before releasing the report. We had sampled the views of leading market research professionals for our proposed cover story but we couldn’t go to press because of the lockdown. We sincerely apologize for this. We would like in this edition to review the current position of the market research industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The market research industry does not thrive in isolation from other businesses. In fact, the industry is service-oriented and whatever affects other businesses will definitely impact the sector, negatively or positively. For instance, the United States and Europe who are heavy spenders and consumers of research were also affected by the pandemic, and so this has had its toll on research businesses available to Nigeria and other African countries as the region is heavily dependent on the West for survival. The effect of this on the industry is the paucity of funds such that some market research companies in Nigeria, both indigenous and multinationals decided to downsize while some converted their staffs to consultants, and some had cut salaries in a bid to stay afloat.
in most countries, fieldwork in market research is still grounded as the lockdown is still in force with some still partially observing the WHO directive on social distancing and wearing of the facemask. It, therefore, becomes difficult to engage in face-to-face interviews under the WHO protocols for safety. The skeletal interviews that are currently being done in Nigeria are done via CATI and online. From the WHO standpoint that the COVID-19 pandemic has come to stay means that there are going to be new approaches to research methodology.
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has forced many businesses to close shop, leading to an unprecedented disruption of commerce in most industry sectors. Retailers and brands face many short-term challenges, such as those related to health and safety, supply chain, the workforce, cash flow, consumer demand, sales, and marketing. However, successfully wading through these challenges will not guarantee a promising future or any future at all because once we pull through this pandemic; we will emerge in a world different from the one we lived in before the outbreak.
Many markets, especially in the fields of tourism and hospitality, hardly exist now. All organizational functions are now prioritized and spending optimized, while tasks that will not bring value in the current environment are put in the cooler. Companies, especially start-ups, have implemented an indefinite hiring freeze. At the same time, online communication, online entertainment, and online shopping have witnessed unprecedented growth.