Understanding the Impact of a Global Pandemic on Buying Behavior
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a major manufacturer of a consumer hygiene product noticed their sales were shifting. With the onset of the pandemic the entire way consumers look for and purchased products was turned upside down. Without the ability to go to shops and see or touch products, consumers were forced to find alternatives. The manufacturer realized the need for research on consumers’ buying behavior. Understanding if and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted consumers’ interest and purchase of a particular product became the critical need. Were the changes temporary or permanent?
In addition, to exploring consumers’ purchase behaviors, the manufacturer wanted to explore how their key channel partners and influencers were impacted by COVID-19 as well as what long term impact it might have on their ability to show, recommend and sell their hygiene products. The key channel partners included showroom consultants, designers and contractors.
To remain neutral on potential findings and ensure unbiased results through a blind study, the manufacturer turned to their research company, Accountability Information Management, Inc. (AIM) to design and implement a multi-facet research program. The manufacturer requested the research address the following objectives: 1) understand more specifically why consumers were interested and bought this product; 2) explore what impact COVID-19 had on their decisions; 3) learn how and why they bought it at a specific place; 4) find out why they bought a specific brand; and 5) evaluate the consumers’ satisfaction and experience with the product purchased.
For the channel partners and influencers, the manufacturer wanted to learn more about how their business and their involvement with their product was impacted by COVID-19 and understand what benefits and features customers were looking for. In addition, they wanted to learn more about their customer’s brand preference and product satisfaction.
To maximize the success of getting accurate market and product information, AIM structured the research to include both qualitative and quantitative research. Since getting to the heart of a consumer’s selection and purchase decisions on a hygiene product can be complex and difficult to understand, AIM proposed the research start with phone interviews to provide detailed insight into various factors and issues that were driving the customers’ selection and purchase behavior. To get the best all-around picture of the consumers buying process, AIM conducted interviews with both consumers and professionals. By talking directly to consumers and professionals, AIM was in a better position to design a quantitative survey instrument to measure the key information the client needed and wanted to meet the objectives of the research.
To help the manufacturer learn firsthand what consumers were thinking and how they made decisions, AIM recorded the consumer interviews. By listening to consumers candid comments, the client had a better understanding of how consumers make their product selections as well as what is important to their selection and purchase of the product. Finding professionals involved with recommending, selling, or installing the product was also challenging during the pandemic, but AIM’s experience conducting research with showroom consultants, designers and contractors helped get the information the manufacturer needed.
AIM used the information from both the consumer and professional interviews to structure an online survey that met the research objectives. Using AIM’s in-house web designers and programmers, AIM was able to design two online surveys quickly and efficiently. AIM worked closely with the manufacturer to ensure the survey instruments addressed the key information needed from both audiences. To provide the client a balanced national overview, AIM included target demographic and other quotas. For professionals, a balance was based on region, type involvement in products and job function. For consumers, the representation was based on type of product purchased, income, age, region and purchase date were used.
One of the challenges of this research program was finding consumers that met the research criteria — had purchased such a particular product. In addition, since the objective was to find out what impact COVID-19 had on the purchase behavior, AIM needed to balance the respondents between those that purchased the product before the pandemic and those that purchased during or after COVID-19 started.
For both the qualitative and quantitative research, AIM was able to successfully meet all the manufacturer’s objectives and provide valuable market perspective to assist in making business and marketing decisions. AIM completed 20+ consumer phone interviews with a sample over 400 consumer respondents for the quantitative research. For professionals, AIM completed 20 phone interviews with a sample of 300+ responses in the quantitative research. The research report provided the manufacturer with specific insight on consumers’ selection and purchase decisions with details on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on this process. It enabled the manufacturer to accurately understand the impact of COVID-19 on their product purchases. They were able to adjust accordingly as the lockdowns continued (i.e., more closely examining online opportunities).
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