Back to the Future with Christine Schapdryver (Aveo)

The current pandemic has not only marked consumers and brands, it also challenged research and insights professional to rethink current practices and approaches. What’s the impact of COVID-19 on how we organize consumer research? Do organizations experience an increasing need for consumer insights? Will digital research become the norm?

To answer these and other questions, we connected with client-side researchers for a series of ‘Back to the Future’ interviews, to hear their take on the future of market research. In this particular interview, we connected with Christine Schapdryver, Customer Insights Manager at Aveo Group, a leading owner, operator and manager of retirement and aged care communities across Australia, to hear her take on how COVID-19 has fuelled consumer-centric thinking, digital research and workshopping.

#1 We’ve never been as consumer-centric as we are now

Q: Has COVID-19 fueled the need for consumer-centric thinking?

“Customer centricity is hot, it is a buzzword in many ways. But we’ve been trying to do more than have it as a buzzword. We’ve been on a journey to reshape our organization in being customer-centric for the last year, year and a half, and I must say that COVID has changed things quite significantly. Prior to COVID it was a process that was gaining ground. If anything, COVID accelerated the need to understand our customers, and has driven us to change things in the organization.

We all work with very clever people, who all have a good understanding of the business. Then all of a sudden (with COVID19) it’s as if we’re flying blind; you’re not really certain what people think or feel, and how they will behave as a consequence of this crisis. So what we started to do very quickly is to build in more agility in our research. We had some research projects running and we very quickly tagged on a few COVID-specific questions to really be on track with measuring the customer sentiment.

I must say that customer insights as a function was very anchored into the marketing team, and now that we are a few months into COVID, it would absolutely be right to say that customer insights has become a function that impacts the whole business. And that is true customer centricity, right, if you are looking to put your customers front and center of everything you do?

#2 The future of MRX is digital only

Q: How has COVID-19 accelerated digital research?

“There are a lot of preconceptions about our target audience which, if I may say, are absolutely wrong, as we have done digital research in the past with our audience, and with great success. Our customer cohort, whilst being older, absolutely embrace technology, especially in communication. They have family that live across the globe, across Australia, a big country as you know; staying connected happens through digital channels, and that is not different because you happen to be 75 years old. As COVID-19 forced our entire organization to switch to digital tools, such as Zoom or Teams calls, I witness there is a growing openness for digital research. Similar for moving online with workshopping.

#3 The future of workshopping is digital

Q: Is virtual the future for research presentations and workshops?

“It’s been an interesting process and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Workshopping via Teams or Zoom is definitely not a one-on-one replication of a face-to-face meeting, and we’ve put some time and effort in considering what would work. Instead of organizing a half-day workshop, we now plan a two-hour working session online with some pre-work, an approach with very positive results. This pre-work allows people to reflect upfront and provide their input, which ensures we engage everyone – from the most silent to the loudest voices in the organization. Everyone is equal, as we go through this journey together. During the online meeting, we can play back what’s been done during this pre-work as an integrated piece of work, which has absolutely increased our efficiency and effectiveness. If we compare this to our traditional approach, we found that during offline workshops we are very motivated and in-the-moment, but when the day is over, we step away from the meeting and what we have discussed. So, moving forwards, we want to integrate the best of both worlds. We believe we should not have just one connection point, but embrace this idea of engaging everyone, taking people on a journey. Combining pre-work with digital check-in meetings is highly efficient. Therefore, this will be a way of working that we will continue to do.”

In summary, the current pandemic has transformed customer centricity and agility from buzzwords to day-to-day realities. The same holds for the digital transformation of business and research. Positive experiences with digital research and workshopping have led to new ways of working that are likely to stick around.

Hungry for more? Stay tuned as we will release more ‘Back to the Future’ interviews in the coming weeks! Or get in touch to find out how we can guide you to get a grip on the changes impacting categories, consumers and brands across the globe.

Back to the Future interview series

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