Did COVID Break your Tracking Study or Did It Actually Fix It?

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before – COVID has changed the world. In nearly the blink of an eye, consumers’ attitudes, shopping behaviors, and nearly everything else underwent massive changes – new habits emerged that normally take years to fully develop.

It’s easy to identify numerous things that are normal to you now that maybe weren’t even on your radar in 2019. Is it picking up your groceries without going into the store? Getting takeout delivered using one of the myriad of food delivery services? Is it working from home rather than in an office? It can be any of these, plus millions of others.

This creates both challenges and opportunities for brand tracking studies. If you’re measuring attitudes and behaviors the same way today as you did before COVID, you almost certainly saw a disruption in your data.  You may be starting completely over in how you ask and measure key brand metrics.  This allows you an opportunity to update your questionnaire – creating a mobile-first design, reducing the length of interview, asking questions differently, etc.

It’s also the perfect time to rethink how you sample.  One of the most important items when making decisions on tracking (or any survey) data is confidence that there is no sample bias.  Now is the opportunity to rethink your sample design. 

We have been saying this for a long time – online panels are very different from one another.  From how they recruit their panelists, how respondents are incentivized, to how the overall panel is managed – this causes panels to be different from one another, and the attitudes and behaviors of their panelists to differ.  You can see how panels differ in the image below from The Sample Landscape 2021 report we publish annually.  (You can download your copy here).  Online panels are also not immune to changing over time – online panels today look very different than they did two years ago. 

McDonald’s Brand Awareness

The panels you were using for your tracker have fundamentally changed – particularly the attitudes and behaviors of their panelists.

All Is Not Lost

COVID has given you an opportunity to rethink your tracking study, as if you were starting from the ground up.  You can redesign your questionnaire, optimize your timing and fielding schedule, and create a new strategic blend of panel providers that is balanced to not only provide you the feasibility you need per wave, but also creating a more representative respondent pool so you can make the correct business decision without fear that sample error is driving it.

Here at EMI, we can help you with developing a new sample plan, one that can withstand changes to the market, as well as once-in-a-generation events.  We specialize in creating strategic sample blends, custom to your individual projects, using our patent approach, IntelliBlend®. We create a blend that not only provides you feasibility and consistency wave-to-wave, but balances the attitudes and behaviors of panels, so you have optimal representation in your respondent pool.

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