“Engage with your clients and consumers before you make any changes to your messaging. How you interact with consumers and clients show you care about them, not just about profits.” says Phil Ahad, Chief Digital Officer of Toluna in an exclusive interview to TCMO.

TCMO Bureau- What, according to you, is the role of consumer insights for business decision making?

Phil Ahad- Informed decisions are always better than off-the-cuff guesses. By conducting real-time and high-quality research, businesses can strategically turn instances and data sets, historical behaviors, and predictive behaviors into strong recommendations.

Understanding consumer sentiment and behaviors through research are more critical than ever. It’s crucial to know what consumers need today and how your offering fits their needs. If businesses don’t understand that quickly, they may be wasting time, resources, and missing opportunities.

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Research enables businesses to prove or disprove proposed strategies and have the agility to adapt accordingly. Consumer insights are a tool within this decision-making process, and ultimately drive businesses to the right strategy.

TCMO Bureau- How important is the consumer perception to save a failing business?

Phil Ahad- Consumer perception is always important. Unfortunately, many great products or brands fail because there’s no need for the solution or product anymore. Some brands have a strong consumer perception, but their business model no longer works – which is why it’s critical to continuously understand where your consumers are, what they need, and what their priorities are.

TCMO Bureau- What role does market research play in helping organizations’ tide over unforeseen circumstances like pandemics?

Phil Ahad-Market research measures changing consumer sentiment and empowers marketers with the right information to double down or pivot their strategy.

Information is power. As the pandemic hit, all of our behaviors changed. Not just the way we use, consume, and buy products – but the way we live, changed. Product owners, brand owners, and marketers did not know precisely how to engage, when to engage, or when to start building a business again.

Some industries could continue executing their preexisting strategies. Others had to pivot their strategy 180 degrees for the rest of the year – and likely longer-term. They had no idea how consumers would engage with products or services. For instance, consumer package goods brands like Lysol and Clorox didn’t have to change at all. In contrast, travel and entertainment brands had to shift dramatically because they were last on consumers’ minds.

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Market research provides the tools companies need to better build their strategy and pivot their products, communications, positioning, and messaging – significantly if their audience has been severely affected by the pandemic.

We recently launched our end to end research platform Toluna Start to help companies understand changing consumer sentiment in real-time, including their needs, interest in products, and how that will change in the future.

Likely, no one is interested in taking a cruise vacation today, but they might be down the road. Toluna Start enables companies to understand when those interests shift. It also allows them to understand if consumers will react positively or negatively to a campaign or product. To remain competitive, it’s critical for companies to understand tomorrow, today.

TCMO Bureau- What are the ways to interact with clients/consumers during uncertain times, without appearing to be profit-driven?

Phil Ahad- Stay authentic to your brand and your brand voice. Carry how you were speaking to your consumers through times of prosperity, through times of uncertainty. No one will think you are taking undue advantage of a pandemic or other challenging time if you remain consistent and loyal to your brand values.

It’s also important not to change the way you communicate to clients, consumers, or prospects. Tough times don’t necessarily mean you should stop your email or social communications or ad campaigns.

Engage with your clients and consumers before you make any changes to your messaging. How you interact with consumers and clients shows you care about them, not just about profits. Testing is crucial to gauge how they will receive your messaging. Companies need to leverage agile solutions like Toluna Start to test messaging, creative copy, and campaign ideas to ensure they resonate. Authenticity is vital, and people can see through companies who are not staying true to themselves.

A great example of brand consistency is Nike. They haven’t produced much messaging on the pandemic, but they’ve been very vocal about equality because justice has always been important to them. They’ve stayed consistent and authentic to their values, and consumers take notice.

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TCMO Bureau- Should organizations continue communicating with their consumers or refrain from it until the situation improves? 

Phil Ahad- Most importantly, you must understand your audience as their perceptions and needs change. If your consumers do not need what you’re offering during a specific period, you must wait until the right moment. You’ll never know what the right moment is without market research.

All companies must keep a finger on the pulse and understand their audience’s specific sentiment. Understand what your customers’ concerns and needs are at this moment in time, and act accordingly.

Phil Ahad is responsible for leading the vision, development, and strategy for Toluna’s digital market research products suite. He is sincere about identifying first look technology and trends that innovate companies, industries, and business concepts. Phil has a broad range of digital product leadership and marketing experience, focused on automation and disruption across all industries. He has been in senior leadership roles from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.