The pandemic has brought many realizations in areas such as spending and saving. Underlying issues on mental health awareness and the environment also received attention across different age groups.
Synergy Market Research + Strategic Consultancy conducted studies and consumer insighting on the impact of the pandemic on the customer. At the helm of these initiatives is founder and chief executive Germaine Reyes. A seasoned marketing and market research practitioner, Reyes held key directorship positions in The Coca-Cola Company’s Philippines Division; AC Nielsen; PAC/BBDO and Avellana & Associates prior to setting up Synergy.
The company, which has over 20 years of experience in market research and has worked with the Philippines’ Top 1,000 corporations and some global Fortune 500 companies, is the exclusive PH partner of YouGov, an international market research and data analytics company, offering high value-adding, unique digital research solutions that help brands become highly competitive.
Reyes shared the following insights that may help companies support the new landscape towards issues that matter most to customers.
The Synergy-initiated studies which had respondents aged 18 and above, were conducted through a series of regular online surveys via YouGov panel from July 2020 to December 2021. They posted significant findings on several areas of interest to marketers and brands that can help them stay relevant in these changing times.
The first area of interest was on savings and finance. Majority of the respondents are planning to save any windfall and a significant number are planning to invest in these further. As much as 61 percent say that they have started to increase their savings in May to June 2020, with the numbers decreasing slightly to 58 percent by March 2021.
E-wallet ownership incidence is highly noticeable now, with 70 percent saying that they have accounts downloaded on their mobile phones. There are 21 percent who say that they are engaged in cryptocurrencies—a new area for investing—with 47 percent believing that cryptocurrencies are the future of online financial transactions. In contrast, 21% say they have insurance investments.
“Our key insight is that given the financial shock experienced at the onset of the pandemic, the new customer is now more financially-attuned, possibly realizing the importance of ‘saving for a rainy day’ and looking into modern ways in investing/saving, financial platform usage,” said Reyes.
The green movement has gained more traction during the pandemic situation. The study has found that close to 7 in 10 are willing to pay more for environment-friendly products (66 percent). Majority are expecting companies to not just provide charitable practices but to look into the sustainability in their operations such as having an environment-friendly supply chain. They are also looking for companies with future-proof businesses in case another global event happens.
Reyes said, “consumers are now more attuned with sustainability ideas. This may become an imperative for marketing efforts—a differentiator—as consumers may start ‘asking for this’ and businesses aligned with consumer ideas/values, win. Gone are the days when sustainability is just a CSR effort but will now be at the forefront of marketing efforts for differentiation purposes but that this will eventually bring in ROI.”
State of mind
The uncertainty of the situation, along with fear of the virus itself, has compounded to bring mental health issues to the fore. Psychological distress levels were on the rise, with 80 percentof respondents reporting mild to severe psychological distress levels. What’s more, the youth have been found to be the most impacted: 9 in 10 of Gen Z’s say they experience mild to severe psychological distress – this is the highest incidence rate among generations and with the most pronounced severe symptoms.
To help alleviate the situation, people turned to their pets. Pet ownership grew during the time of the lockdowns, with people finding comfort in their furry companions. The survey showed that 90 percent of their respondents were pet owners.
“The incidence of mental health in the Philippines is pronounced among Gen Z’s primarily, followed by millennials. Millennials tend to have more ‘outlets’ to cope with negative emotions that may lead to psychological distress, while Gen Z’s tend to engage in these to a lesser degree. We believe that brands could serve as a ‘hero’ for this generation. Mental health is a real situation affecting the younger generation, and marketing can have a relevant role in alleviating this,”said Reyes.
The study found that employees have a preference for the work-from-home set-up even after COVID situation is over, and companies need to include this in their plans. Most would agree to a hybrid set-up, and a third still prefer to go to their workplace, either a personal preference or in a position/role that requires them to do so. It is good to note that females in the mid-income bracket are more in favour of going hybrid. “Perhaps this is a solution that companies need to heed so we don’t succumb to the ‘great resignation’ happening in other markets.“ Reyes said.
Reyes said it is important for brands to touch base with their market through surveys, especially when a big shift happens or as the country rise from the economic downturn that happened. This will help direct them on the next steps to take in order to engage the market more. Synergy’s services include YouGov’s syndicated solutions which are BrandIndex—a brand health tracking study and Profiles, a profiling tool that provides unrivalled granularity in terms of segmentation analysis. Other solutions include customized research solutions and ‘sachet’ research, a nationwide pay-per-question type of study.
Synergy also offered free online panel sessions from 2020 to 2021 for the business and marketing community to understand the consumers at that time.
“We needed to ensure that we are helping others, that they understand the consumers whose mindsets, habits and attitudes shifted during the pandemic. We wanted to help marketing professionals and decision-makers also anticipate customer needs and develop their continuity programs or marketing plans and strategies which became all the more relevant in the course of the pandemic,” Reyes said.