The Power of Perceptual Shifts and High-Caliber Predictive Qualitative Research

Come with us on a little reflective thought journey.  Read these directions, then close your eyes for a moment and for a short thought exercise.

  1. Take few deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth

  2. Travel back in your mind to February 2020, the month before US markets mandated shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. Covid-19 was still being reported as the Wuhan virus and had not yet entered the US

    • What was an average day like? ​

    • What trips did you have planned?

    • Did you commute to work?

    • What were you most concerned about?

  3. Really work for a moment to paint a picture in your mind of how you thought and felt.​

  4. Now think about the events of March 2020, as stay-at-home orders rolled out nationwide.

    • How did your life change?​

    • Did those changes happen fast or slow?

    • What did an average day look like with those changes?

    • How did your concerns change?

  5. Finally, fast forward like a movie through the events that would unfold for the next two years.  Could you have imagined or predicted the sweeping social changes and their impact between 2020 and 2022?  It might seem tough; so much has shifted.  Yet, that kind of insight is exactly what our predictive qualitative research did.

Pause

So what types of things were in the picture you painted from March 2020?

  • Did you stockpile essential supplies​?

  • How your buying habits shifted?

  • How long you initially anticipated you'd be at home?

  • Two weeks to flatten the curve?

  • Other adjustments and habits that changed?

  • Your first experience with regular use of Zoom, MS Teams, and other virtual platforms?

Chances are, you also thought about:

  • Grocery shortages

  • The rise in sanitizers of all kinds

  • Working from home was a novelty

  • Being at home for what initially felt like a welcomed vacation

Read on to learn more

We began our predictive qualitative project in April 2020, at the bleeding edge of the pandemic.  We summarized our findings in five core themes and a 26 page prophetic (yes, really) report.

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Here's what we predicted would shift:

Our Prediction:

    1.  Increased Need and Changing Definitions of Trust and Reciprocal Loyalty

 

     We seek comfort and consistency in times of crisis.  We expect more of our relationships and purchases. Decisions around masks, sanitation, and more fractured opening minds and wallets, to new choices.  Companies and brands needed to step up in fresh and evolving ways to show true reciprocal loyalty and trust.  Former fairly stable behaviors shifted across all markets sending shockwaves across all industries. 

What's Happened: 

  • The very basis/foundation of nearly all relationships shifted.

  • Major fractures of trust unfolded in politics, brands, and relationships.

  • The Great Resignation and work-from-home changed the playing field .

  • Online and delivery services soared in popularity, shifting perception of choice:  consumers simultaneously took on a global and local mindset.

  • Competition for repeat sales increased as loyal relationships in services degraded.

  • Choices to remain loyal to brands was often moved from end consumers to ‘shoppers’ looking for substitutes in the midst of supply chain shortages.

Our Prediction:

    2.  Renewed Appreciation for Deep Credibility and Expertise

     All avenues that seeded for the past two decades were tested and fractured under the strain of the pandemic.  Tech-based tools, interfaces, coupled with aggregation of ownership and skewed information sponsorship forced active public awareness of the questionable nature of information from what were once trusted resources.  Algorithm-led web experiences further caused constant questioning and doubt.  Information and opinion-saturated, A.I. generated media, and hyperbolic baselines to interactions ballooned.  

What's Happened:

  • Traditionally rock bed credibility cues, such as stating affiliation with established Universities or publications, came into sharp question; every leader came under question.

  • Established brands had to work harder to maintain market share under competition from cost-cutting copycats.

  • Voices going against the mainstream grain and separating from controlling institutions/associations found new paths to success and support; platforms such as Patreon and GoFundMe allowed compensation to flow in ways and at levels rarely seen before.

Our Prediction:

    3.  Refocused Desire for Purposeful Diversion

     Escapism has long been a stress reliever for a good deal of the population. Movies, media, amusement parks, concerns, and more have been the go-to diversions from everyday life. The impacts of a protracted pandemic have shifted this desire somewhat with people seeking deeper meaning in their diversions.

What's Happened:  

  • Online education/enrichment skyrocketed and forever shifted the landscape of higher education and certifications.

  • Hobbies transformed into “side hustles,” while MakerSpaces grew exponentially.

  • Thrifting and resale markets found their hey-day with sourcing and selling between individuals reaching record levels.

  • Travel goals shifted from ‘one day’ to ‘now’ for long-awaited experiences, destinations, and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

  • Employers looking to perform team building began tapping deeper unique learning/bonding experiences such as self defense workshops.

Our Prediction:

    4.  Renewed Inclination for a Heightened Sense of Control

     During times of sociological uncertainty, times in which systems and hierarchies exact changes that shift our daily lives, the desire for a renewed sense of control over lifestyle, work, and decisions is the natural consequence of feeling out of control on multiple levels. No one enjoys feeling like a mere pawn in a game where the rules are ever-rapidly changing.

What's Happened:

  • Tension between workers and organizations rose, especially as mandates ended and workers flexed their desire to continue working from home.

  • Some organizations even backed down on previous hard lines, such as United Airlines allowing unvaccinated workers that had been laid off to return.

  • Homeschooling took on a fresh meaning over the course of the pandemic, with a desire for families to control not only what their children were learning, but how they were learning and advancing.

  • The tension for control will continue.

Our Prediction:

    5.  Yearning for Freedom and Liberty

     Differing from a mere sense of control, determination for freedom speaks to the perception and rights around autonomy (within reason). Freedom finds its roots in liberty and can be taken for granted when it has not been tested or restricted for some time. The sweeping shifts and conflicting voices that bombarded American’s throughout the pandemic not only fractured essential trust, but led to entire swaths of the population feeling their very liberty and freedom were trampled upon. This sensation was true regardless of political affiliation, it simply manifested differently based on those other perceptions.

What's Happened:

  • The housing market experienced a massive shake-up.  Cities struggled as people left in droves.  Moving/buying sight unseen and more intersected.  

  • Crowds flooded sports arenas and stadiums for live events; families gathered and traveled to destination sites ("once-in-a-lifetime" became now)

  • New social media platforms came in waves, each trying to connect and solve the challenges of the last, tapping a desire for freedom of expression and thought.

Our clients and partners who had this information early on were able to make critical decisions regarding their policies, markets, and workforce

PLACING THEM MONTHS OR YEARS AHEAD OF THEIR COMPETITION DURING A GREATLY UNCERTAIN AND CHAOTIC TIME

Ask yourself...

What changes could you have made if you'd had us as your partner to provide this kind of powerful foresight on critical topics and questions?

How might you tap into this dynamic and compelling research, now laser-focused on YOUR teams & markets, to make stronger strategic decisions as the world continues to evolve rapidly?

The short and sweet of it is: ​if you want to know more about what customers or employees are thinking, our research ​can get you targeted and actionable answers.