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A report from the management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/meet-the-next-normal-consumer#), confirmed a belief that many of us suspected was the case: “consumer behavior has changed radically in response to the COVID-19 lockdown.”  The report asserts that “the period of contagion, self-isolation, and economic uncertainty will change the way consumers behave, in some cases for years to come,” and that these changes will be reflected “across every aspect of their lives.”  Furthermore, “understanding which changes are likely to stick will help companies plan for the recovery.”  This philosophy most certainly applies to arguably all industries, including radio.

It is for this very reason and with the understanding that consumer attitudes are still evolving that it’s become resoundingly clear that companies should focus on their “ability to collect data and qualitative feedback to stay ahead of the trends.”  In fact, our position at Global Media is that this could potentially be one of the worst times to stop doing consumer research.  Utilizing quality research to stay as consistent as possible with your measurement of current sentiments as well as monitoring usage and behavioral changes enables broadcasters to wade more wisely through the turbulent market climate and to make the best programming and marketing decisions, both in the short and longer term.

Given that the virus’ presence is expected to ebb and flow, radio stations that want to optimize their market share have to understand if and how behaviors and sentiments are shifting over this time, rather than waiting for the crisis to pass and hoping to return to “business as usual.”  Consumer research, whether it be a full-market perceptual study, an online music test, or an online content analysis test, is critical to obtaining actionable and constructive feedback on the changing needs for a station’s on-air as well as its digital products.  

McKinsey echoes a finding that we are seeing as well in our proprietary research throughout this unsettled time, i.e. that media consumption is up.  “Media consumption has increased in almost all channels. Forty-three percent of consumers are watching more television, 40 percent are using more social media, and 28 percent are listening to more radio.”  In our studies (for which, as an aside, participation rates are “off the charts”), we are also finding that radio usage is on the rise, and consumers consistently expect radio stations to deliver primarily on their pre-pandemic promise.  In other words, a CHR station that’s been known for today’s hits and fun and entertaining DJs needs to continue to deliver on this expectation.  Listeners want and expect to be entertained, and the best stations are doing everything they can to make sure that both the music and non-music products are as appealing as possible, which is clearly where research plays a vital role.  

In addition to all of the threats our industry is enduring from the likes of YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and others in that environment, consumer preferences toward media outlets are changing rapidly, probably more dramatically than any of us have seen in our lifetimes.  As consumers evolve and evaluate how and with whom to spend their precious leisure time, it’s essential that companies adapt too, and the smartest companies are working overtime to research and connect with their targets.  Asking the right questions, garnering the most actionable answers from consumers, and putting these insights into topical and hyper-relevant strategies is how the most prosperous firms (and our most successful clients) can best prepare themselves for the future.