Five Market Research 'Soft Skills' You Can Nurture During the Pandemic Shutdown

We’ve pulled together advice, insights and musings, along with new thoughts from our team to give you five important market research skills to think about and develop.

Adapting and navigating our “new” way of life has been challenging, to say the least. As market researchers, many of us see our daily jobs shift to an increasingly digital format, including changing the ways we connect with respondents, collect and analyze data, and present insights. As we find ourselves settling into a rhythm, our workdays and personal lives may look very different from our “pre-pandemic” schedules. If there’s one thing this global shutdown has allowed us to do, it’s to rethink our priorities and areas of focus.  

We’ve pulled together advice, insights, and musings from some of our past content, along with new thoughts from our team, to give you five important market research skills to think about and develop during this time. While these are essential to our jobs as researchers, the truth is that we may have been neglecting them during the frantic pace of life. As this pace slows and changes, here are soft skills to consider nurturing in your own work: 


Always a favorite subject of ours, we’ve written a lot about finding ways to tap into this innate human trait. In fact, it may have been your sense of curiosity and excitement surrounding learning new things that made you enter your career in market research in the first place. We love the insights that Evette Cordy, author of “Cultivating Curiosity,” shared with us on the topic. This is a skill that can directly impact our jobs and the value we bring to the table. Rebecca Brooks of Alter Agents said: “a curious researcher who truly understands their client’s needs will deliver something unexpected and powerful.”


We’ve all had a crash course in this particular skill lately, haven’t we? In fact, our ability to adapt to different clients, situations, timelines, and pressures was a vital component of success in market research even before the COVID-19 pandemic. As in-person meetings have moved to video calls, and things like qualitative research have explored digital connections with respondents, adapting is the name of the game. Our EVP, John Bird, says that the shifts we’ve made to accommodate the crisis can be translated to game-changers in the way we deliver insights. We’re going digital already, so explore new ways of doing things like moving away from “death by PowerPoint” to “slick interactive reporting tools that are fun.”


This age-old skill will never fall out of favor. In fact, it is becoming more and more important in the age of information. Try your hand at some of the more interactive and dynamic tools, as John says above, to uncover the stories the data is telling you and your clients. In our paper, “What does it take to become a successful market researcher,” Lisa Wilding-Brown of InnovateMR said that being a good storyteller is key. “At the end of the day, if you are great with numbers, great with data, and then you fall short of articulating all of it into a meaningful message for your constituents, it is all a waste.”


In times of uncertainty, many people seek guidance from others. If you are looking for increased responsibility in the workplace, now is the perfect time to shine. As organizations - and individuals - may be struggling to find their way, this may be your moment to speak up and bring new ideas to the table. Don’t wait for others to take a leadership role; use this opportunity to make your voice heard. If you are already in a leadership role in your organization, take time to focus on essential skills such as making a positive difference in the lives of those you manage. During a crisis, this is very important as your acknowledgment of professional and personal challenges at this time can go a long way in building morale and keeping people productive.


We just wrote about the importance of this trait on our blog. When emotions are high and uncertainty reigns, a little bit of understanding and empathy can go a long way in the face of a crisis. Not only is this the right thing to do, but empathy for our respondents in market research can also have a positive impact on data quality. We want to understand what people are doing and thinking, and why they are behaving in a certain way and how they are feeling. Uncovering this depth of insight requires empathy. Putting insights into action, with empathy in mind, can help to build relationships, promote positive behaviors (like purchases) and boost loyalty. Tap into and nurture your empathetic side; it will serve you well in the consumer insights work you are doing.

Paul Neto of blockchain company Measure Protocol, also a contributor to our “successful market researcher” paper, said that it is a “willingness to take risks and experiment with new approaches that can spell success.” We invite you to experiment with your market research “soft skills.” It may feel a bit out-of-character or uncomfortable, or it may feel like coming home to something you may have forgotten about while keeping up with the demands of your daily schedule. You won’t be sorry!


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