Podcast: Understanding Consumer Behavior in CPG with Shira Horn

Shira Horn of AMC Global joins us on our market research podcast to discuss the critical role market research plays in helping organizations track and understand consumer behavior, especially in times of crisis.

On this episode of our market research podcast, we were joined by Shira Horn, Executive Vice President at AMC Global. AMC is a boutique custom research firm that specializes in product launch, and all facets related to product success. Shira has been with AMC for 3 years, and is committed to collaborating with clients to bring about insights that drive business answers and company growth.  She spoke with us about the importance of understanding consumer behavior, specifically in the CPG space, and how it contributes to long-term success - a fact that became abundantly clear during the huge behavior shifts during the pandemic. 

First, we covered the disruption of last two years, and how AMC Global responded by doing what they do best: research. The company began running an ongoing study with its partners at OpinionRoute (sample providers) to understand consumer behavior across a huge variety of subjects, categories and other pertinent topics that brands care about. They ran the studies often, as behavior changed rapidly, covering everything from shopping habits to COVID concerns, all the way to anticipated future consumption and product-specific purchase behaviors.

AMC Global shared the data collected far and wide in a series of reports. Shira said, "We wanted to be a partner to brands and other organizations trying to get through these tough times by providing data to help them understand consumer behavior. This information was for us, for our clients and for everyone, really.  In times of great uncertainty this was our way of understanding what was happening and gaining a bit of control – over what we know best – research and connecting with people."

In many ways, Shira said this ongoing study represented some of the company's core values of research stewardship, creative thinking and solutions, partnership building and integrity. By using the AMC's proprietary research methods, they were really able to dig in and find out not only what consumer groups were doing, but also what they planned to do in the future. The focus shifted as the pandemic progressed, with topics evolving to match timely trends, such as increased purchasing of cleaning products and level of comfort with eating out at first and then digging into other areas like sustainability as the pandemic wound down. The study is still underway, interviewing and gathering the opinions of hundreds of U.S. adult consumers on a regular basis. 

Shira highlighted some of the interesting data points they uncovered, including: 

  • Behavior is shifting to new tech adoption: ~50% of people want to continue to use QR codes/mobile menus at restaurants.
  • Change in beverage consumption: At the start of the pandemic alcohol consumption was very high, and 36% say they want to continue to buy “to go” cocktails from restaurants/bars. Now, we are seeing no- and low-alcohol consumption on the rise.
  • Environmental influence: 80% of consumers believe COVID-19 stay-at-home orders had a positive impact on the environment.
  • Corporate responsibility: 68% of consumers want to hear how companies are treating employees and handling their employee needs.
  • Supply chain: In the height of the pandemic product availability was the #1 concern and purchase driver, but now we’re seeing in some categories that has shifted back to "normal", but 2/3 of consumers expect to see more shortages throughout 2022 - this has been clearly evidenced by things like the recent formula shortage.

She also talked about COVID's impact on the business itself, and the fact that, for a while, no strategic research was taking place because long-term plans could not be made. Consumers could not be counted on to think more broadly and provide opinions on things that weren’t immediately affecting their little bubble. This didn't last long, as they quickly moved into into qual and tactical work for clients. Now, AMC Global is back to doing all types of research, including strategic innovation and product launches, but Shira notes, "we can’t forget that the landscape in some categories may have shifted permanently."

Shira said, "In a way, COVID reset the world, including research. We were forced to pause, think and recommit to what matters most to each of us. Our ongoing study felt like the responsible thing to do – provide small nuggets of information that reflect the current status. I’m proud of AMC for committing to this, and leveraging our brainpower for the greater good. We uncovered some fascinating stuff."

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