A crisis is an opportunity to accelerate the transformation, – CEO Kantar Ukraine
Svitlana, Kantar has a long history in Ukraine and will celebrate the twentieth anniversary this year. You have been working for the company historically, since its foundation. Please, tell us about the changes that have occurred in the company for 20 years.
The most important things characterizing our company for these 20 years are continuous changes, rebranding, and transformations. Moreover, if earlier changes had been taken place once in 4 years, now – once a quarter. I may tell that working in a company is not boring at all. We have started as a representational office of an international company in Ukraine – TNS Ukraine, which is specialized in conducting surveys and researches on various topics. We have always strived to be as helpful as possible to our clients in understanding their markets and consumers. For this reason, we have invested in the development of new techniques. However, over time, the methods became insufficient – our clients were looking for partners and consultants to help to develop their businesses in Ukraine. By that time, we have accumulated knowledge and experience in understanding Ukrainian consumers. Therefore, in the last few years, our company has undergone a very important transition from a company that offers researches to a company that is ready to share its expertise with clients and become a trusted advisor for business development and growth on the market. In 2020, we became a full member of Kantar. This means that the company makes a complete transition to Kantar’s business principles, following all the rules and maintaining a high image of the company on the Ukrainian market. At the same time, we aspire to optimize the data collection process and launch a new platform – Kantar Marketplace. Surely, our requirements for and expectations of our employees are changed. Our consultants are our pride and future.
Pandemic was a shock to the world and Ukraine in particular. Has the pandemic changed the scope of marketing research? What future do you see for this industry?
Few of us could have predicted the possibility of a global pandemic in early 2020. Mass lockdowns around the world have shocked businesses and consumers. But any crisis is an opportunity. Kantar used this opportunity to speed up the transformation, which was previously planned to take 5 years, and as a result of the pandemic, it will be completed in 3 years. As to the researches, the changes primarily affected the methods of collecting information. The online and telephone surveys, which are possible to be conducted regardless of lockdown, have become the relevant methods. They are safer for everyone – both respondents and interviewers. This was acknowledged even by agencies that offered only personal interviews before the pandemic. The clients focus on maximum speed in obtaining research results and an adequate price, because their budgets have been cut. For clients who are developing their businesses and focus on partnership in decision-making, an important criterion for choosing an agency is expertise and trust in the agency based on successful cases of cooperation with other companies. The quality factor of data collection has ceased to be a priority and shifted to the area of the hygienic factor. We see a clear separation of agencies into the cheap local ones and the international expert ones who rarely can compete with each other. The agencies are divided into those collecting data and those focusing on selling their expertise and consulting.
From the first days of the quarantine, Kantar started holding Kantar No Panic Talks webinars during which you have shared information about what is happening to consumers in Ukraine. Did COVID-19 come as a shock to your company, and how did it affect Kantar?
Over the last 2 years, Kantar in Ukraine has become more open in a desire for sharing knowledge and experience in the field of marketing research. We think of businesses in Ukraine, so we are happy to share information that opens a deeper understanding of Ukrainian consumers. When the quarantine has been introduced, we realized that the business got stuck in anticipation. Therefore, we needed to provide landmarks and navigation points for brands to be able to make decisions and do not stop at the epicenter of the crisis. Over the past year and a half, we have held 36 Kantar Talks events (the name we came up with during the lunch break in August 2019). This allowed us to start working with new clients and completely changed the perception of us in the eyes and hearts of our clients. We are approached for advice and recommendations. For our part, we are happy to inspire businesses to grow.
You are well aware of what is happening to business and consumers in Ukraine. What consumer trends during a pandemic can you note? What advice can you give to a business?
There are new trends in the way of living of the Ukrainians, specifically, they now tend to spend more time with family, work and study more at home, focus on personal development, use more social messengers and take care of hygiene. About half of Ukrainians say that consumer habits and behavior have changed. The stores have hardly changed their product assortment – more than half of consumers have not experienced a shortage of products, but shoppers tend to find the best prices, even if it means visiting different stores. For certain groups of goods, shoppers go to another store to find the desired brand. If we are talking about FMCG products, Ukrainian consumers try not to change their brand preferences too much. It means they want to stay with brands that they got used to before the quarantine; if the brands meet the buyer’s needs and have the expected price, they can be purchased at traditional points of sale. However, if consumers had managed to try other brands during this period, they would leave them in their portfolio. We observe the e-commerce development not only for technology and electronics but also for clothing. Easy site navigation is essential for online purchases. The main trends of e-commerce are: consumers spend more online than offline when buying FMCG products; time-saving and fast delivery is important; traditional offline retailers introduce online order placement and fast delivery. Therefore, we recommend looking for sites and sell products and services online, do not save on online advertising and, even if you traditionally sell offline, learn to sell online. As for services, customers now expect better service, speed, reliability, and reasonable pricing. Consequently, changing service providers is easier than changing product brands. Moreover, it should be remembered that the income of the population of Ukraine reduced over the past year, so consumption will decline in general, and a consumer is going to save more.