The current cultural climate is one of isolation and uncertainty. Due to mandates from many national and international governments, people are advised to practice “social distancing” and forego travelling. Such restrictions are difficult on the market research industry where many rely on the face-to-face and in-person data collection methods. So how do recruiting companies and full-service market research firms continue to provide data collection and analysis in such a restrictive environment?
The Glass is Half Full
It is easy to think “doom and despair” especially if you focus more in qualitative research. However, there are three positives that market research firms should focus on in their efforts of data collection:
- Respondents are at home and available – On average including weekdays v weekends, morning v evening, summer v winter, Eastcoast Research achieves between 25-30% caller connection rate. This means that for every 100 calls our recruiting call center makes, we talk with 25-30 people. The remaining 70-75% are busy living – working, attending church services, watching their kids’ sporting games, attending concerts and sporting events, on a date, in the hospital or sick, etc. The reality is – there is no better time to conduct research than right now while people are primarily stuck at home!
- Respondents are still consuming – So they may not be purchasing items that they don’t need for their survival, but they are still consuming items every day. Respondents are still going to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, mechanic, mass merchandise store, hardware and supply store. Business are remaining open as long as possible and many people are attempting to continue life as it once was. In our local communities, residents are being encouraged to continue ordering takeout and drive-through to support businesses during this tough economic time. It is hard to take out the consumer in a consumeristic culture!
- Respondents could use the extra monetary incentive – Unfortunately, these are difficult times for many folks. With the economy walking at a turtle’s pace, respondent participation and motivation is at an all -time high.
What Ways Can Market Research Continue to Thrive
Technology designed for virtual or online data collection has been around and prevalent for over a decade. This is a great opportunity to introduce technology to your qualitative research methodologies.
- Focus Group – Web-Conferencing – Researchers can conduct focus groups through online webcams. Many third-party platforms with handle a typical 8-12 person focus group with the ability to see every person who is participating. Digital recording locally or on the provider’s cloud system is also a plus. Some platforms allow for 360-degree video and audio viewing. There are limitations to web-conferencing a focus group – 1) Unfortunately, there is no way to hide and make clients who are interested in watching as well. This solution is for the solo researcher with no clients present. 2) Having a computer with webcam capabilities along with adequate internet may limit some of the respondent pool. 3) Some platforms do not allow for additional PowerPoints, displays or handouts during the group. However, all generally include chat capabilities for cross-conversations during the group.
- Focus Group – Presentation – Another variation is conducting a focus group online similar to a webinar. Researchers can prepare slides, videos and guides for respondents as they call in to a centralized phone line to discuss the topic. This is a great option for researchers interested in feedback for specific mock-ups or usability tests. Unfortunately, researchers will not be able to witness body language or face-to-face conversations using this method but can still be a very effective data collection tool.
- Bulletin Boards/ Online Diaries or Communities – More researchers in recent years have added bulletin boards and online communities to their qualitative methodologies, using it more as a platform for pre-focus group homework assignments. Researchers can go very informal using platforms like Facebook Secret Groups or formal with third-party applications. The biggest challenge of online communities is respondent security. Many options will want respondents to sign-in using their google, Instagram or Facebook accounts, potentially providing everyone in the group personal data. Finding a platform with good security protocols and versatility is key to obtaining quality data.
Market Research can continue to thrive in our current viral pandemic as researchers begin to introduce technological solutions as viable data collection alternatives. Eastcoast Research is using every possible solution at its disposal to continue providing clients with reliable, quality data.