By Tamara Irminger Underwood
Even though the COVID-19 outbreak has thrown a monkey wrench into how we work and live, now that we’ve had weeks of getting used to working from home and physical distancing measures, many businesses are realizing that they need to adjust to the possibility of some of the restrictive measures remaining in place for the foreseeable future. While some businesses are able to carry on with only minor tweaks to how they operate, others are needing to completely re-imagine how they continue to connect with consumers and clients.
We’ve been approached by companies who had market research studies in the pipeline if they should continue with the studies, given the concerns of COVID-19, especially if focus groups were planned. While it is important to maintain the recommended physical distancing measures, there is no reason to cancel or postpone market research projects. There are a number of ways and alternative methodologies that market research firms can take to protect study participants and qualitative research consultants.
Virtual Focus Groups
Focus groups remain a popular choice for market research because they can yield a lot of rich insight into a topic, and really get to the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of consumer behavior. While in-person focus groups are ideal, many experienced moderators conduct virtual, or online, focus groups with similar success to in-person ones. There are a number of platforms that moderators can use to host virtual focus groups, be it Zoom, Skype, Google hangouts, or platforms designed specifically for online focus groups.
More skill is required by the moderator to glean deeper insights from online platforms, but it is still possible to gather rich data. Nationwide qualitative research firms will have experience hosting online focus groups, and can more easily transition between in-person groups and virtual focus groups.
In-Depth Interviews (IDIs)
Another popular choice for continuing market research studies is in-depth interviews, or IDIs. Depending on the scope of the study, many researchers often design studies to include focus groups and in-depth interviews. Focus groups are great at helping identify general themes and patterns, and IDIs allow researchers to take a deeper dive into a subject matter and gather more nuanced information.
IDIs are typically conducted over the phone or video platforms, and are an easy way to continue with market research without compromise, even with physical distancing requirements in place.
Mobile ethnographies (capturing feedback by asking people questions via an app, which they respond to with video responses) are another popular choice for market researchers, particularly when real-time feedback is required. Because memory tends to be fallible, being able to capture emotions, thoughts, and insights in real-time can provide powerful information, especially when wanting to better understand customer journeys or how people use technology, such as apps on their phones.
When conducting millennial market research, mobile ethnographies are often a go-to choice for researchers, as they know they’ll have a higher success rate of participation when the study can be completed through an app or on mobile devices.
Mobile ethnographies aren’t limited to younger audiences though. Most people are accustomed to managing their daily affairs through apps and already interact with companies over their mobile devices. Designing a market research study that includes a mobile ethnography portion requires little training for the user and is an unobtrusive way to gather insights.
Regardless of the qualitative methodology chosen, market researchers have a variety of options for continuing with market research that don’t require in-person interaction.
Even though we are all being asked to stay at home and limit our exposure to others, there is no reason market research needs to be postponed. There are many ways to conduct market research that meet the goals of physical distancing without compromising on the quality of the research.