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Will research ever be the same again?


We have had to accommodate new ways of living and working over recent months.
Qualitative research has needed to adapt to social distancing – and it has accelerated changes that were already on the way

The way we conduct market research has changed in so many ways since I started out towards the end of the last century!!

I’ve been around long enough to remember when interviewers knocked on doors and people were comfortable letting them in. Data was entered using punch cards. We had reams of continuous perforated paper printouts to wade through and make sense of. And we visited clients with armfuls of transparencies, which we hoped wouldn’t slide off the table and end up in the wrong order.

Research methods and logistics have changed significantly over the intervening years. Thank Goodness!

But never so completely, and in such a short period, as they have during lockdown. And there may be no going back.

This feels particularly true for qualitative research. We have long recognised the benefits of online focus groups and communities, but concerns that it was not quite the same as ‘proper’ face to face qualitative research meant that barriers remained.

The pandemic has changed all that.

Home has become the place where EVERYTHING happens. Our respondents are increasingly comfortable with all of the technologies that have made it possible to work efficiently from home – so why not make home the place where we share our attitudes, preferences and feelings?

Although there have been practical constraints on certain types of research (technology has not yet found a way to allow respondents to touch, feel or taste), qualitative research has made a wholesale move online. And on the whole it has been brilliant!

Online qualitative research offers new opportunities and has many benefits

While the virus is still with us, online research does not put anyone at risk, and has turned out to be a very effective alternative – and it’s not going away any time soon

Platform providers are making life even easier for us, by improving security, offering automatised transcripts, video straight to the hard drive, pre-built templates and drag and drop interfaces – which means we can reach your potential customers, and share findings with you, more quickly

And technology is allowing us to conduct all sorts of research in new ways:

  • Ethnography. We are able to conduct remote observation of consumers in their homes – which gives us an insight into the way people live their lives. By experiencing their everyday behaviour we can understand how they interact with your category, how they use your brand, how you might make their lives easier.
  • Online focus groups. Efficient broadband and platforms such as Zoom allow us to conduct focus groups with respondents in their own environment. This has a particular role to play when we need to hear from dispersed communities. We ensure that online groups are as valuable as face to face by having ‘rules of engagement’ and keeping respondent numbers a little lower (ideally no more than 4-5 in a group). In this way we can continue to provide rich insights into consumers’ minds and their decision-making.
  • Online communities. These take place over a longer time period and can take the form of a diary. Consumers commit to contributing each day, either at home or when out and about, and answer a series of questions, which might involve uploading photos or video. This approach is particularly valuable to uncover brand touchpoints and to capture immediate real-life responses

We have enjoyed finding creative new ways to conduct research. And we especially love discussing with clients how they can meet changing needs and consumption patterns brought about by the pandemic!

Get in touch to learn about how online research can get the most out of your research budget and help you to make truly informed business decisions.