It’s probably fair to say that most of us are happy to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror. Not that Q1 of 2021 will be too different, but the light at the end of this long COVID-19 tunnel is at least visible.
No industry or nation was spared the devastation brought on by the pandemic. The market research industry was no exception and underwent a lot of changes in 2020. Rather than enjoy in-person focus groups and in-depth interviews, all modes of qualitative research switched to virtual platforms. While researchers can still gather lots of rich data from online focus groups, the word on the street is that qualitative research consultants can’t wait to be able to conduct in-person focus groups and interviews again. A lot of nuance gets lost or obfuscated when conducting qualitative research remotely.
We anticipate that some of the changes to market research will remain with us into 2021 and beyond. Below are three trends that expect to see in 2021 as it relates to market research.
Trend #1: Virtual Qualitative Research is Here to Stay
Virtual market research platforms have been around for many years but they really got a boost in 2020. While researchers will tell you that if they have the option to conduct focus groups or in-depth interviews in-person, they’d prefer it, but they’ve adapted well and most market research firms will continue to design studies that incorporate virtual offerings. The upside to virtual studies is it allows recruiting firms to reach a much broader audience. Removing the barriers to having to meet in-person has made for better recruiting outcomes.
Trend #2: There Will be Increased Interest in Journey Mapping
With most consumer behaviour now happening online, companies are scrambling to ensure that their digital offerings can meet the demands of their customers. Only market research can inform companies of how their customers feel about their digital experiences. Researchers can design qualitative or quantitative studies that reveal gaps and opportunities for companies. Journey mapping will provide much more useful data than click stats, KPI data, or even heat mapping. A well-designed journey mapping study will reveal much more detailed and informative data that will help companies improve their digital offerings.
Trend #3: Market Research Recruiting will Expand
Companies that are nimble enough to pivot during times of disruption are the ones that have staying power. What separates long-term successful companies from those that flounder is having a good handle on what drives consumer behaviour. This doesn’t happen by looking into a crystal ball, but rather by conducting market research. Market research doesn’t happen without vetted participants. Because so many market research studies are now taking place online, recruiters are able to pull in qualified participants from a much broader geographic area. We’ve recently recruited study participants from around the world to participate in U.S.-led research because we weren’t limited by geography.