We’ve been asked by companies who have market research studies in the pipeline if they should continue their studies given the concerns of the COVID-19 virus, especially if focus groups were planned. While we applaud companies being concerned with the spread of this virus, there is no reason to postpone or cancel market research projects. There are a number of steps or alternative methodologies companies can take that help protect study participants and qualitative research consultants.
Online Focus Groups
If the study was originally designed to include focus groups, it is easy to convert from an in-person group, to an online focus group. Moderators can easily host a virtual focus group using Zoom, Skype, or other video platforms. While you won’t get the same type of feedback or interplay between participants, a good moderator can still keep the focus group on track. More skill is required to gain deeper insights from a virtual platform, but it isn’t impossible. Most nationwide qualitative research firms are experienced in hosting online focus groups and won’t have any trouble shifting from an in-person meeting to a virtual one.
If, for whatever reason, it isn’t possible to host a virtual focus group, another effective qualitative methodology is conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs). In-depth interviews are great ways to dive deeper into the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind consumer decision making. Experienced interviewers will work from a discussion guide that gives them a framework of what needs to be explored, but allows flexibility so that they can really probe on those areas that may illuminate why a person chooses one product over another, or where gaps exist when making purchasing decisions.
More market researchers are incorporating mobile ethnographies into their studies, especially if ‘in the moment’ feedback is required. Humans are notoriously bad at accurate recall, and capturing real-time feedback is beneficial when wanting to understand various points along the customer journey.
If a study is focused on younger audiences, or tech natives, mobile ethnographies are an easier way to connect with this cohort. Gen Z and millennials are accustomed to managing their life on smartphones, and any market study that wants to capture feedback from this group should consider using this methodology. For starters, you’re much more likely to get a higher response rate, and secondly, there is little ‘training’ required when asking this group to interact with a mobile ethnography platform.
Finally, because so many people are familiar with sharing feedback through smartphone apps, conducting market research through mobile ethnography platforms is an unobtrusive way to capture insights.
Whichever qualitative methodology is decided upon, researchers have a number of options to continue with market research studies that don’t require face-to-face interaction. While the concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 are legitimate, there is no reason that market research studies can’t be modified and stay on track.
Recruiting for market research studies remains the same. Working with a nationwide recruitment agency is your best bet for ensuring your project stays on time and on budget.