The coronavirus has impacted lives across the U.S. and the world in many significant ways. The recent projections about the possible scope of infections in our country are beyond anything most of us could have imagined. The stories of those experiencing and fighting the virus are heartbreaking and inspiring.
Most of the United States is well into “social distancing” as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Companies are taking stock and trying to adapt to major, unexpected changes to their businesses.
Consumer feelings and needs are changing too, and despite the closures of many businesses, the demand for marketing research is still strong. Luckily, for marketing and consumer insight departments that want to do research, research is still possible.
While in-person research is not currently possible, online research still is conducted today. Many, if not most, research projects are either already conducted online, or can be conducted online. So, with many consumers homebound, there are numerous online research options that continue to be conducted today.
Online Surveys Are Still Conducted
Online surveys continue to be an excellent option for research. Online panels are still operating and response rates continue to be strong. Online panels are professionally managed data bases of subscribers who have indicated their willingness to take surveys. Online panels have been an industry standard for years now, so for many marketers, using them to conduct online surveys requires no changes at all.
John Hegelmeyer, Senior Account Director at Dynata, a survey panel company, says his company has actually seen a slight increase in online survey participation. “I’m thinking that people do want to share their opinions, and those people are home more.”
Importantly, Hegelmeyer says there’s been no drop-off in data quality. The company has not noticed any changes in data quality with those panelists working with Dynata. “We’ve been monitoring and we really haven’t seen any shifts in data quality,” he says. “We’re happy to see that even with all these changes to people’s lives, the quality is still staying the same.”
It is only a matter of weeks since most of the country has been under shelter-in-place orders. At this point, as far as we can tell, online surveys have not markedly changed in terms of response rates, data quality, or other key measures of survey viability.
In-person Surveys Can Be Redesigned to Go Online
There are several different types of in-person surveys. In-mall or street intercepts where respondents are recruited in a mall or on the street to immediately complete a survey are, of course, not feasible at this time. This is also the case for pre-recruited surveys, where respondents are recruited via the phone or online and scheduled to go to a local marketing research facility to participate in a research study. During this time, many malls are closed and a large percentage of the U.S. population is working and staying at home, and practicing social distancing.
These types of in-person studies are often used to collect consumer feedback after using or seeing a product, package, service, or advertising. Luckily, for many products or services, research initially planned as in-person, can be redesigned and successfully executed online.
Current programming capabilities are very advanced and allow online survey respondents to fully examine a product. For example, today’s software allows survey respondents to rotate a 3-D image to any angle and zoom in on details, just like they would be able to do if they picked up the product in a retail store. If the survey requires them to read the product label, they can do so, just as if viewing the actual package. High quality video technology can be incorporated into an online survey so respondents can see or experience how a product or service works.
Product Use Tests Can Be Done In-Home
In-person product use tests or sensory research typically requires respondents to use a product and to report on their perceptions and overall experience with the product. This type of research may be used for new products, product improvements, or for advertising claim substantiation. Some sensory research originally planned as in-person testing can be conducted as an in-home use test.
In the in-home version, products are mailed to respondents with instructions for usage. After a trial period, respondents complete an online survey that may ask them to rate the products on specific attributes and indicate their preference between products. The research methodology may include quality checks to verify that the products were used correctly.
Telephone Surveys Are Still Possible
Telephone surveys where respondents are recruited and complete a survey over the phone are still feasible in today’s environment. Both landline phone numbers and cell phone numbers can be dialed for survey research. Many companies that provide telephone interviewing services have developed procedures to allow their call center staff to work from home, allowing telephone research to continue despite the pandemic.
Qualitative Research Can Be Done Online
Many projects use qualitative research to speak directly with consumers to explore their needs, habits, feelings, and motivations in a more unstructured and personal way. This type of research has often been conducted in-person, through in-person focus groups, in-depth interviews (IDIs), or even in-person ethnographies, such as in-home visits by a research professional. In-person research is not possible for now.
Luckily, this type of in-person research can be successfully conducted online. Online video technology has already been used for years to conduct qualitative research. There is specialized technology for online video focus groups and online IDIs. In-home visits can also be conducted virtually, using cameras on mobile devices.
Typically, an online video focus group will include 6 to 8 participants and, similar to in-person groups, the discussion is led by a moderator. With online focus group technology, the moderator can show participants product concepts, products or packaging in 3-D, or videos. Using this technology, the participants can also answer survey questions during the discussion. Clients can observe the groups live on-screen and can send questions, unseen by participants, to the moderator. The sessions can be recorded and saved for future viewing.
Survey Research Possibilities
This is a challenging time for individuals, companies, and the world. The coronavirus has changed our lives in ways we could not have even imagined. Some industries have been impacted more than others. If your business is planning survey research in the near future, many survey options are still available.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or more information and visit us at www.mmrstrategy.com.