How Has Covid-19 Affected Face-To-Face Market Research?

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How Has Covid-19 Affected Face-To-Face Market Research?

Throughout the uncertainty of 2020, many businesses have been faced with an impaired ability to continue business as usual. Entering the decade with optimism, most industries have faced unprecedented challenges and trials during this extraordinary year. The world has been tipped upside down, and we are coming terms with the realisation that it will most likely stay upside-down for a while – our “new normal”.

Within the market research community, the chance to conduct invaluable fieldwork, focus groups and face-to-face interviews has been disproportionately affected by essential government measures against coronavirus. With social distancing rules putting an immediate pause to face-to-face methodologies, market research organisations have had to adapt and innovate to provide businesses with the up-to-date insights they require.

Transforming for a Digital “New Normal”

With entire workforces forced into telecommuting, widespread self-isolation and many technologically averse demographic groups expanding their digital skills, a switch to web-based research techniques was inevitable. After all, necessity is the mother of invention!

Harnessing the myriad of virtual alternatives, market researchers are creating new approaches and ways of conducting research to ensure businesses maintain access to vital consumer insights. Unlike what you may think, web-based methods are not restricted to online surveys alone. Most commonly, we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of video-call platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype, in addition to text-based Instant Messaging and online communities.

Online focus groups and interviews have boomed, providing companies with the chance to have meaningful conversations in real-time with their target customers, gauging top-of-mind sentiment and sense-checking new products, in addition to analysing expressions and body language for useful non-verbal data. In fact, many businesses have significantly benefitted from this shift, enjoying much faster feedback than ever before. If conducted correctly by an experienced and professional market research company, the data collected will be as invaluable as if it were accumulated face-to-face.

During a year where time has been of the essence, fieldwork and face-to-face methods that may have taken weeks in the past can now be completed in hours. Furthermore, accessing consumers’ opinions in the comfort of their own home has provided a more compelling and granular insight of how their uses of your product or service might have changed in the current situation – and what further reassurances or changes they may need from you to remain a loyal customer and form positive brand associations.

Thinking About Postponing Your Market Research Efforts?

Many market researchers and their clients are concerned about being portrayed as insensitive to the current situation, and are therefore hesitant to continue conducting research during these unprecedented times. When surveying market researchers in the US and UK, results from Qualtrics show that 44% of UK respondents cited concerns around seeming insensitive or out-of-touch, with some even believing that this justifies cancelling or postponing research for the foreseeable future.

Yet, gaining access to data-driven insights is more important now than ever. Consumer preferences surrounding food and drink consumption have shifted significantly, influenced by health concerns and growing economic pressures, with noticeable trends towards personalised nutrition, gut health, value-based shopping and unique takeaway offerings. With this shift likely to persist well after the pandemic crisis has ceased within the UK, it’s vital that businesses within the food and beverage industry retain their competitive edge.

At Nailed On Research, many of our clients have said that they see digital as the way forward, even post-coronavirus. If you’re thinking of postponing or cancelling your market research efforts, here are two key reasons as to why now is the right time to continue:

  • Connection – After a prolonged period of isolation, many people are turning to social media to connect; there is a considerable amount of data offered from the public domain.
  • New trends – The world has changed as we know it, and new trends are formed speedily as individuals adjust to the new normal. Keeping up with these advances will help businesses stay on track with the latest opportunities that are presented. 
Ensuring Market Research Is Appropriate

For companies wishing to continue conducting market research during the pandemic, regardless of the methodology, there are four essential components that should be considered:

  • Safety – In a health-focused new world, the safety of participants and researchers alike needs to be prioritised above all else. At Nailed On Research, we consult with leading research industry bodies and regularly check daily government advice to ensure that we fully comply with all Covid-19 safety guidelines, from PPE and social distancing measures to ensuring that consumables are provided in an individualised format.
  • Professionalism – More effort will be required to yield accurate and successful results; therefore, working alongside a professional and experienced market research company is crucial. With many families facing economic struggles, promises of a regular income through low-quality online surveys have become increasingly noticeable – it’s important to stand out from the crowd with a well thought out strategy to ensure participation.
  • Transparency – Being open and honest with participants about the benefits of the research will result in a valuable meaningful connection with the potential respondents, yielding more successful results.
  • Empathy –  It’s been a difficult year for many, as we’ve faced the challenges of extended periods of time at home, unprecedented unemployment and the loss of loved ones. Participants will have heightened sensitivity and will be craving social interaction, so showing them empathy with the right approach to sensitive questions will result in an improved brand association and market presence.

The Value of Working with a Specialist Market Research Agency

Whilst none of us can accurately predict what face-to-face fieldwork will look like post-pandemic, it’s unlikely that it will look exactly as it did before the crisis. Traditional face-to-face methodologies will remain important once the coronavirus pandemic is over, but 2020 has accelerated the pre-existing shift from face-to-face to web-led data collection methods.

At Nailed On Research, we have been readily implementing alternative ways of collecting insightful data throughout the lockdown. With significant experience in online, mail and telephone data collection methodologies, we are well-prepared for new ways of working remotely and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

As essential parts of our current and future research toolkit, we’re on hand to offer safe yet effective research solutions for your business, giving you invaluable insights into your target audience without the need for direct contact. Whilst face-to-face methodologies will be reinstated as quickly as it is safe to do so, the timing will be informed by government guidelines and industry regulations, ensuring the continued safety of both our interviewers and the public as a key part of our continuity planning.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help, get in touch today to explore our services and create a bespoke strategy for your company – or read more about our Online Interviewing techniques.

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