The COVID-19 pandemic has badly affected the health sector, economies, businesses, and the government—struggling to keep up with circumstances that are changing day-to-day. While organizations try to cope up with their business operations and financial situations, many activities are being put on hold. 


As consumers and businesses adapt to the COVID-19 and its economic fallout, organizations need to understand how they can support their customers and business partners. This starts with understanding their changing needs and concerns.


COVID-19 Driving a Digital Shift 


The COVID-19 lockdown has accelerated and broadened the shift to digital in a whole variety of sectors, such as, e-commerce, deliveries, online education, and digital entertainment—all these have all grown massively over the past few months based on digital market research.


Online participation in digital methods continue to be high and many companies are now using these tools to understand their customers better and to anticipate how consumer preferences and behaviour are likely to develop post COVID-19.


Although face-to-face methods have been missed, and likely will return, the last few months have certainly led to an innovation in the digital space and the emergence of new, exciting tools and methods.


Setbacks Encountered by Market Researchers


Social distancing introduced a few challenges for market researchers. They cannot conduct in-person interviews and focus group discussions. Virtual options exist, but this introduces concerns about reliable data. Furthermore, face-to-face interactions produce different results than screen-to-screen conversations from participants.


Digital sessions make the interviewer’s job much more challenging too. Another hindrance is interpreting body language through a digital screen, since it isn’t as personal as a face to face interview. Neither is connecting with an interviewee or engaging a focus group. It is difficult to replicate the same efficiency. 


Positive Effects of the Digital Shift 


Beyond this research method, market researchers have also experienced a mindset shift. 


The focus group is an integral part of the market research process. Focus groups on video are just as good as the in-person approach companies have used until now. If a person shares your screen, you get much more flexibility and a resolution with which the group can see the concept you’re presenting. If you feel like you need to present some material, then a video application is highly recommended. 


In addition to video-calling, online surveys can also be used to collect qualitative data by asking respondents to type their responses to open-ended questions. Although qualitative surveys generate less rich data than interviews, they do maintain some of the benefits of qualitative research, such as the generation of unanticipated findings, and allow data collection from a larger group of people in a quick manner.


However, in stressful times like this, there is an increasing interest in the participation of  research studies. Basically, it is  easier to recruit participants for B2B studies right now, with the growth of participation rates. According to InnovateMR, a Market Research Company, its panel partners have numbers to back up this trend:


“Over the past week, we have seen a positive increase in survey participation from InnovateMR’s consumer and B2B panels. We’ve seen a 39% increase among users and 52% increase among sessions. Our respondents are ready to participate in surveys,” reports InnovateMR’s Chris Young.


The opportunity to speak with someone when you are mostly staying at home to work is a productive break time for some respondents. Spending an hour talking to a qualitative researcher online or via video chat breaks some of the isolation of social distancing and provides a distraction from anxiety, and depressing news. 


Providing personal input and feedback through the form of an online survey, gives people the sense of autonomy, wherein their voices and opinions matter. 


Moreover, knowing that brands and organizations are taking a step forward with sustainable plans is a good sign of stability.


Aug 21, 2020