After months of uncertainty, many Americans are cautiously optimistic about saying farewell to COVID-19. Mask mandates have either expired or are set to expire soon, and vaccines are available to anyone ages 12 and older who wants one. Slowly, the country is starting to awaken, and with it, sample companies are assessing where we go from here. For 15 months, the online sample industry adapted its business strategy to the pandemic reality. Traditional in-person focus groups shifted online, and online surveys were the gold standard.
Six months later, the result of the 2020 Presidential Election is crystal clear. Joe Biden won by over seven million votes. Why Americans voted as they did is something sociologists and political scientists will be analyzing for years to come. Trump’s demeanor and policy positions may have contributed to his loss, but his pugnaciousness and far-Right agenda attracted more voters, many of them multicultural, in 2020 than in 2016. While Trump’s support was increasing, 2020 threw the world a COVID-19 sized curveball. Had the pandemic not occurred, it’s likely Donald Trump would still be President.
At the height of the pandemic, focus group facilities were primarily silenced, accelerating the shift from in-person to online qualitative studies. For agencies, this shift happened at a critical time for brands as COVID-19 and racial injustice cases spiked. The need to get a pulse on consumer sentiment was palpable as companies found themselves navigating the pandemic while showing solidarity for social justice issues.
The concept of “do-it-yourself” may bring to mind images of re-tiling the bathroom floor or reseeding the lawn. But DIY goes far beyond home improvement projects. About five years ago, online do-it-yourself sample tools began trending. Sample companies would create these tools for clients at little to no charge to facilitate sample buying. However, it wasn’t long before clients realized, like many of us who’ve tried to tile a floor, it may look easy, but looks can be deceiving.
Latino consumers continue to outpace the general market in technology use. This trend is driven primarily by the youth of this demographic. Nearly six in ten Hispanics are Millennials or younger, and Gen Z is the first majority-minority generation. These generations are digital natives and thrive on the mobile experience, which impacts how they interact with e-commerce, social media, and entertainment. More specifically, Hispanics over-index on e-commerce, especially among Hispanic Millennials, many of whom are bilingual, living in multigenerational households. They act as “digital sherpas,” interpreting the purchase experience for Spanish-dominant loved ones.
The American economy depends on jobs created by small businesses, which account for 64% of new jobs created every year. Some of the best-run U.S. small businesses are those participating in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program. The annual review required to maintain eligibility in the program can seem onerous to some, but it ensures participating firms are adequately capitalized and operating in a stable manner. An annual business plan review is beneficial to all companies, but for 8(a) firms, the mandate prompts them to align their efforts with changes in the market to ensure they have a plan to respond.
A few years ago, the concept of autonomous vehicles captivated consumers. While the technology has progressed tremendously, most self-driving experiences are still limited to driver assistance, partial automation, or conditional automation. Innovation develops over time. Compare that to the emergence of mobile sample. Ten years ago, it was the most significant innovation in the online sample industry. Mobile sample was discussed in every conference from 2010 to 2016. Despite the buzz, however, mobile sample didn’t immediately catch on. The technology existed, but brands resisted the change in survey methodology. But that started to change in 2017.
While Latinos over-index on using certain technologies, such as smartphones and social media, broad adoption of video conferencing apps and other online platforms being used to accommodate the shift from in-person to online qualitative research is not as prevalent. Over the last few months, market researchers have been tasked with helping multicultural consumers understand these tools so they can share their thoughts and opinions in qualitative studies. However, the technology being used to administer online qualitative research is often designed for the moderator’s comfort, not the respondents. For multicultural consumers, especially Hispanics who prefer face-to-face interactions, this presents a challenge.
In 2011, we took to pen and paper to ideate an amalgamation of terms to name our market research company and carve out our industry niche. A year before, the 2010 Census came out. It was clear that the Hispanic population in the U.S. was growing, and companies and brands needed to take notice of this bourgeoning consumer group. More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was due to an increase in the Hispanic population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Hispanic population grew by 43% during that time. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16% of the total U.S. population.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital for many industries, including market research. More specifically, qualitative research. In-person focus groups and face-to-face in-depth interviews (IDIs) have been replaced by online research methodologies that enable consumers to share their thoughts and attitudes from the safety of their homes. Essential to the success of online qualitative research, however, is the respondent experience. Selecting virtual platforms that are user-friendly yet effective reduces the friction that can result in respondent frustration and subsequent disengagement.