So far, 2020 has been one for the record books. A worldwide pandemic and subsequent shelter in place orders are causing sharp spikes in online streaming and mobile search activity as consumers seek ways to stay healthy, entertained, and informed. And in recent weeks, the public outcry against social injustice resounds on the tips of the tongues of protesters, as they hit the streets and take to social media to express their outrage and find community.
Taken collectively, these rapid shifts in consumer behavior are fast-tracking digital trends and accelerating the push for digital research methodologies to understand the dynamics driving these behaviors. The onus is on the market research industry to innovate – to deliver next normal methodologies for a next normal marketplace.
COVID-19 has expediated emerging trends, including the move from offline qualitative studies to online. We spent the majority of March and April moving many of our clients’ qualitative studies online. Some clients were hesitant to adopt online surveys, as they feared digital methods were somehow more complex. But the opposite is true. Online surveys allow you to streamline your data collection process, reduce costs, and get real-time results. The purpose of the questionnaire is the same as a traditional qualitative study and is supported by design software that allows you to customize the layout and intricacies of formatting.
Unlike phone or face to face surveys, online surveys do not have the advantage of having a trained professional to clarify questions for participants. However, this can still be beneficial as it eliminates interviewer bias. Just keep surveys brief and straight to the point to minimize confusion about the meaning of questions, and use yes/ no and multiple-choice formats instead of open-ended questions when possible. If open-ended questions must be included, try not to exceed 3 per survey.
Luckily, there are many resources available for market researchers to jumpstart the transition from offline to online surveys. Many online survey providers are making themselves available to answer questions concerning best practices for creating and wording survey questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them!
Online surveys also give researchers the ability to be more creative. Instead of being limited to generic marketing channels, you can now integrate marketing efforts by combining them with online surveys. You can also use online surveys as a lead generation tool. For example, a ten-minute product promotional video can now be supplemented with a follow-up survey online. Other examples include online focus groups and CPG studies. The possibilities of online methodologies are truly endless.
The unprecedented events of 2020 are catapulting market research into the digital realm, a transition that would have likely taken years under different circumstances. While consumers continue to social distance and shift activities online, many research firms are looking for new alternatives to traditional qualitative research and are turning to online survey methodologies.
Although many researchers are fearful that going digital will introduce more unknowns, many clients are discovering online surveys are a much more cost-effective and timely method of doing research. In the foreseeable future, online surveys are here to stay.