Marketers and agencies are hard at work nimbly adapting their plans and exploring new ways to conduct qualitative and quantitative research in the age of COVID-19. As researchers, it’s essential we keep in mind the fundamentals so we can continue to help our clients build empathy for and understand the people they seek to engage. These fundamentals, important before, are even more so now (and we’re pretty sure will continue to be so After).
Here are 5 reminders—as well as 2 bonus tips unique to the now—to help ensure we can successfully help our clients navigate through.
The Fundamental Rules of the Road from Before Still Apply (and Will After)
1. Be Human
In order for participants to openly and honestly share their lives with us, especially in this surreal and uncertain time, they need to trust we’re listening, without judgment, to what they have to say. Asking questions in a human, genuine tone using everyday language (no marketing speak!) is essential to driving this trust. Tell them you appreciate the information they’re sharing and the time they’re giving.
2. Write Surveys and Guides That Engage
People’s attention is hard to win… even in the best of times. With most (if not all!) participants taking part in research online at home, they’ve got a lot to be distracted by. Whether it’s TikTok on their phones, a funny meme on Insta, or their kid asking for a snack from the next room, your research won’t necessarily be their priority. Ask quant survey questions in an interactive, dynamic way (with the mobile-first design!). Structure qual discussions to ebb and flow, including activities that energize and questions that allow for thoughtful contemplation.
3. Provide a Variety of Ways for People to Express Themselves
The more tools you can give people to tell their stories, the better. Quantitatively, include video or audio open ends to add depth and color to people’s written words and closed-ended responses. Qualitatively, leverage projective techniques (e.g., creating collages, using quotes, or even memes) to help them express their feelings.
4. Go Beyond What People Say
Research doesn’t end after people finish telling us what they think, feel, and do… it’s only the beginning. Once we gather all that rich, raw data, it’s time to use our strategic, analyst brains to interpret what we heard and provide smart, sound advice to help our clients meet their objectives.
5. Be Thoughtful about Timing
It’s always been important to think about how timing might impact what you learn from people. For example, asking people to share their everyday shopping habits around Christmas isn’t the best plan. Well, it’s no different now. Carefully consider whether client objectives will be well served by talking to people in the thick of COVID-19 or if it’s best to wait a few months when things (hopefully!) will have normalized.
Also, Consider These Tips for the Unique Now
6. Talk about the Elephant in the Room
It’s hard to have a conversation these days without mentioning COVID-19. In the context of research, not acknowledging it will be, well, weird. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out your intended focus. In qual, it could be as simple as letting them share a bit more than usual about what their lives are like right now in the introductions or in quant, adding some qualifying comments to questions (“We know things might be a little different right now…”).
7. Seize the Moment
Quoting Andy Bernard from The Office: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”. While no one will mistake this global pandemic as “the good old days”, we’re living through something that will impact us and live on in our collective memories. Take this opportunity to hear from people during the very time that will go on to define how they live their lives for months, if not years, to come.
We don’t know how long we’ll be operating under this new normal. But one thing is for sure, there will always be the need for marketers and agencies to have deep empathy for people and better understand their lives, attitudes and behaviors. By continuing to rely on the fundamentals, we as researchers will be well placed to help them emerge stronger and more inspired than ever.
Looking for tips on how to use Virtual Methodologies for capturing insights?
Virtual methodologies have become the new normal for capturing insights, strategizing, and innovating. Years of experience have enabled us to test, learn, and refine our approaches, leading to the insider tips we are happy to share with you.
Download The Sound’s Virtual Research Methods playbook for perspectives on how to move forward.
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