Hi, this is Jennifer Longo, a Project Manager at KS&R. I've been closely following the impact of COVID-19 on our industry and leading the development of our best practices to adapt to its implications. Jay asked that I write this guest blog to address some commonly asked questions.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting the way most of us live and work. Many of us are practicing social distancing, working from a home environment, homeschooling our children -- the list goes on! As the pandemic continues to touch every part of our lives, a question that is top of mind among market researchers:
How do we go about conducting research in this environment?
Attitudes and behaviors during this time matter. It's our "new normal" and paying attention to market conditions is important. Business decisions still need to be made and research helps make better, more informed decisions.
Here are some common questions our clients have been asking...
- Is the topic of the research appropriate? Conducting research on certain experiences, such as travel and hospitality, may be better executed once this pandemic is over, when consumers will have the ability to more accurately provide feedback once travel is feasible and options are made available to them. However, there may also be a need to understand how these same consumers are reacting to the pandemic, and when they are going to feel it is safe to start traveling again.
Careful consideration should also be given if the focus is on recent purchases of products or services that are in high demand during this time, such as cleaning products and grocery delivery. Consumers' needs and perspectives on these categories have likely been directly impacted by the pandemic and data collected during this time may not be best suited to inform longer-term decision-making.
- Should research questions address the COVID-19 pandemic? Yes. The current situation should be directly addressed with regard to decision-making (now, during this time of crisis vs. business as usual). We are finding many respondents appreciate the opportunity to share their stories about the pandemic.
Where appropriate, ask people to think back to an earlier specific period when answering a question. It may also be beneficial to include a follow-up question to address recent behaviors.
Can feedback on market conditions be captured? Yes. Adding a few questions to surveys (for both tracking research and point in time research) can inform you of attitudes and the potential impact on decision-making during this time. Questions to address how the crisis is impacting your specific business can provide insight into market behaviors and decision-making now and anticipated changes to plan for in the future.
- Example: Has the amount of time you currently spend streaming content at home increased, remained the same, or decreased when compared to 2-3 months ago, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?
What is the best way to reach respondents? As more businesses shift to a remote environment, telephone is becoming less viable for reaching some targeted audiences. For example, some business decision makers are no longer reachable at office numbers (often because they are now remote and their phones are not forwarded). Using online (email) methods to contact these audiences may become more efficient and common during this time, for both surveying and qualitative recruitment efforts.
- Examples of questions for Business-to-Business surveys include:
- How is COVID-19 affecting your business plans, budgets, resources, etc.?
- How do you see COVID-19 necessitating or stifling innovation in your company/department?
- Examples of questions for Business-to-Consumer surveys include:
- You mentioned earlier that you purchased your (insert product) at (insert channel/retailer). If you were buying this week, where would you purchase?
- If you were in the market for a (insert product) now, would you make the purchase or wait? If you would wait, is that due to market conditions, inability to purchase in-person without exposure, you are focused on other things, etc.?
Will respondents mind being contacted? Some will, but as noted above, many welcome the opportunity to share their experiences. To be sensitive to the current environment, we recommend acknowledging the crisis in survey invitations and at the beginning of each survey. It is important to thank respondents even further than we already do for taking the time to respond and for providing their feedback, and do so throughout the survey.
- Example: As the COVID-19 virus continues to touch our communities, now more than ever, we appreciate you taking the time to share your valued feedback.
We also suggest aligning branded surveys with your organization's messaging. Surveys are a good tool to help show your customers and prospects that you are interested in understanding their needs and are an opportunity to create a positive touchpoint. KS&R will share any feedback (from the survey or helpdesk) that respondents send regarding surveying during this time.
Can the 'right' respondents be found? Yes, but it may take some extra effort to find them. Respondents from impacted industries may be more difficult to reach during this time. A broad range of respondent types -- business decision makers, healthcare professionals, consumers -- have been responsive, but be mindful of the time you're asking for.
Will respondents participate? Yes. We have not seen a dip in response rates or drop off in participation overall. Our panel partners report they continue to see high levels of performance and panel participation. Some have even noted an uptick in survey completions.
We continue to carefully monitor response rates and sample representation among our completions to determine if there is any response bias and will work with you to determine potential action.
Can qualitative research still be conducted? Of course... Just not in person, for research conducted within the US. While social distancing is preventing the ability to conduct most in-person research, this does not mean qualitative research needs to be postponed. There are many virtual (online) qualitative methodologies that can be used during this time, to help you connect with valuable audiences and keep insights and innovations flowing -- including live virtual focus groups (and one-on-one interviews), online bulletin board focus groups, and digital ethnographies. KS&R has the virtual toolbox to support these qualitative efforts and keep respondents engaged.
- We suggest adding a few questions to surveys to help identify response bias, such as:
- How has the pandemic impacted how their time is spent online?
- Likelihood of responding to the survey prior to the pandemic (those with low likelihood are potentially not the norm).
While many things are continuously changing during this time of crisis, one thing that remains is business decisions still need to be made. Research remains a great tool to help inform these decisions.
We cannot expect the world we enter after the pandemic to simply revert back to what it was before. Today's actions and practices will have an impact on how consumers and businesses move forward post-crisis. Keeping market research efforts active during this time can help you understand current market conditions and react appropriately -- it will inform business decisions that you make in the near-term, during recovery efforts, and beyond. By asking customers now, you have a head start on understanding how your customers are changing before you get there.