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Managing Socially Distant Market Research

The world is a very different place from what it was just a few months ago. What we think of as 'normal' consumer behavior patterns have shifted dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social distancing measures that have been adopted globally may even last up until 2022.The impact this will ultimately have on the field of market research is yet to be seen, but it's safe to expect digitally-aided distancing and remote work to be the standard for the foreseeable future.

But what will this mean for the research process itself? Many businesses are feeling the effects of the economic slowdown, but market researchers are in a unique position to keep calm and carry on thanks to a myriad of digital and mobile solutions. Managing research today can take many of the traditional practices, with a few adjustments to ensure success.

Qual over Quant

In this period of disruption and uncertainty, qualitative research is positioned to be an area of greater focus than quantitative research. We are all making dramatic changes to our day-to-day living, but ultimately this won't change the rational approach that most people take when choosing what products to bring home to their families. While purchasing patterns have most certainly shifted, the motivation behind these purchases should be a particular point of interest for researchers, given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding them.

Your response to changing circumstances

Understanding that everyone has a unique situation completely independent of the research process is the key to running successful research. Between family logistics, work obligations, and taking important personal time off, the key to balancing these different responsibilities is empathy and flexibility. Be clear when describing what will happen during the research process so you can build respondent expectations early on. During the fieldwork, be transparent about how the study is progressing, and always have a backup plan ready.This gives ample time for potential conflicts to be identified and addressed accordingly.

Communication, communication, communication

In lieu of face-to-face meetings, researchers should always be looking for ways to actively promote interaction outside of the research context. Offering support chats, ice-breaking activities, or just a simple welfare check can go a long way in mitigating the feelings of isolation brought on by social distancing. This can be done through a variety of video calling, VOIP, or virtual meeting services. Aside from opening up additional communication channels, this practice also goes back to the idea of a focus on qualitative research, as more open discussions can lead to some interesting avenues for continued research.

The rise of mobile research

While the world was slowly moving towards digitalisation before, the last few months have shown us that a digital-first world is not only possible, but also that its adoption has very likely been fast-tracked on a global scale. Researchers can expect the trend of digitally-aided distancing to become more common as the world returns to whatever the new normal will be. In the meantime, the best we can do is continue to support each other, and continue to adjust to the ever-changing situation at hand.

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