Marketers are going online more and in-person less to gather research data
A new study exploring consumer research not unsurprisingly finds a significant shift towards online qualitative research over the last year, raising speculation on whether in-person methods may be another casualty of the pandemic.
The study from GRIT (Greenbook Research Industry Trends) indicates that online methods have grown slowly but took the lead for the first time in 2020.
A survey of nearly 1,100 suppliers and buyers of research found the use of:
- Online focus groups increased to 74 percent in 2020 from 54 percent in 2019;
- Online IDIs (in-depth interviews) increased to 74 percent from 62 percent;
- In-person IDIs shrunk to 66 percent from 82 percent;
- In-person focus groups slid to 69 percent from 87 percent.
The study notes that some aspects of qualitative research — citing recruiting, project management and moderation as examples — don’t change much whether conducted online or in-person. Many tech tools that have emerged to create more efficiency, such as video recording, facial coding, automated transcription, text analytics and report automation, are also equally applicable in both modes.
But the study suspects research buyers that may have adopted online methods out of necessity during the pandemic are recognizing online’s advantages. Researchers note, “Online methods deliver methodological flexibility and tangible pragmatic advantages such as travel cost savings, risk and liability mitigation, diverse recruitment options, schedule flexibility, and general speed and cost efficiencies. It is safe to assume what we will see is a long tail of growth continue to play out even as the pandemic recedes.”
Tighter timelines and research budgets may also push buyers toward online methods.
The “silver lining” for in-person approaches is that they did not decline even further, given the restrictions seen over the past year. The researchers said it’s reasonable to assume qualitative research that is “experiential” in nature (dependent on touching, tasting, smelling or using something) cannot easily be replicated currently using digital methods and could still represent a significant portion of qualitative work in general.
The study stated, “That foundation may provide a path for suppliers heavily invested in physical facilities to adapt, while simultaneously incorporating more digital approaches into their offerings.”
- Grit Report – Insights Practice Edition 2020 – GRIT (Greenbook Research Industry Trends)
- How Do Market Researchers Spend Their Time? – MarketingCharts
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should consumer research buyers as well as providers be doubling down on digital research solutions? What do you see as the pros and cons of online versus in-person qualitative research methods, and do you think the advantages have shifted in recent years?