What a difference a month makes. As families, households and organization strive to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic and find a new normal, businesses are equally dealing with massive changes and unknowns in their markets, categories and consumers.

Learning plans and marketing activations that looked super smart, thoughtful and differentiating mere weeks ago, are now being re-examined and modified to ensure consumer and colleague safety, as well as the very different circumstances of social distancing, self-isolating and the closure of public events and spaces happening right now.

The topic of transitioning face-to-face research to a virtual environment is a popular one. We are having it with every client across every business segment we work in today. And, while some clients still have concerns about capturing the same sentiment from participants in a digital world, it’s clear that this is the moment to try something new. In fact, TV networks are already moving pilot testing to secure online platforms, rather than a screening room full of people, and lifestyle brands are looking to replace focus groups with group chat.

Recognizing this new reality, means embracing a new set of virtual tools – especially when it comes to Qualitative research. Thankfully, we’re living in a time of plenty! There are many great technologies, systems and a higher than ever consumer adoption of digital communication, including video chat. For brands and businesses, the challenge is now knowing what is available, what works best for what needs and pros/cons of different options.

Building a Virtual Qualitative toolbox that’s right for you:

Online Focus Groups

What works:

  • An experienced moderator facilitates a real time conversation with a group of respondents via video platform. 

Great for:

  • Garnering opinions and ideas from respondents in geographically diverse locations without the need for travel – both in the U.S. and internationally.
  • Respondents engaging with each other as they discuss the topic or materials.

Things to think about:

  • The functionality of the platform: make sure your platform allows for the best discussion possible and is easy-to-use! Consider both the respondents’ and your own experience.  At MarketCast, our platform is built around a virtual backroom to make sure collaboration between our clients and project leads continues to thrive.  
  • From the respondents’ perspective, tools like group white boards, screen-sharing and integrated polls, quizzes and games make the discussion engaging and able to share stimuli securely.  
  • Consider few respondents and more groups: the sweet spot for a productive discussion, from our experience, is between 4 to 6 respondents. 

*Illustrative only

Virtual Ethnos & InDepth Interviews (IDIs)

What works:

  • Moderated sessions that can range from sit-down discussions to walkarounds of their homes, view-alongs during particular shows or occasions, or “fly on the wall” video observations.

Great for:

  • Going deep on what consumer are doing, their motivations, barriers, appreciations, and frustrations based on what we hear and observe.
  • Seeing a real ‘slice of life’ inside homes, family rooms and fridges.

Things to think about:

  • Will observational ethnographic (e.g. “fly on the wall” videoing where a camera is placed in a particular spot in the home) give you sight of unconscious/sub-conscious patterns and behaviors that you didn’t know before?
  • Behavioral and emotional analysis tools, including sentiment and eye tracking, are great for assessing stimuli and content, especially when paired with a fin-depth follow-up interview to discuss.
  • The value of rich visual artifacts to create a narrative for wider stakeholders – virtual ethnos and IDIs give an opportunity to collect video and imagery for broader engagement.

Digital Diaries

What works:

  • A longitudinal study of respondents in the moment – set over several days, with specific prompts and activities delivered each day and moderated by experienced facilitators. These diaries can be solo or set up as a group forum depending on the topic and desired learnings.

Great for:

  • Monitoring real-time behaviors and in-the-moment feelings from respondents in their natural environments.

Things to think about:

  • Mix up activities to keep it engaging over several days: videos, photos, text, hashtags, links, memes, polls, sorting/ranking exercises, and more keep respondents engaged and interested to continue sharing.
  • Moderation matters! Reacting to posts and probing to learn more is critical – it rewards good respondents and makes sure we really understand what they meant by that particular meme.
  • Getting up close and personal in their lives – we invite our clients to view content as it comes in from respondents – with us flagging meaningful posts in real time so broader teams can engage, without dredging through reams of content.