Research in times of Corona: Many things are possible!
The corona pandemic poses major challenges for the research industry. Many open questions and uncertainties are currently shaping our business. Face-to-face research in particular is very difficult. But there are methodological alternatives and thus opportunities and potential. For example, since May we have been able to conduct personal qualitative research projects again
Your GIM research experts have prepared a compact FAQ report that shows you how you can continue to conduct valid research despite corona. The basis for this is our concrete experience from projects of the last few weeks. Our conclusion: The world of research continues to turn, there are creative possibilities to conduct beneficial research even in this unusual phase.
How valid can survey results be at the moment? To what extent does the corona crisis affect response behaviour?
Overall, we have observed that valid answers can be expected in the B2C and especially in the B2B sector also in times of crisis. However, there are some things to consider that we clarify with our customers in each case. Some watch-outs on this:
The validity of the results depends strongly on the topic. General questions that have no direct relation to the corona situation and its direct consequences still seem possible to us. Participants can very well get involved in these topics without being "biased" by the current situation. Here, the appropriate framework which the interview or group chat is based on is very important.
An example of such a frame is retrospection. As a rule, participants are able to put themselves in their own behaviour before the limitations of the corona pandemic and respond retrospectively. However, the study director must sensitize the participants appropriately for retrospective research and keep in mind that the current situation will not become part of the discussion. This can be realized especially well in qualitative research. Framing also works in quantitative surveys, as GIM basic studies from the recent past have shown. On the other hand, topics that are more directly related to the crisis and its effects (think, for example, of supply issues) run the risk of being distorted.
In some types of studies – especially tracking studies – the aim is to measure and understand the effect of the current situation. Here, for example, the sturdiness of a brand image or a target group profile turns out. Therefore, the surveys are also and especially valid if they reflect the effect of the current situation in the answers.
In general, our experience of recent weeks shows that both the willingness to participate and the response qualities are particularly high in these times. People like to talk about other topics and therefore accept interviews if they are conducted sincerely and with the necessary degree of empathy.
Which survey methods are currently suitable?
Since May, a partial return to qualitative face-to-face research is possible. For this purpose, we have conducted pilot interviews with the test studio Quotapoint GmbH in "corona-prepared" locations. The result: Despite comprehensive safety and hygiene measures, IDIs seem to be feasible almost without distorting effects.
In order to conduct focus groups, the hurdles are higher due to the comprehensive safety precautions and preliminary briefings. The realisability must be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Various "remote" solutions are suitable as an alternative to F2F surveys. We have already done this successfully in numerous studies (of course, even before the crisis) and can therefore draw on a wide range of experience to ensure the validity and comparability of the results.
GIM can draw on the complete portfolio of remote solutions – via phone and online channels. Both channels allow a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data collection:
With the qualitative online platform GIM Connect, we map the world of qualitative research digitally. Through the possibility of observation or monitoring of interviews/chats by clients, our research remains transparent. GIM Connect can be used to conduct single interviews, group discussions, forum discussions, online research communities and online diaries, among other things. Qualitative, creative methods, visual and auditory stimuli, explicit and implicit methods can also be included.
Skype/Web video interviews or group chats in a direct way (without the need for a platform) as a particularly pragmatic solution.
CATI to Web – classic telephone interviews using different stimulus materials via parallel web communication
- Qualitative phone interviews
Online (Web and Mobile)
Fundamentally, our experience of the last few weeks has shown that accessibility, willingness to participate and response qualities are particularly high in these times. This is true for all channels, especially noticeable for telephone interviews.
Of course, other survey methods (e.g. social media, data analytics) remain unaffected by the crisis. They are fully available.
What reliability can I expect?
GIM research has largely switched to home office solutions while strictly maintaining security standards. Our IT infrastructure has always been designed for maximum flexibility. Our mobile workstations comply with the ISO 20252 standard and the strict TISAX security certification.
What alternatives to face-to-face research are suitable?
In general, all telephone or digital channels are suitable here (see above). F2F In-Depth interviews can be converted to webcam IDIs, the simplest and most pragmatic solution. It has become possible almost everywhere in recent years, as the spread of webcams is practically complete. Even smaller webcam group discussions can be realized pragmatically via easy Skype solutions.
Of course, we also offer more complex solutions via online research platforms. This enables customers to monitor data collection in compliance with all data protection regulations. GIM Connect offers a wide variety of solutions for this purpose, which are tailored to the specific problem.
We have also had very good experiences with remote moderation: If it is not possible for the moderator to be physically present, but it makes sense for a participant to handle materials, moderation can be done via video. In this case the moderator it feels like the moderator is sitting at the table with the participants. The participants usually deal with the "screen moderator" quite naturally, as many people are used to virtual/screen-based communication via computer, e.g. via Skype. Currently, this method is especially suitable for one-on-one conversations, if applicable for mini groups. Under all circumstances, attention must be paid to the minimum distances between the physically present participants (ideally n=1) and above all to the fact that the materials as well as the entire setting must be disinfected or cleaned accordingly.
Are there topics and target groups that can currently be researched particularly well?
Our current experiences show that many target groups are even better reachable at present than at normal times. This applies to both B2B and B2C. Many people are currently at home, some are even looking for ways to alleviate possible boredom. Availability by telephone and willingness to answer are significantly increased, as we were able to measure in our regular representative telephone surveys. This situation is also an opportunity for participation in online studies, as there are possibilities for longer "concentration windows", e.g. for an online survey, a discussion or forum participation. Likewise, one's own "four walls" can currently be researched well, e.g. with remote ethnography.
The corona crisis also generates new research needs to understand the effects of the crisis and prepare for the hoped-for return to normality: What changes are there - in the short, medium and perhaps even long term - in people's values and attitudes, in their perceptions of brands, products and topics? Is society changing, is the consumer or media user changing? What influence does the corona crisis have on consumer and media behaviour? What long-term effects are evident?
Are there topics and target groups that are currently less well researched?
Principally, this question can be answered in each case individually. It depends above all on whether one wants to extrapolate the effect of the crisis, because one assumes that it will not be long-lasting, or whether one wants to recognize and understand precisely this effect.
The decision to conduct research during this period therefore depends on the topic and the target group in relation to the respective interest in knowledge. There is no simple answer here.
When can F2F research be started again?
Together with our cooperation partner Quotapoint, we have re-started the F2F research work in May. For this purpose, we conducted joint test interviews in "corona-prepared" locations in advance. IDIs seem to be feasible almost without distorting effects: The participants did not feel disturbed by plexiglass walls nor by adherence to distance rules. Furthermore, the motivation to participate in interviews or discussions is very high after weeks of quarantine. People are happy to be able to go back to "the public" and talk about topics that have no connection with the pandemic.
The implementation of focus groups is associated with higher hurdles, but is possible in general. Also from the test persons' point of view of, groups of up to five persons with appropriate protection, safety distances, and adherence to all hygiene measures are conceivable (and conform to the current official regulations). The realisability has to be discussed and decided in each individual case.
Where can I currently conduct research projects?
The pandemic is worldwide, yet research can still be done in many countries – such as in Germany – as many institutes have switched to remote solutions and are taking advantage of the opportunity of home offices. Against the background of curfews in some countries, however, decisions have to be made locally, depending on the current situation. However, due to the mobility of modern workplaces and the largely digital or telephone channels, remote research is usually possible. In China the situation is easing and in the meantime allows F2F research again.
How does the corona crisis affect recruitment?
For certain occupational groups (e.g. craftsmen and doctors) the corona crisis has a negative effect on recruitment. On the other hand, the willingness of B2C test persons to participate in many topics is currently increased, as people have more spare time, a greater need for incentives and the need for a different "input" regarding content.
How can results be presented?
We have mostly switched to presentations via Skype or Microsoft teams. Both channels offer the opportunity for online presentation and joint discussion. Depending on the firewall conditions on the client side, we can also use other web platforms (WebEx or others).
There are many creative ways to generate relevant insights – even in times of Corona. From our point of view, it is important to stay in touch and to plan research solutions individually and tailored to your needs. We will be happy to advise you on your concerns and your research needs.