Covid-19 Changed the Way We Conducted Research
Covid-19 impacted the market research industry in a countless number of ways. L&E Research, like many other qualitative research firms that offer in-person facility solutions, saw a drastic decline in face-to-face research. While researchers were already exploring remote options including asynchronous activities like bulletin boards, shop-alongs, home-use tests, and diaries, these were never meant to replace the importance and value of having a conversation in a one-on-one or group setting with a live audience.
The pandemic led to an increase in conducting synchronous sessions via video-conferencing software, and an overall increase in asynchronous research. But what about the projects that still needed to be conducted face-to-face? Qualitative research firms that offer in-person facility solutions had to implement changes that would reduce risk for all parties involved. By making their facilities as safe as possible for staff, clients, and participants, in-person research became a viable option once again.
Technology made it possible to move research online in a meaningful way, conduct new types of remote research activities, and allowed us to find and utilize new sources of research data.
The Way We Shopped Allowed an Untapped Data Source to Emerge
Of course, market research wasn’t the only activity to see a shift from in-person to online. There was an incredible surge in online shopping over the course of the pandemic - a whopping 32.4% increase over the previous year (https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/us-ecommerce-sales/). As review platforms such as Yogi saw an increase in the volume of online reviews and ratings, brands began to realize the importance of this previously untapped data source. It contains a wealth of unbiased feedback that simply needs to be analyzed in order for valuable insights to be found.
As New Tools Were Needed to Analyze This Data - Enter AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next step in automation when working with large amounts of data. While AI does not replace the insights professional, AI organizes and analyzes data and sentiments, which makes teams more efficient by removing menial tasks, such as tagging, collating, and structuring data, from the process. With advancements in AI, researchers can analyze observational data, and not simply base their findings on the “ask environment” (i.e. polling, interviews, etc.).
AI is best utilized when it can support and enhance the role of the researcher, not take the researcher out of the picture. A focus group still needs a trained moderator, and AI cannot replace that. AI can help that moderator achieve greater things with the right technology.
Using Qualitative and Quantitative for Agile Innovation
Research has been moving towards a more inclusive hybrid approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative into the entire innovation cycle. Rather than using an anchored “waterfall” approach, it’s more comprehensive for decision making to now use an “agile” approach that is more frequent and lighter in nature and may include more tools along the way rather than one large strategy. This gives researchers a collection of different types of data to inform their decisions.
Using the combination of these technologies to fulfill research needs could be quite the powerhouse and can leverage both the “observe” and “ask” environments. For example, a company could use Yogi to analyze their reviews and ratings across a variety of sites to identify a problem they may have with a specific product, or perhaps it may reveal an issue with their brand perception of which they were unaware, or it could simply show them how their competitor may be outperforming them. Whatever the case may be, based on their analysis of existing reviews and ratings, using observational data, they have now identified a problem and can develop a purpose statement which will guide the research team on the work that must be accomplished throughout the research process.
Developments in technology go far beyond just helping researchers shift from in-person to remote. With changes in the macro environment like massive shifts to online shopping, researchers need to have the tools to identify new sources of data and analyze them efficiently. AI and other software will never replace the insights professional, but having the right technology can allow research to become faster, more agile and more innovative.