100% digital – 100% people understanding
The world of market research is undergoing a dramatic transformation. What has been slowly developing over the past years has been accelerated at breakneck speed through the current coronavirus situation.
The topic of face-to-face versus digital is hot in qualitative research. Many companies have seen the advantages of doing fully digital over the past 18 months – less non-essential travel, greater geographic reach and inter-regional interaction within a given geography for example.
Others remain passionate about the benefits of face-to-face – with some suggesting that a digital group can easily be more of a Q & A session than the natural flow of an in-person session, where conversations can evolve more naturally.
The July 2021 Issue of Germany’s leading market research magazine, Planung & Analyse – dedicated itself to the recent changes in qual research.
The editor-in-chief Sabine Hedewig-Mohr talks in her editorial about a quantum-leap – and “no way back”. Digital, she summarises, has forced digitally reticent quallies to become creative, and discover in the process all sorts of new options that online offers:
– digital ethnographies that allow stakeholders much easier access to the in-home realities of their customers
– the ease of digital sets-ups for such online ethnos
– the naturalness of screen-to-screen groups, where participants are in the comfort of their own homes and surroundings, as opposed to the comparatively artificial setting of a studio environment
She references research conducted by freelance qualitative researchers Dr. Melanie Wortmann and Angelika Haas, who talked to quali-professionals in German-speaking countries about their experiences. The impression given is nuanced: despite thriving in the online world of qual, discovering new options, there’s a sense of longing for face-to-face closeness again, a sense of something missing, a sense of “Heimweh”.
They conclude, however, with a “no going back – fortunately!” message, stating that most saw the future as enhanced with new options, the quallie world had expanded, the interplay between online and offline offering fascinating options.
There’s also an interview with Happy Thinking People’s Sven Arn. Qualitative research is booming – his take – thanks in part to the rapid adoption of online qual during the early days of the pandemic, with clients experiencing how convenient and agile it can be, and also due to qual’s foresighting ability, to anticipate future developments. He sees a higher value attached to qualitative research in times of change and uncertainty, like the present.
He sees online qual as here to stay – certainly in international studies. And he sees a fusion of different approaches as of growing importance – eye-tracking and facial recognition, for example.
Face-to-face is important in researching completely new target groups in new geographies, where neither client nor researchers have experience or understanding of the context and the culture.
In conclusion: the issue makes for interesting reading – there seems to be indeed no going back in qual, with digital here to stay. That having been said, as the COVID situation continues to evolve seemingly weekly, with new information continually revealed, it seems like we are in for a prolonged period of uncertainty, so nothing is set in stone. Plus the situation is different in each geography.
But certainly exciting times – qual booming, digitally empowered, so reason for optimism.
If you’d like to read the whole interview with Sven, by the way, just drop us a line – it’s in German at the moment, but an English version could be made possible!
firstname.lastname@example.org Or give us a buzz, of course!
(Picture source: Photo by Ben Collins on Unsplash)