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Covid-19 can’t hold back market research

Vanessa Slade explains how the pandemic has shifted the way we conduct research.

Updated guidelines from the Market Research Society (MRS), the world’s leading authority for the research, insight, marketing science and data analytics sectors, outline how to conduct safe face-to-face data collection during Covid-19.  

They provide instructions on managing face-to-face research with participants who are defined as being extremely clinically vulnerable and clinically vulnerable to Covid-19. It also includes advice on the screening process to establish if a participant has Covid-19, adhering to social distancing, the appropriateness of wearing of face coverings and gloves and the consequences of contract tracing.

But while face-to-face research can now take place, research practitioners should consider if face-to-face data collection is a necessity or if alternative non-contact methodologies can be employed to address client objectives, for example, these may include:

Online surveys

A quantitative online survey is best when looking to measure issues and evaluate ideas that are known (but not generate them – that needs a qualitative approach!). At Pegasus, we use online surveys to obtain statistically robust insights and PR headlines as well as tracking awareness, trial and usage of brands over time.

InsightsNow has an ongoing Covid-19 tracker on clean living behaviour that focuses on Clean Label Enthusiasts® in the US (consumers who make purchase decisions based on brands, ingredients, and claims) as a consumer segment and the impact of the pandemic on their behaviour.

Online focus groups

Qualitative focus groups are brilliant for generating ideas and concepts and a must-have in situations where an in-depth understanding is required. We often use focus groups to inform the development of creative concepts and messaging – the group dynamics are engaging for the participants and are a good vehicle for creativity.

Using platforms such as InterVu or Zoom, online focus groups are often more convenient for participants as they don’t have to travel to/from a central location facility to take part in the research.

Quadrangle has been running weekly three hour-long online focus groups with pre-family, family and post-family segments across the UK, to explore topics such as shopping, money management, health and wellbeing and trust in brands during the pandemic.

Digital ethnography

This is a form of in-depth qualitative research in which participants capture their own daily routines, behaviours and thoughts for an extended period, often via a smartphone app. We took this approach when a client needed to obtain fresh insight into the behaviour and day-to-day challenges faced by people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

During the initial Covid-19 outbreak, Vox Pops International conducted weekly video diaries with six millennial consumers.

Indeed, thanks to these remote methodologies, research never stopped.

Here at Pegasus, we fielded our first quantitative online Covid-19 survey in April, looking at the impact of the pandemic on the animal health industry. Since then, we have fielded a second wave of the survey in addition to a quantitative online survey with consumers and qualitative individual-depth interviews, conducted over Zoom with GPs, oncologists and virologists.

More recently, we have undertaken research projects on behalf of our clients, looking at the impact of Covid-19 on the industry in which they operate and the brands in their portfolio, in order to understand how they need to evolve to meet their audience’s needs for the ‘next normal’. The insights obtained from the market research have been critical in informing decision making and helping our clients to make their businesses stronger during this challenging period.

If you have a research brief in mind, or just want to discuss the options available, drop Vanessa an email at: Vanessa.slade@thisispegasus.co.uk

is a researcher in our Strategy & Insights team. She has worked in market research all her career and for the last five years has specialised in research in health.