Online research methods are a practical alternative to the face-to-face variety in times of social distancing, but brands shouldn’t be tempted to stick with these post-pandemic as much is lost without the use of face-to-face research, a practitioner warns.

“To develop the business equivalent of antibodies and make your brand more resilient, qualitative research is more essential than ever to capture these changes and to understand what these changes mean for people, and for brands – in the short and the long term,” says Drago Djourov, a qualitative researcher and brand strategist based in Singapore and Tokyo.

Writing for WARC, Djourov acknowledges that what constitutes the time frame for ‘short term’ has lengthened in the current environment, but contends that the long term will return sooner than we think.

“We can prepare our brands for the future by continuing to stay in touch with consumers, talking to them and engaging with them,” he says.

“The research would need to focus on exploring longer-term opportunities, too, but by tracking the daily fluctuations we’re also better positioned to identify long-term changes before our competitor brands pick them up or decide to act on them.”

Just how brands stay in touch has to be through the various online methods available – and Djourov encourages experimentation with these – but these only capture the obvious.

Online research may be efficient and save money, but “F2F research is incomparable for the opportunity for discovery and serendipity it can offer,” he argues. “It can open doors your brand wasn’t aware existed.”

Furthermore, face-to-face contact also helps build empathy and trust in a way that’s simply not possible using just remote communications, while context tends to be sidelined – how something is said, or who says it, can matter more than what is said.

The future, then, is likely to involve a combination of learnings and a hybrid of methodologies, Djourov believes.

“Our approach to future methodology and the role of F2F research need to be informed by a recognition of the role of effectiveness, empathy and context that would enable us to get to authentic insight and deliver true value for our client brands in these challenging times.”

For more details on what qual researchers can do online now and how they can apply these learnings in future, read Drago Djourov’s article in full: Face-to-face with uncertainty: Moving qualitative research through and beyond COVID-19.

Sourced from WARC