Online Market Research is the GRIT Report Winner

Twice a year the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (or GRIT report) shares an in-depth analysis of the market research industry. It is used by market researchers to better understand what things buyers are interested in as well as which methodologies and technologies are in demand.

The first half of this years GRIT report suggests that online communities have been a reliable and effective tool through the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been held in high regard by market research buyers utilizing their services and show value as a core tool of the research process.

The report is also one of the most significant publications over the past few years as it uses data collected in Q4 of 2020, capturing the largest changes to the market research due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1,000 suppliers, buyers, and industry professionals completed interviews and shared their experiences in the industry, touching on both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and tools.

Trends: Quant in the Digital Realm

COVID-19 pushed the limits of digitalization across many sectors including the market research industry. For years, the preferred quantitative data collection methodology of choice has been online or mobile surveys which has remained the same throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021. Proprietary panels and Online Insight Communities are also frequently used to meet Quantitative needs using various methods to achieve this.

With that obvious bit out of the way, we can move along to discuss where the bulk of research was, and continues to be, impacted by the pandemic.

Trends: Change in Qualitative Research

With people shifting away from gathering in large groups to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, online communities and IDIs are now used more frequently than traditional qualitative methodoligies like in-person focus groups and IDIs.

Just over 6 months have passed since the first half of the GRIT was published and most Americans are now seeing a gradual reopening of workplaces and businesses. However, with the rise of the Delta variant in certain areas across the country and the summer coming to an end it is possible that we’ll see targeted lockdowns arrive once more during the winter months again.

Online market research communities were in an ideal position when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged for corporate researchers, already being equipped with tools, programs and software to conduct projects completely virtually. Especially during statewide lockdowns, online communities were some of the only channels conducting qualitative research. And there’s no reason this can’t, and won’t, continue post-pandemic, as virtual research has now become a proven effective methodology.

From the GRIT Report:

“As with quantitative methods, the importance of online communities also stands out among qualitative. In a qualitative context, 35% are using communities regularly and a further 36% use them occasionally, making online communities the third most used medium for both qualitative and quantitative research, a position unchanged from 19W2. Of buyers and suppliers who use online communities at least occasionally for both types of research, online communities continue to be a foundational element of their research process, giving credence to the arguments of suppliers of those solutions that the community should be considered as the hub for research.”

Trends: Supplier Priorities

The key priorities for market research buyers aren’t very surprising either. Understandably, the quality of the insights generated is the top priority for buyers, as results don’t mean much if they aren’t correct or delivered in a concise and meaningful way.

Notably, cost and speed of the delivering results are the second and third most important factors. You can get high-quality results rapidly, but it won’t be cheap. You can get high-quality results inexpensively, but it won’t be delivered quickly. Or you can get results fast and for a low cost, but they may not be valuable.

In the time of COVID-19, the way that customers feel, experience, or interact with products and services is changing rapidly. Companies expect expedited, and frequently delivered, findings so they can accurately assess the state of their target audiences.

There is an ever-growing demand for suppliers to deliver high-quality insights in a manner that is cost-efficient. This is another benefit of an insight community, they provide an environment where brands can interact with their customers by creating an ongoing dialog allowing them to gain insights on-demand.

Tying it all Together:  What This Means for Online Communities

Just as with quantitative research, the technology available to researchers is primed to meet qualitative research needs in an online setting. Online community providers like KLC use proprietary platforms equipped with forum boards, journaling/IDI modules, and video conferencing capabilities to conduct in-depth research projects.

This type of research activity can take place over the course of several days, and participants can complete these activities from the comfort of their homes, often asynchronously. Responses and moderator probes can be sent from anywhere at any time during the project’s duration. Allowing for even more flexibility in a participant’s and moderator’s availability, leading to more robust insights. In an online setting, participants, moderators, and stakeholders themselves can participate or observe from anywhere in the world. Geographic location is no longer an obstacle. The only barrier to participate is a smart phone or a computer with a working internet connection. This empowers online communities to be a consistent and superior channel to conduct research through, especially during a global pandemic and beyond.

Online Communities are Quick, Convenient and Cost-Efficient

Online communities can utilize and benefit from asynchronous research methodologies. One of the commonalities between our digital lives and online research, is the speed at which it takes place. Like seeing a post on your social media liked by your friends, online market research communities can get reactions to new research activities within minutes. Often, all responses can be collected within 24-48 hours. These short field times enable researchers to begin their analyses sooner and deliver the results quicker than their in-person counterpart. 

Respondents can share feedback when it is convenient for them. They can answer questions on their lunch break at work, or after they tuck their kids into bed. Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic participants have been readily available and willing to join from the comfort of their own home. This is unlikely to change as COVID restrictions loosen.

Ordinarily, when market research suppliers need to deliver qualitative results, there is some in-depth scheduling involved, a high incentive offered to participants, and the overhead of renting out a facility. In an online environment, these expenses are greatly minimized. In an asynchronous research situation participants and researchers aren’t bound by the lengthy and stringent constraints, offered incentives can be lowered as you are asking less of the participant (i.e., no travel), and there is no geographic restriction.

All of these elements open research up to a larger group of participants and makes it easy to conduct research frequently, all while driving down the costs for research overall.  The results of the GRIT report indicate that brands are starting to realize this.

If you’d like to read the full GRIT report for Q4 2020, you can do so here.

Interested in learning more about Online Communities? Let us know!