Market Research in the time of COVID-19: Can I switch data collection methods?

By: Pete Cape
Director, Global Knowledge

A number of market research projects will be stalled, unable to do fieldwork. Almost all face-to-face fieldwork, most mall or hall tests and many telephone interviews (especially those using central location call centres) will not be happening.

But the need for data now is, arguably, greater than ever.

What are the impacts of switching methods to online?

First impact will be that you will have to get used to things happening much quicker than you are used to. Fieldwork times can be measured in hours, not days (or weeks) and your data is ready instantly. No more showcards to produce, no more question type constraints.

But your data will be different. If it is a tracker you must be prepared for a data discontinuity (although it will track forward just as before). If it is not your usual method you’ll have to learn how to interpret data that is outside your norms…

Trying to adapt your online survey to be like your offline survey is tough – but can be done to some degree. You just need to imagine how the conversation is evolving between interviewer and respondent and try to replicate that. So, you write a question for a telephone survey that looks like a multicode to be randomised. In fact, in conversation it is a series of Yes/No questions and the respondent doesn’t know what is coming next. So that’s how you must write them, a series of randomised Yes/No questions. Of course, then you’ll also have to deal with reduced acquiescence or social desirability bias…so the data may still be different, but you have controlled what you can.

Another thing you can’t control – the time the respondent takes on each question for example. So you’ll get more spontaneous brand recall.

Some things are utterly intractable. The way respondents react to scaled question, the way they use the scales, is different between interviewed and self-completion modes. Trust me, the biggest brains in our industry have been stumped by this phenomenon for the past 50 years – so you are unlikely to hit upon a solution.

But the data is not wrong, just a new truth to deal with. It takes just a moment to get used to and it will quickly become your new normal. So I’d recommend getting information now, and not waiting until we can do the other methods again, that may be a long wait.

Click here to download Dynata’s on-demand webinar-Conducting Research During Uncertain Times