Market research now? – ‘How very dare you!’

We’ve been asked a few times this week by clients if we should continue with research projects. Understandably given what’s going on at the moment with the Coronavirus, companies are becoming increasingly concerned about whether it’s appropriate to be approaching businesses and consumers, and particularly customers, for their views during these unprecedented circumstances.

From our perspective, this is something that we haven’t come up against yet. When conducting online research, we’ve been able to complete fieldwork and meet our sample and quota targets without any real issues, both in the UK and internationally. In fact, one of our online research panel partners advised us last week that they have seen an increase in response rates in lockdown areas. Perhaps this is because people have more time available to contribute and offer feedback, and that their views are still valued despite what’s going on.

Similarly, our telephone fieldwork partners are still able to operate, with systems in place that enable interviewers to make calls from home, and we haven’t received any negative reactions so far from respondents. What is uncertain is how difficult it will become to contact relevant individuals within businesses as more and more people switch to working from home where they can. Where we have mobile telephone numbers then this is less of an issue. Where we have landline numbers then ultimately it depends on the sophistication of a company’s telephone system to be able to transfer us to the right contacts. Where they can be reached then they might actually have more time to spare than normally to take part in the research.

Ultimately, it’s about being sensitive to the ever-changing situation. With this in mind, our current advice on appropriateness is as follows:

  • Only consider online and telephone methodologies at the moment. Clearly, in line with the latest guidance from the Market Research Society, f2f approaches are a big no-no.
  • Look to pilot the fieldwork in the first instance to ensure that it’s feasible to do and isn’t going to upset anyone.
  • Most definitely put a project on hold for now if people’s views will be seriously influenced by what’s going on at the moment.
  • There will also be certain audiences that it would be unfeasible to target at the moment – doctors and nurses are an obvious example.
  • Consider offering an appropriate incentive to encourage and motivate individuals to take part in research; for example, a donation to the Coronavirus appeal in return for taking the time to share views.

Given the importance of corporate social responsibility, it’s been great to see so many positive responses from businesses to the current situation. It will certainly be interesting to see which companies and brands come out of this positively for behaving appropriately and doing the right things during this pandemic.

From a research perspective, we’re certainly conscious of our role in this, and will be doing all we can to behave appropriately and not damage any of our clients’ reputations.