In-Person Market Research: Good or Bad Idea During Covid-19?

As with most in-person gatherings, COVID-19 is causing businesses to question if in-person market research is a good or bad idea.

Throughout the past few months, our market research company has helped our clients transition traditional methodologies online to abide by social distancing guidelines.

As parts of the country begin to return to normalcy, what does this mean for organizations wishing to conduct focus groups, intercept surveys and other person to person research studies?

Our experts were posed with the question, “Is in-person market research a good or bad idea amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?” Here are their answers.

In-person market research: Good or Bad Idea During Covid-19?


In-person Market Research is a Bad Idea 👎

Emily Taylor, Senior Research Analyst

Don't get me wrong. Market research is critical for the success of an organization. Market research is even more important during a time of crisis when consumer behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs are changing dramatically.

During a global pandemic, I don’t think it’s the best idea to hold in-person research. However, online research is a fantastic way to update methodologies and continue fueling strategic decision-making.

I'm willing to bet for every traditional in-person research study, there is a way to do it remotely. Plus, with dramatically increased connectivity and software options, online research is even easier to conduct than ever before.

Now could be the perfect time for your team to re-think your research methodology or consult a third-party market research company for help. 

With dramatically increased connectivity  and software options, online research is  even easier to conduct than ever before.

Let's take a closer look at the data to support this opinion.

C+R conducted research that found nearly all consumers would be willing to complete the following studies during the COVID-19 crisis:

How does this compare to those willing to conduct these studies in-person? Far fewer people were willing to participate in:

  • In-home interview (56%)
  • Shop-along (67%)
  • 5 to 7 participant focus group (66%)
  • CLT survey (67%)
  • 3 to 4 person focus group (73%)
  • One-on-one interview at a facility (79%)

Results also showed that those aged 60 years or older were significantly less likely to participate in in-person research.

Several must-haves and nice-to-haves were requested by respondents who would consider participating in-person.

Requests included hand sanitizer, placing everyone 6 feet apart, everyone wearing masks, everyone taking their temperature before entering, and sanitizing the surrounding surfaces. 

The Market Research Society created COVID-19 guidelines for professionals to follow before conducting in-person research. There’s a lot to consider and a lot that can go wrong even if all of the instructions are followed.

Some red flags about conducting in-person market research include:

  • Increased difficultly to recruit for in-person research which leads to increased cost
  • Negative effects if facilities and participants do not follow the rules/precautions
  • Negative effects if someone with asymptomatic symptoms or who is unknowingly contagious
  • Risk of needing to post-pone due to potential lockdowns, facility concerns, or participant concerns

To be on the safe side for facilities, participants, and the sponsoring organization, should consider remote research methodologies.

Also, moving research online may decrease cost, increase feasibility, and speed up project timelines. Think of the added pros!

Moving research online may decrease costs,  increase feasibility, and speed up  project timelines. Think of the added pros!


In-person Market Research Depends on Various Factors 🤷

Elizabeth Sincavage, Research Assistant

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, life is returning to what seems to be the “new normal.” As market researchers are learning to navigate research methods during these unprecedented times, the idea of in-person research raises a lot of questions.

The major question at hand; Is in-person research a good idea right now?

The answer is, it really depends...on a lot of things:

  • What do the COVID-19 infection rates look like in your area?
  • Is your target demographic considered to be more high-risk?
  • Is there anything preventing you from moving the qualitative research online?

If an in-person research study really is your only option, there are many precautionary measures that can be taken in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during in-person research.

As always, it’s important to adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines, however, some of these preventative measures might include wearing personal protective equipment, curbside check-in, smaller group sizes, and more time in between sessions to allow time for proper sanitizing.

The cost of in-person research will certainly require a larger budget right now.

Research participants may be more reluctant to attend in-person research, which increases the cost per recruit. To reach the desired number of participants, more groups of fewer participants may be required to ensure social distancing can be maintained.

Research participants may be more reluctant to  attend in-person research, which increases the cost per recruit. To reach the desired number of  participants, more groups of fewer participants  may be required.

While there are many ways to reduce the risks of in-person research during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no promises.

The risks associated with in-person research during the coronavirus pandemic may very well outweigh the benefits. When it comes to making decisions during a global pandemic, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

The truth is, new technologies have enabled market researchers to conduct qualitative research remotely, quickly, cost-effectively, and safely.

You won’t have to worry about participants spreading the virus, reluctance to participate in-person, or even reaching participants who live within a certain distance of the focus group facility.


In-person Market Research is a Good Idea 👍

Tim Gell, Research Analyst

Is conducting in-person market research right now a good idea? I would say yes for several reasons.

Businesses are already adapting. 

First and foremost, we are seeing the world adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic as it becomes our “new normal.” Everyone is learning that business must find a way to continue, including market research to fuel strategic decision-making.

Essential businesses are leading the way for all businesses like market research to operate under new social challenges.

In-person research methodologies are taking notes from other industries for social-distancing and cleaning best practices to make it safe for all parties involved.

Furthermore, in-person market research may be viewed as more important than ever because of COVID-19.

Consumer behavior is evolving rapidly for in-person tasks like retail shopping, leisure activities, and running errands.

The most reliable way to understand these changes may be physical approaches like intercept surveys and shop-alongs. These methodologies are not easily substituted with online research alternatives, especially in local settings.

The most reliable way to understand these changes  may be physical approaches like intercept surveys  and shop-alongs. These methodologies are not easily  substituted with online research alternatives, especially  in local settings.

Ethnography is a good example of research that can be a natural fit in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. T

his research methodology is focused on observation of participants rather than interactions to gather data. The researcher would have few issues keeping a distance of 6+ feet from the participant and still uncovering valuable insights.

Interested in learning more about mobile ethnography? Here are 4 benefits.

Ultimately, in-person research can be done both effectively and safely with the right market research partner.

Before dismissing an interest in these methodologies, consult an experienced market research company to make the best decision. You may be surprised at what in-person research can be successfully conducted.


Contact Our Market Research Company

Drive Research is a full-service market research company located in Upstate New York. Our experts have partnered with organizations across the country to help execute both in-person and online market research studies. 

Need our help? Contact us through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at info@driveresearch.com
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

subscribe to our blog

Drive Research News