The limitations of in-person market research

Market research can be leveraged for a number of purposes, most commonly, it is conducted before a product, or even a marketing campaign is released to determine its viability. Likewise, this type of research is typically conducted after a product or campaign is released in order to determine its impression on target audiences.

All kinds of methods are utilized to arrive at these conclusions, such as panel discussions or focus groups, surveys, ethnographic studies and more. In the past, market research was primarily conducted in person, later evolving to include phone surveys in addition to home visits, and now, through the digital transformation of the past decade, increasingly it is held online.

One service that allows innovative organizations to conduct market research online is Discuss, a purpose-built platform that offers browser-based live discussions, translation services, machine learning auto transcriptions, AI-powered sentiment analysis, and more, online.

Leading brands are increasingly pivoting to online market research as their sole source of customer insights, leaving all the logistical and budgetary issues behind. Here are just a few of the issues that are no longer a hurdle to turning experiences into insights:

  1. Costs

    One of the major issues with holding market research primarily in person is the prohibitive overhead involved. With in-person research, organizations are first required to find and recruit consumers, a process that can lead to an over reliance on outside organizations and that can be costly in and of itself. The costs do not stop there, however.

    Once recruits have been found, there are costs involved in bringing all those recruits to one location for the research to take place. Valid, quality market research requires participants from a wide range of areas, sometimes from around the globe, depending on the scope and range of the business conducting the research. That means air travel, mileage reimbursement, food and lodging costs all typically factor into the equation. When the sample size is large enough to be valid, it’s easy to see how this could easily add up to huge costs for a business.

    Unfortunately, there are still other fees involved. Business owners are required not only to pay for the transportation and related costs of participants but also to rent a facility in which to hold research sessions. These facilities sometimes charge huge hourly rates, further adding to the costs incurred by the business.

    When market research is conducted online, however, very few fees are involved. Using online platforms, organizations can find participants in just a few hours or days and then conduct the research, communication, and, collaboration all in one place. That eliminates travel, lodging, and facility rental fees. The only costs incurred are for the service and to the participants, making online market research a much more cost efficient option for all businesses.

  2. Bias
    Another huge issue that exists with in-person qualitative research is bias. When participants in a market research panel, study, or survey are together in one room, it’s basically impossible for bias not to occur.

    First, there’s the fact that no one likes to be labeled as an ‘outsider.’ Thus, if the majority of a group thinks one thing, it is less likely that a person who feels an opposite way would voice his views, thus unfairly skewing the results of the study or other research.

    Furthermore, confirmation bias is a huge problem in such studies. There is a tendency among people conducting the study to want to interpret given information in a particular wary. Thus, the people conducting the survey may read facial cues, remarks, and other affirmations in a way conducive to their beliefs, rather than in a thoroughly accurate way. This, too, can lead to skewed results. Likewise, physically present researchers may unintentionally influence participants with their own body language and facial expressions in a way that leads to unfair results.

    While the potential for bias will always be present in any kind of research, it is greatly reduced with online research, such as the kind that can be conducted through Discuss. When every conversation happens online, participants do not have to view or be influenced by the reactions of other participants. Furthermore, researchers can view information via a transcript, leaving less room for bias than there is when facial expressions and other non-verbal cues can be seen.

    Again, bias will always be present in any type of research, but the risk is greatly reduced when research is conducted online, so in that regard, the results of research conducted through Discuss. has the potential to be much more accurate, which can make for more actionable and helpful results.

  3. Missing Variables

    Online market research platforms like Discuss understand all of the problems that can occur in traditional research, such as those mentioned above as well as the potential for missing variables, which, in short, means one did not include all relevant participants and/or factors in the scope of a study.

    Because online platforms are able to automate much of the administrative burden and common mistakes found in traditional market research, there is less room for human error, saving researchers time and money.

    As you can see, there are many benefits to conducting research online instead of in person.  Beyond avoiding the issues found in traditional market research, conducting online research can ultimately give a better picture of customers and their experiences, leading to greater understanding, empathy, and stronger customer and user experiences in the future.

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