The Puget Sound Research Forum recently hosted a discussion on how Covid is affecting research and the best practices to pursue these days. Our colleague Renske Wolfs joined a panel of experts to discuss this topic. Here are some of the highlights.
People are now more interested in participating in research. They are more likely to be home and with more flexible schedules. They are also eager to connect meaningfully with other people and share their perspectives on what they want from companies, especially now as their needs are changing. Participants often provide deeper and more insightful input as they have the time and desire to contribute.
While people now have more flexibility to contribute, staying focused and engaged for longer periods of time can be challenging. Researchers encourage conducting smaller group sizes and limiting them to 90 minutes. This applies to both research sessions and internal meetings and presentations.
Due to all the latest uncertainty, companies are having to be especially cognizant of and flexible with their resources. They appreciate research partners who are willing to roll with all the changes and provide creative solutions to still accomplish their research goals. They are often needing to test ideas more rapidly as their business situations quickly change.
Researchers are relying more on participants to self-narrate their experiences such as through mobile ethnography and UX testing. Instructions and questions likely need to be crafted even more clearly to ensure participants know what is being asked of them. Allowing participants to join in from their natural habitats (such as home, car, or favorite stores) may provide more authentic insights.
Clients can involve more people on their teams in the research process as more (or all) of the work is done remotely. This can increase the impact of the research as bigger teams have a say in how it is conducted and are thinking through the implications. Some expect that almost all their research will be done remotely in the foreseeable future.
Zoom is the new standard. Because so many clients and participants are familiar with this platform, it is easy to quickly bring participants of all ages into the process. In the past, research participants often needed much assistance getting set up and this is no longer the case. New Zoom features and add-on apps are making it easier to replicate the in-person experience. These include break-out sessions, white board features, and other collaborative tools.
Some projects may still require or benefit from in-person research. In-person research facilities and labs are staying up to date with the latest safety precautions to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. Now that people are used to masks, plastic partitions, and social distancing in retail and other environments, they are more comfortable following these same protocols for research.
Remote presentations can be more challenging. It can be tough to keep the audience engaged and to read the room. Presenters should encourage all to turn their cameras on and put themselves on mute when not actively speaking. This way they will avoid unexpected background noise from interrupting the ongoing conversation. It is also suggested that presenters include smaller audiences if possible, utilize breakout rooms, and encourage the use of the chat feature to share questions and comments.
We are all facing these unprecedented challenges together. Graciousness, patience, flexibility, and compassionate honesty from all involved is much appreciated and will help everyone do their best to succeed and thrive.
Thanks to the Puget Sound Research Forum for hosting this event and to the panelists for sharing their time and excellent perspective.
- Allie Deford, Expedia
- Matt Hirsch, M Agency
- Ryker Lammers, Fieldwork
- Kendra Singelais, Nordstrom
- Kelly Valade, Grail Insights
- Renske Wolfs, Hemispheres