Unleashing the Power of MROCs to Achieve Better Business Insights
The concept of research has evolved significantly, moving towards a hybrid approach that combines qualitative and quantitative methods. This shift has been influenced by various factors, with COVID-19 being a significant game-changer. The pandemic forced in-person research to come to a halt, leading to the rise of online and digital methodologies. The integration of platforms like Zoom allowed for asynchronous studies, where participants engage in activities over a period of time and then follow up with in-depth interviews or focus groups. This hybrid approach has become the norm, with simultaneous or sequential qualitative and quantitative studies being conducted.
Best practices in this new landscape involve leveraging the strengths of both asynchronous and live engagement. Asynchronous methods offer a less intrusive and more convenient way for participants to share their experiences, while live interactions build on the insights gained from the initial asynchronous phase. The hybrid approach also allows for larger teams to be involved in research without overwhelming participants, as the digital aspect provides a more private and comfortable environment. The cost benefits of digital research and the ability to immerse larger audiences in the process are additional advantages of this approach. Overall, the hybrid method enhances the research experience, allowing for deeper insights and more focused discussions.
It’s important to recognize the role of technology, particularly in hybrid activity communities. Video-based interactions and projective techniques, such as storytelling and collage tools, are effective methods for obtaining in-depth insights and emotional context from participants.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can assist researchers in analyzing and aggregating data, providing summaries, and generating insights. However, there is a consensus that AI cannot replace the human touch and expertise in research. While AI has its benefits in processing large amounts of data, the interpretation and synthesis of information still require the strategic thinking and understanding of a skilled researcher. AI can enhance efficiency in research but cannot replace the critical thinking and storytelling abilities of human researchers. The human element, empathy, and understanding of human behavior remain essential in delivering valuable insights to clients. Overall, there are both benefits and challenges when using AI in market research, but transparency, communication, and a human-centric approach in leveraging these technologies is key.
When using research technology platforms to collect data, it’s crucial to have a strong support system in place. Brand researchers, recruitment providers, and research panelists will all engage with the platform. Humans naturally have a varied level of comfort when engaging with technology, so it’s important to have a strong support team of humans that can guide each audience. While an instructional video would suffice in many cases, if users are challenged by technology, lost insights may be the unnecessary cost.
Having the right partners to support recruitment is equally important. An experienced partner can make methodological recommendations to successfully execute research. They are experts at managing the logistical needs, maintaining transparency and communication, and setting expectations with panelists throughout the process. Good partners will advise researchers on best practices applicable to a variety of approaches, including: the necessity of a kickoff call, minimizing extraneous touchpoints, avoiding changes to research expectations, and prompt communication with recruits. Calibrating incentives to match the tasks involved will promote engagement and discourage participant drop-off. Granting access to project managers in technology platforms is suggested to monitor participation and handle logistical demands, allowing researchers to focus on the research.
The importance of balancing cost, speed, and quality in research projects is critical, yet often difficult to achieve. Quantitative research can be faster and cheaper but qualitative research does not have to be sacrificed. The application of mixed methods, utilizing both synchronous (such as video interviews) and asynchronous (such as activity-based research) approaches, increases the potential of successfully balancing all variables to meet research objectives.
Hybrid research approaches are a great solution when both quantitative and qualitative research are necessary. Hybrid approaches can offer the trifecta of cost, quality, and speed. For example, participants are screened and qualified for a panel with a simple quantitative survey as the first activity. Screeners should always be concise and only include qualifying questions, but using the quant survey to both collect data and expand screening can allow researchers to narrow the participant pool in a very deliberate manner prior to the qualitative phases, selecting only the candidates that are most appropriate based on the activities expected. Costs are low due to a single recruiting fee and minimal recontacting. Quality is high as responses to previous phases can be leveraged to select the strongest candidates for a variety of activity types. Speed is increased since panelists can be quickly selected from an engaged pool, rather than the need to secure new candidates for each phase.
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