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Should We Press Pause on Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Updated: May 12, 2020

Written by: Evan Goodfellow

Globally, life for the vast majority has been put on pause within the past month. Schools have shut down, shopping centers and theaters have closed. People have been told to stay home so the virus infection rate slows. Phrases like “social distancing” and “flatten the curve”, which were completely foreign to us a few months ago, have now become common place. With so many staying at home and unable to work, while having access to around-the-clock updates of how the pandemic is affecting our world, anxiety is on the rise. Never before have we had to deem certain industries as “essential” or “non-essential.” With clear-cut lines of what jobs and actions are absolutely necessary, we can't help but wonder about the level of essentiality of research, and whether or not we should be pausing that too. Thanks to technology, much research can be done from home, and with that we see it as being crucial to continue on. By continuing on we will be able to see how this is truly affecting us, we will be able to gauge when things start to get better, and we will be able to gain an understanding of what the new normal looks like.

Research in Times of Uncertainty

Normally, during times of uncertainty, we advise companies to invest resources on gaining an understanding of the situation. Given that we are in the midst of one of the greatest times of global uncertainty in the past 100 years we need to be engaging the public to understand how this is impacting them. While we wonder how long this will last, other questions come to mind about the impact this will have on behavioural changes when this is over. Will things return to “normal” as they were before, or will there be a profound shift when the pandemic subsides? By comparing data from pre-COVID-19 and through the pandemic, we will be able to better understand the effect this has had going forward.

We'll Talk to you After Everything Gets Better

We at Insightrix Communities have intentionally decided to continue engaging our community members from our provincial panel during this time, rather than pressing pause. This was largely informed by a comment brought up by an employee of our organization;

"Imagine if you were a part of a research community for one year, and you were asked your thoughts and opinions on a weekly or monthly basis. Then, a crisis like this hits and the research community doesn’t contact you through the whole pandemic. Now, compare this to the research community checking in weekly or monthly on how you are feeling in this uncertain time. It provides a space to formulate your thoughts and emotions. Which action will build a feeling of trust and community?"

The Need for Digital Research Tools

We know that individuals are at home and have ample time on their hands, so we have chosen to continue on and engage them through surveys and discussions online. The feedback has been amazing and individuals have even thanked us for checking in on them. We have heard firsthand how this pandemic is affecting our community members and how they have been handling it. The news hasn’t been all bad however, many community members have shared how they have been using this time to make a positive impact in their neighbourhoods and cities.

While times may be uncertain, we do know that market research is moving in a more digital direction. We have never had so many inquiries as in the past month for our market research online community software, with heightened interest in its ability to handle qualitative research. With the inability to meet in-person for focus groups, companies have begun looking to online market research tools to assist them with their research needs. Online qualitative research tools were once thought of as a nice option, but now have become a clear need.

As everyone strives to remain calm in these times, we can all work toward the collective good in whatever way we can. While market research is not as important as the front-line services we depend on and are so thankful for, it does play an important role in helping the economy get back to the strong vibrant place it was before. By checking in on our research participants, we can show that we are there listening to them and that we want to keep engaging no matter what difficulties beset us. By tracking the challenges we are currently experiencing, we will be one of the first to see land and report to others that things are appearing to be getting better. Therefore, if you have a client that says they want to pause research during this time, you can recommend with confidence that staying the course and investing in understanding at this time will be, by far, more beneficial to them in the immediate future, and long term.

If you are interested in learning more about our online market research communities please contact us!

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