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In just a few weeks, the global outbreak of COVID-19 has dramatically changed the research landscape. While organizations such as GeoPoll recognize that we have the ability to help the global response to coronavirus through accurate on-the-ground data, as an industry we are also finding ourselves having to quickly adapt as in-person data collection becomes infeasible across most of the world.

In-person research is one of the oldest methods of data collection and remains popular today despite the high costs often associated with this methodology. Face-to-face methodologies are still used regularly in emerging regions such as those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where researchers looking to reach lower socioeconomic classes often turn to in-person interviewers.

However, the coronavirus outbreak has made in-person research impossible in many countries due to travel restrictions and lockdowns, and inadvisable in other regions due to the health risks associated with interviewers traveling door-to-door. In order to keep interviewers and their subjects safe, researchers must quickly find alternative ways to collect data, especially when that data can provide vital information on food availability, healthcare-seeking behaviors, and consumer perceptions.

Best Practices for Remote Data Collection

At GeoPoll we have been conducting research in emerging regions through remote, mobile-based methodologies since our launch in 2014. Our expertise in collecting data through modes including SMS, mobile web, and Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) enables us to assist those looking to transition in-person projects to remote modes. Below are some of our tips for adapting in-person studies to remote methodologies:

Assess available research modes: Remote research modes that are commonly used in emerging regions include 2-way SMS, CATI voice calls, IVR calls, mobile web links, and mobile applications. While CATI call centers may not be able to continue to operate out of a central location in all countries, providers such as GeoPoll are already working on systems to allow interviewers to conduct calls from their own homes.

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Consider the population you are reaching: While in-person modes can reach all socioeconomic classes, increased mobile penetration around the globe allows for remote research to be conducted. When looking to reach lower socioeconomic classes, voice call interviews conducted through CATI will provide the closest comparison to in-person research as they can reach illiterate populations. IVR may also be utilized, but often has low response rates and high costs.

Use a reputable sample provider: Unless you are reaching your own list of respondents, you will need to use a reputable sample provider to gather a representative sample. Firms including GeoPoll have pre-stratified databases of mobile respondents in many markets. We have also seen success using Random Digit Dialing methods in certain countries.

Adjust your survey design: Surveys designed for face-to-face administration will need to be adjusted for a remote methodology. SMS surveys must be designed with several factors in mind including character limits and overall questionnaire length, and mobile web questionnaires should also be on the short side to minimize drop-off rates. CATI surveys can be slightly longer, but researchers should still take length and survey structure into consideration.

Compensate respondents: As with in-person research, respondents should be compensated for their time. If messages are not zero-rated, researchers should also take into consideration the data costs associated with responding to a survey. GeoPoll has found that incentive amounts of $0.50 to $1.00 are sufficient in most markets, and can deposit incentives immediately upon survey completion through several methods including airtime and mobile money.

Work with a partner experienced in remote data collection: When administered with care, remote methodologies can collect data that is of equal quality to in-person research. However, to get the best results you should work with a research organization that has experience in best practices around study design, research modes, and sampling techniques for a remote study.

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Conduct Remote Research with GeoPoll

GeoPoll’s team are experts in remote data collection methodologies and can help you transition in-person studies to remote, mobile-based methodologies quickly and effectively. To speak to a member of our team about your project, please contact us today.