Market research is an important tool for understanding both population needs and consumer audiences. It can lay the groundwork for advertising and product launches, provide data and actionable insights that direct strategic decisions, and demonstrate the status of indicators such as food security or job stability. The best market research method depends on the types of questions and the target research population. Quantitative research is excellent for quantifying behaviors, opinions, and attitudes while qualitative research is ideal for understanding the ‘why’ behind it all. Research can even be multi-modal, meaning a project could start with qualitative interviews or focus groups with a smaller number of respondents and finish up with SMS or web surveys to a larger group. Below we outline some of the most common market research methodologies and how, even during COVID-19, it is still possible to conduct research effectively. 

Research Methodologies

Self-Administered Surveys 

A survey is a series of simple questions that build on each other and are designed in a specific order to explore one or more topics. Depending on the survey, questions and responses can be text or multimedia. Self-administered surveys are surveys that are completed by the respondent and are often sent to and completed by SMS, web link, or mobile application. 

Respondents can complete surveys via Short Message Service (SMS or text message) one question at a time. This method is ideal for some populations, such as those found in countries in sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America, because it does not require respondents to have internet connectivity. 

Surveys can also be internet-based via a web link, mobile web link or a mobile application. With mobile web links, respondents with internet-capable phones click on a link within an initial SMS message and then complete the survey in a basic web browser. Mobile web supports video/picture questions, and question formats such as matrices which are not supported in SMS surveys.

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Respondents who own smartphones can complete surveys through a mobile application which, with the respondent’s consent, has additional capabilities for GPS location, passive data collection and picture taking. Mobile applications can also facilitate tasks such as retail audits or billboard monitoring. 

Interactive Voice Interviews (IVR) are a self-administered audio interview, in which respondents listen to audio pre-recordings and answer questions using their dialpad. This method is useful for reaching illiterate populations through voice calls, without needing to train call center interviewers, however response rates can be lower than when using CATI, a method outlined below.

Interviews through CATI, CAPI, or Pen and Paper  

Example of a GeoPoll call center

Similar to surveys, interviews are a series of questions that explore one or more topics. One major difference is that the interview methods discussed here are interviewer-administered, rather than self-administered. Depending on the targeted population and the amount of time needed for data collection, interviews can be done in person or over the phone. Interviewers must be trained, fluent in the respondent’s language of choice, and familiar with their cultural context.

Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), is done over the phone with the interviewer based in a country-specific call center. This methodology allows for interviewers with multiple language capabilities to easily speak with respondents across a large or hard-to-access region more quickly than is possible using face-to-face interviews. 

For in-person interviews, Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) facilitates face-to-face data collection in the field through a mobile application and removes the need for paper questionnaires or manual data collection. Pen and paper interviews are still used in some contexts but are inefficient and can lead to data input errors or interviewer error.

Observative Research

Observation is a qualitative methodology where researchers witness a respondent’s natural behavior in their usual environment. Depending on the goal, a researcher may engage with the situation or remain at a distance and only watch. The benefit of this methodology is that researchers can understand how a respondent actually acts, rather than what they self-report.

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Observational research may be used as a precursor to a survey when researchers need more information about a specific question. Or, observation might be used if researchers are concerned that self-reported behaviors may differ from a person’s actions, even if this inaccuracy is unintentional. 

Focus Groups

A focus group is a small group of people (usually 6-8) who represent a larger group. In traditional focus groups,  respondents meet in one location with a researcher for up to two hours and discuss specific research topics. Similar to surveys or interviews, the researcher will lead respondents through a series of predetermined questions. This methodology allows for discussion and collaboration between respondents.

Digital focus groups can also be administered through either computer-based chats, often called Market Research Online Communities, or using mobile-based group chats, such as ones GeoPoll has facilitated with brands including Unilever. 

Big Data Analytics

Analysis of large amounts of data is a useful way to understand patterns and trends. Gartner defines big data as “data that contains greater variety arriving in increasing volumes and with ever-higher velocity.”  Big data can be valuable in identifying certain types of consumer insights. It can lead to robust decision-making around consumer needs or satisfaction and help predict future opportunities for innovation. However, the large amount of information is not infallible. Just as important is the interpretation and application of this data. While big data analysis tries to make sense of large amounts of information, market research methodologies like surveys and interviews can answer a specific research question. 

Market Research Methods During COVID-19

In-person research is one of the most traditional types of data collection and still remains popular today. However, the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus has made in-person research impossible, and researchers must find other ways to collect data that keep both themselves and their respondents safe. 

Using the aforementioned remote methodologies, which include SMS, mobile web link, CATI, and mobile-based focus groups,  data collection is still possible and safe during coronavirus. GeoPoll has experience transitioning face-to-face research to remote methodologies and has the existing infrastructure to support robust data collection. Our team are experts in remote data collection methodologies and can quickly transition an in-person study to a remote, mobile-based methodology. To speak to a member of our team about your project, please contact us today. For more information about GeoPoll’s research methodologies and conducting research throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America, download our guide to research in emerging regions