COVID-19 has certainly thrown a spanner in the works when it comes to market research. Engaging with target markets in a real way can be challenging when you are not in the same room. With many events moving online to portals like Zoom, we’ve put together the Do’s and Don’ts of Online Forums to help get you started.
Dealing with technology means that you will be dealing with people that are technology illiterate. This can apply to older demographics and sometimes those with lower socioeconomic status. However, it is important that you don’t leave these people out! It is still important to achieve a true representative sample. We recommend incorporating telephone depths, with information packs sent out prior to your discussion, to make sure that everyone is involved.
When participants are involved in a live in-person event, it is simply easier to keep them engaged. So, it is important to consider the length of the forum when conducting it online. Engaging online means that participants are likely to fatigue much faster. It is much more difficult to read people’s body language over video chat, as well as managing participants talking over one another, meaning researchers can fatigue faster also. No breaks or stopping for dinner can also mean participants can become disengaged. We recommend keeping an online forum to no longer than 2 hours in total.
Technology isn’t perfect and problems can always arise. Make sure you have a tech line available for your participants to contact throughout the entire event. They can help handle things from login errors, camera and microphone functioning, to accidentally logging off and back in during the event. In order for the event to run as smooth as possible our tech team is always on hand to help with any problems that may arise for participants, or on the online forum.
When you move to an online platform, some aspects need to be simplified. But this does not mean eliminating interaction. Interacting with your audience is the most valuable way to inform them and gain insightful feedback, all while keeping them engaged. Reverting to a simple presentation and discussion format can lose a lot of valuable deliberative tools. We recommend using as many online tools that you have available to help keep your audience engaged.
Depending on what platform you are using, some of them may already have interactive tools that you can utilise. Zoom, for example, has online polling so that your participants can answer live questions and see how other participants are feeling about a particular topic. Breakout rooms are also valuable to create movement and more intimate discussions, similar to focus groups. Other sites like Miro.com also provide great tools where you can share screens and create live interactive ideations and brainstorming.
Reducing the length of an online forum does not necessarily mean that you need to eliminate content. Instead by creating a staged approach you can inform and engage with your audience over a period of time to gain more meaningful insights. Our web development team can help create a ‘microsite’ where we can host information, videos, and other research methods like surveys. This will help inform participants prior to attending forums so that they can learn about the topic and provide more meaningful impact.