Digital media has given birth to many new forms of customer research. Many businesses are now embracing the many new methodologies and we have seen how the marketers have adapted the digital methodologies over traditional methods. They do this because the new digital research methods are seen to be much cheaper, quicker and drive more results. But is it really worth foregoing the traditional methods for the more hyped up Digital research Methods? Let’s explore the pros and cons for each.
Traditional Research Methods
The traditional research methods require respondents to be face to face or involved in verbal conversations. Examples of these would be Qualitative Focus Groups, In-Depth Interviews, Ethnography, Accompanied Shopping, and Intercepts.
Traditional Research methods create environments where the moderator has the power to intervene, challenge and question the participants at any point of the study. It allows for the researcher to be flexible and makes the discussions more natural. It also allows the researcher to identify non-verbal cues such as micro expressions on the face, body language, behavior and intonation. It is proven in the past that what people don’t’ say but do accounts for more of what is the truth. It is this that makes the data gathered during traditional methods to be rather richer and more in-depth.
It is the cost however of conducting research through these methodologies that makes it vulnerable. It is the cost of time and money that is required to set it up that makes companies feel that there should be alternative methodologies that can be used to gather similar data while bringing down cost. Imagine trying to gather people of very specific demographics to participate in a product testing group. The cost of each product to be used, the cost of participation, cost of researchers and moderators, plus many more misc expenses seemingly adds up and the process of gathering data that is coherent to reflect the general public’s potential feedback to the product takes a lot of time and can span from a few weeks to as long as years. Something that companies are not willing to wait out.
Digital Research Methods
With the massive growth of smartphone users that have enable them to wirelessly interact and connect to people through social networks has provided market researchers with the power to interact and communicate with their targets more easily. From online chat lines to sms messaging, the means as to how researchers are able to reach the people they need to talk to is evolving and is becoming more efficient at capturing information.
Some of the tools used in digital research methods are online surveys, online focus groups, online communities and forums, social networking sites such as twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many more.
It is through these digital research tools that researchers are able to reach a much wider field of targets of varying age groups, ethnicities, and cultures taking down the many barriers that traditional research methods would normally face. It even allows people the means to interact and share their thoughts anonymously, which is useful in topics that are sensitive in nature.
Data gathered from digital research methods are easily stored and analyzed. It is also rather instantaneous as the information is immediately logged in as the respondents input their feedback in real-time. The amount of data gathered at any given time is only limited to the number of people that are pooled to respond through these mediums which if done properly can reach anywhere between 100 to 100,000 or more. Making it extremely cost effective as this would cut the need for travel, participation and many other over head misc expenses that traditional methodologies would have to shell out to get the same number of participants.
The major downside though of the digital methodologies is the fact that data that is gathered is basically accepting the data encoded by the participants as is. Meaning, there is no external data such as non-verbal cues. This could inadvertently create a rift in accuracy of data or essential insights needed for some products that require an in-depth review of how their products affect the psyche of their target audiences. Digital methodologies also are limited to those that are educated and knows how to navigate through these devices and social mediums. Those that don’t still matter and unfortunately are not reachable through this method. Interpretation of words and how it is perceived by the respondents are also left out as many who are already adept with text messaging can attest to misunderstandings due to text messages that were read and interpreted in the wrong way.
In conclusion, traditional and modern digital research methodologies do have their benefits and their coinciding cons. It is undeniable though that the digital methods can help make the researchers job a lot easier and more cost effective, however it should be noted that the traditional method still has an upper hand in terms of accuracy and quality of the data gathered. One must find a marriage between the two unless otherwise a new digital tool is created to compensate these downsides. Taking all these into consideration, it is undeniable that a hybrid of these methods are being developed and shall push marketing research to the next level.