Digital media has spawned many new forms of customer research. Many companies are now embracing the many new methodologies and we have seen how marketers have adapted digital methodologies over traditional methods. They do this because new digital research methods are seen to be much cheaper, faster, and generate more results. But is it really worth giving up traditional methods for the more hyped digital research methods? Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.
Traditional research methods
Traditional research methods require respondents to be face-to-face or engage in verbal conversations. Examples of these would be qualitative focus groups, in-depth interviews, ethnography, accompanied purchases, and interceptions.
Traditional research methods create environments where the moderator has the power to intervene, challenge, and question participants at any point in the study. It allows the researcher to be flexible and makes the discussions more natural. It also allows the researcher to identify non-verbal cues such as facial micro-expressions, body language, behavior, and intonation. It is proven in the past that what people don’t say but does explain more than what is true. This is what makes the data collected during traditional methods considerably richer and deeper.
However, it is the cost of conducting research through these methodologies that makes it vulnerable. It is the cost of time and money required to set it up that makes companies feel that there must be alternative methodologies that can be used to collect similar data while reducing costs. Imagine trying to bring together people from very specific demographics to participate in a product test group. The cost of each product to be used, the cost of participation, the cost of researchers and moderators, plus many more miscellaneous expenses, apparently adds up and the data collection process is consistent to reflect potential public feedback on General information on the product is very time consuming and can range from a few weeks to years. Something that companies are not willing to wait for.
Digital research methods
With the massive growth of smartphone users that has allowed them to wirelessly interact and connect with people through social media, it has given market researchers the power to interact and communicate with their targets more easily. From online chat lines to sms messaging, the means for researchers to reach the people they need to talk to are evolving and 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 media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and many more.
It is through these digital research tools that researchers can reach a much broader field of targets across different age groups, ethnicities, and cultures, breaking 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 on topics that are sensitive in nature.
Data collected from digital research methods is easily stored and analyzed. It is also quite instantaneous, since the information is recorded immediately when the respondents enter their comments in real time. The amount of data collected at any given time is only limited to the number of people who gather to respond through these means which, if done correctly, can reach between 100 and 100,000 or more. Making it extremely cost effective as this would reduce the need for travel, participation and many other overhead that traditional methodologies would have to fork out to get the same number of participants.
However, the main disadvantage of digital methodologies is the fact that the data that is collected basically accepts the data encoded by the participants as is. That is, there is no external data such as non-verbal signals. This could inadvertently create a gap in the accuracy of data or essential insights required for some products that require an in-depth review of how your products affect the psyche of your target audiences. Digital methodologies are also limited to those who are educated and know how to navigate through these devices and social media. Those that don’t matter yet and sadly aren’t accessible via this method. The interpretation of words and how it is perceived by respondents are also excluded, as many of those who are already texting experts can attest to misunderstandings due to text messages that were read and interpreted incorrectly.
In conclusion, traditional and modern digital research methodologies have their matching benefits and cons. However, it is undeniable that digital methods can help researchers to work much easier and more profitable, however, it should be noted that the traditional method still has an advantage in terms of precision and quality of the collected data. One must find a marriage between the two unless a new digital tool is created to compensate for these inconveniences. Taking all this into consideration, it is undeniable that a hybrid of these methods is being developed that will take marketing research to the next level.