Issue 1: We can’t meet consumers face to face in facilities or in their homes.

How to overcome this: Online research provides rich insight. Digital diaries with video uploads capture people’s behaviours.  We can have them complete creative personification and metaphoric exercises that are fun and can unearth deep unarticulated and emotional needs. 1-on-1 video conference discussions can probe their online responses afterwards to identify detailed motivations, pain points, functional and emotional needs.

Issue 2: People have too much to worry about to take part in research right now.

How to overcome this: Of course, there are a lot of people dealing with horrendous situations that would never contemplate taking part in research and no one would want to ask this of them. But we are hearing from recruiters that many people are receptive to research at the moment. They have time on their hands and would like to feel they could take part in something of use. Careful screening methods are needed to ensure that they are suitable research candidates. Research activities must also be carefully designed to help them imagine they are in a world that is more “normal” for the category being discussed. We also need to acknowledge that the current crisis will hugely affect people’s needs and feelings around the products and services they are using. It’s important we understand these shifts and the motivations behind them as they evolve over time.

Issue 3: What about research in countries where I don’t really know what’s going on?

How to overcome this: Ensure your research partners have understood the local culture. We are huge advocates of deep cultural understanding in all our innovation work, whether we are uncovering human insight or identifying cultural trends to create future focused ideas. An important part of extracting actionable human insight within any culture is to work closely with local research partners. We also work with cultural experts to underpin our consumer observations and discussions with a deep cultural understanding of why people may be doing or thinking something. In today’s climate, this would include understanding what the local community is experiencing and how this may affect their ability to take part in any research and shape their responses. It may be that some countries and communities would not be suitable to conduct research in at a particular time.

In summary, the overarching principle of why we conduct research is to ensure that the people we serve stay at the centre of any proposition we design for them. During difficult times like this, we must still keep them centre stage and be sensitive to their needs. Fortunately, a variety of agile digital tools enable us to stay closely connected to them and continue addressing research objectives.