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From Café To Couch – How Our Qualitative Research is Evolving Post-Covid To Meet New Expectations

Welcome to Part Two of my new series for M2Moms® called The Evolution of Qualitative Research. In part 1 of the Series, we discussed how qualitative research helps build brands women want to do business with. In part 2 of the Series,

we will focus on how qualitative research is evolving post-Covid to meet client and participant expectations.

As noted in Part 1 of this Series, SheThinks Qualitative Research is predicated on the development of a comfortable environment for women to share their truths. A fabulous café or restaurant were our “go-tos” to create an ambiance where authentic insights were uncovered. COVID threw a wrench into this research methodology, but I actually see it as a catalyst that scooched us along the evolutionary research timeline more swiftly than we had planned, but it was necessary, and it was time. So, damn the torpedoes, we did it!

The Shift To Online

While in-person interaction, in a qualitative research setting, fuels discussion and aha moments, the fact is, we’re now living an enormous amount of our lives online. 70% of North Americans are shopping online with staggering projected retail sales for 2021 of $4.8 trillion worldwide, up from $2.8 trillion in 2018. To add further context, 72% of women in NA are online and 80% of them are also actively using social media, with the average woman spending over 2 hours a day on various social media platforms. Women were already flocking to social media to connect – remember, women want to be part of a community on and offline – but during COVID, online became a literal lifeline for millions. Clearly, the way women live their lives, engage and interact revolves around the Internet – society has experienced a behavioral shift, hence qualitative research must follow suit. Evolving our methodologies to include online tools was a necessary step.

Pressing Time and Budget Constraints

And there were other factors that we had to consider as well. Prior to COVID, recruiting for our SheThinks research sessions had become more challenging – not impossible, but challenging. Women are taxed and asking them for a few hours, plus the time it takes to get to and from a SheThinks session was often perceived as an overwhelming ask. Add COVID to the mix, which caused nearly a million North American women to fall out of the workforce to care for their children when daycare facilities and schools shuttered, and what you have is a tremendous amount of stress, making the ask for her time monumental. Time is gold!

As researchers, we can’t ignore societal transformations and hope to stay relevant, so we brought our unique, proprietary research model online to help meet participant and client expectations. What our new online model tackled was pressing time constraints for participants and pressing budget constraints for clients. But, while the shift was a must, it could not be at

the expense of the experience. We had to ensure the evening still felt special for participants because the goal of SheThinks research is to make participants feel valued and important.

Evolution Creates A Win-Win Scenario

Okay, we can’t have a fabulous dinner out, but in addition to their honorariums, we send care packages to each participant, filled to the brim with plenty of yumminess. There’s something about receiving a parcel that makes us all a little giddy and that holds true for SheThink participants – the special factor gets a significant boost. (I get it, when I receive my Amazon packages, I’m thrilled, and I’m the one who placed the order!)

During these reimagined sessions, as we weave our way through the insight-unearthing discussion, she can indulge in delicious extravagances and make a few bucks, all from the comfort of her couch. Sure, we’re dealing with the same interruptions work Zoom calls are dealing with, but nothing insurmountable. What this new model helped us create is an even more comfortable setting for our female participants. Women are more forthcoming in casual environments; thus, the comfy couch facilitated a deeper discussion and unearthed authentic responses we need to create brands and brand messaging that resonate with female audiences. Boo…yah!

For clients, the online model helped reduce costs that could then be reinvested into additional session groups, which are often not feasible because of budget constraints. Now we can speak to larger numbers of women, which bolsters our findings and creates larger advisory boards for clients to continue to engage with. The evolution is a Win-Win for participants and clients alike!

Key Takeaways:

· More than ever, women’s lives revolve around online engagement – qualitative research must meld seamlessly into that reality

· Women’s post-Covid stress, and childcare juggling are concerns qualitative researchers must factor into evolution solutions

· Qualitative researchers need to embrace, innovate and evolve to keep pace and stay relevant

Next Month: In Part 3 of The Evolution of Qualitative Research Series, we will discuss why researchers need to become translators to stay relevant.

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