Digital Research ‘Lifeline for The Survival of Industries”

April 22, 2020

Effect of coronavirus on Businesses

The novel coronavirus has disrupted nearly all operations across the globe. Industries in general and business, in particular, are the victim of this virus. This virus which affects the respiratory system of the victim has to date killed many innocents globally, with highest deaths recorded in Italy i.e. around 10k.

Traveling has been put to halt and as a matter of fact all human to human interaction has been minimized as this virus is contagious. Social distancing is the only approach effective so far to mitigate the far-reaching effects of coronavirus.

Impact on businesses

As per Moody’s assessment industries that will bear the biggest brunt of this pandemic are; Textile, automotive, consumer durables, gaming, lodging/leisure and tourism, airlines, retail (non-food) and shipping. Those getting moderately affected include, beverages, chemicals, manufacturing, media, metal and mining, oil and gas, property developers, agriculture, services, steel and technology hardware. Industries that will bear the lowest impact are construction, defenses, equipment and transportation, rental, packaging, pharmaceutical, food, telecom and waste management.

Potential positive impact will be upon, internet services companies, retail online and gold mining.

Why conventional research is not an option now?

Conventional research involves field surveys and human interaction is involved but given the circumstance this cannot take place now but instead online means can be adopted effectively to conduct research. In recent stats it is being revealed that internet usage has increase significantly and people are spending more time online.

Digital research has seen a shift from conventional paper and pencil research in recent times and with ever increasing use of online platforms companies are using digital means to assess needs and preferences of their customers. It has been observed that FMCGs and Telecom are affected with less by coronavirus and this is good time or such industries to analyze the shift in demand of their customers and be prepared to meet the with maximum productivity.

How to conduct Digital Research

Online Market Research is a research method in which the data collection process is carried out over the Internet.

Online Market Research can be either Qualitative or Quantitative.  Qualitative Online Tools include Video Ethnography and Market Research Online Communities (MROCs).  Quantitative Online Methods include mobile and app surveys.

This research can evaluate the performance of a product or service and may allow companies to glean insight into consumer purchasing behavior. With the rising use of the Internet, digital research has become a popular tool among market research firms.

Digital research can provide additional information about a buyer, such as her prior purchasing history. Digital research projects can be carried out by a company itself or by a hired research firm. There are several ways that may be effective for carrying out digital research. Quantitative research can be carried out via online questionnaires and web-based experiments.  Qualitative research can be carried out via online in-depth interviews, online focus groups and participant observation, in which a researcher acts as a part of a community to observe behaviors.

Online questionnaires and online polls are some of the most popular digital research tools. Online questionnaires may need to be carefully designed in terms of format and length. Some of the key digital research models Ace Research offers include;

1. Brand Heath tracking

Brand Analysis: Brand research has similar profiling features (“Who uses this brand?”) and also aims at identifying the reasons for brand loyalty or fickleness.

Scanner Research: Scanner research uses checkout counter scans of transactions to develop patterns for all manner of end uses, including stocking, of course. From a marketing point of view, scans can also help users track the success of coupons and to establish linkages between products.

2. Consumer research

Audience Research: Audience research is aimed at discovering who is listening, watching, or reading radio, TV, and print media respectively. Such studies in part profile the audience and in part determine the popularity of the medium or portions of it.

Product Research: Product tests, of course, directly relate to use of the product. Good examples taste tests used to pick the most popular flavors-; and consumer tests of vehicle or device prototypes to uncover problematical features or designs.

Psychological Profiling: Psychological profiling aims at construction profiles of customers by temperament, lifestyle, income, and other factors and tying such types to consumption patterns and media patronage.

Database Research: Also known as database “mining,” this form of research attempts to exploit all kinds of data on hand on customers-; which frequently have other revealing aspects. Purchase records, for example, can reveal the buying habits of different income groups-;the income classification of accounts taking place by census tract matching. Data on average income by census tract can be obtained from the Bureau of the Census.

3. Pre/post campaign evaluation

Post-sale or Consumer Satisfaction Research: Post-consumer surveys are familiar to many consumers from telephone calls that follow having a car serviced or calling help-lines for computer- or Internet-related problems. In part such surveys are intended to determine if the customer was satisfied. In part this additional attention is intended also to build good will and word-of-mouth advertising for the service provider.

4. Monitoring and evaluation

M&E can be conducted using a wide array of tools, methods and approaches. These include, for example: performance monitoring indicators; the logical framework; theory-based evaluation; formal surveys such as service delivery surveys, citizen report cards, living standards measurement surveys (LSMS) and core welfare indicators questionnaires (CWIQ); rapid appraisal methods such as key informant interviews, focus group discussions and facilitated brainstorming by staff and officials; participatory methods such as participatory M&E; public expenditure tracking surveys; rigorous impact evaluation; and cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis. With the aid of digital research all these facets of M&E can be conducted online.

5. Online Discussions (Focus Group and In-depth)

Another common practice for online surveys is the use of online panels. An online panel is a group of selected individuals that have agreed to participate in digital research projects for a particular company at specific intervals over a period of time. These participants are selected through a screening process according to their demographics, lifestyles and habits, and are usually rewarded for their efforts by the research company regularly. Online panels may allow companies to glean insight into creating long-term relationships with their customers.  These panels may also allow customers to give direct feedback about products and services without the potential reluctance that may occur in face-to-face interactions.  Online panels may also mitigate bias caused by peer pressure to agree on a certain viewpoint, a phenomena that may occur in face-to-face panels.

Benefits of Digital Research

Amid the outbreak of this virus, businesses are widely affected and we all hope for better results with least damage in coming days to people and businesses alike. Nonetheless, once things get settle down the businesses have already borne the wrath of this virus and revenues are dwindling. So in these circumstances it is crucial for companies to closely monitor their clients and consumers so after this virus settles down, a strategy based on factual research can be devised immediately to recover the losses effectively.

To sum up, we have following advantages of conducting digital research.

  • Cost advantages
  • Speed advantages
  • Data collection in real-time
  • Advanced analytics
  • Efficient global and multi-country survey management

Conducting digital research can be a complex procedure and may require considerable expertise on the part of researchers in obtaining accurate data.  It may be challenging to recruit participants in digital research for several reasons.  Recipients may be reluctant to participate in digital research because they may be afraid that the privacy and confidentiality of their personal information may be violated.  Since the identity of the researcher cannot be verified completely, people may find it difficult to trust such research methods.  Researchers often present participants with some monetary or non-monetary rewards for their participation

Conducting Online Focus Group Discussions in Pakistan

April 20, 2020

An In-depth interview (IDI) is a qualitative research technique that involves conducting individual interviews with respondents to explore their perspectives on a particular idea, program, or situation. For example, we might ask participants, staff, and others associated with a program or certain situation about their experiences and expectations related to that particular event. Their views about program operations, processes, outcomes, and about any changes they perceive in themselves as a result of their involvement in that particular event or program.
There are numerous areas where one can undertake IDIs for example, for consumer’s feedback and opinion on product or advertisement. In Pakistan, particularly in metropolitan cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad customers are very conscious about the type of product they are using and therefore their valuable feedback can help companies to devise strategies accordingly.

Designing Questionnaire

The research is always based on some objectives and these objectives ought to be in line with problem statements developed after assessing underlying gaps in activities performed by any organization. Research Objective will determine the structure and pattern of the Questionnaire. Therefore, the first and foremost important factor prior to conducting any research activity is an assessment of problems followed by preparation of research instrument i.e. Questionnaire. This instrument plays a very vital role in probing factors lurking behind problems identified.
The Questionnaires will help in assessing to what extent respondents are aware of the event under probe and if questionnaires are not designed with an ultimate purpose in mind, the whole purpose of conducting this activity is lost.
Questionnaire preparation must be carried out with a keen eye for events and arguments associated with the problem. Also, previous instruments used for similar researches can be consulted and with little or no modification if it serves the purpose can be utilized

Designing Manual and Guide for Interview

An interview protocol is very crucial, the rules that guide the implementation of the interviews. These are the instructions that are followed for each interview, to ensure consistency between interviews, and thus increase the reliability of the findings. Clear instructions for the interviewer should be included in the manual for conducting IDIs. The manual address following concerns i.e. What to say to interviewees when setting up the interview; What to say to interviewees when beginning the interview, including ensuring informed consent and confidentiality of the interviewee; What to say to interviewees in concluding the interview; What to do during the interview likes, Taking notes or using Recorder or Both?
The Interview guide is a checklist that carries questions or issues to be explored during the interview. There should be no more than 15 main questions to guide the interview, and probes should be included where helpful.

It is also important to note that you will likely need interview guides for each group of stakeholders, as questions may differ. Where necessary, translate guides into local languages and test the translation.
Arranging Target Audience Identify stakeholders who will be involved i.e. what information is needed and from whom. List the stakeholders to be interviewed. Identify stakeholder groups that are associated with the objectives of your IDIs. Suppose you are conducting IDI’s for the IT sector, and you want to identify what possible strategy could be adopted to address gaps in meeting revenue targets. For this you will be interviewing stakeholders such as associations working for the IT sector, government institutes involved in regulating IT sector activities, CEOs of IT companies etc. Data acquired from all the stakeholders in turn will help in analyzing the issue from a wide angle.

Similarly, if you are seeking an assessment from the target audience which is the general population again IDIs can play a very vital role. For Example, the baby products by P&G and Unilever are widely used for kids and thereby, mothers can be interviewed exclusively for gathering their opinion and experience about product’s utility. Customer perception is key in analyzing the effectiveness of any product the moment it lands on their shopping cart.
IDIs are normally directed toward those from whom very relevant and up-to-date information can be sought and also they are involved with significant stakes in activity under investigation. Therefore, referral or snowball sampling is the best method to approach stakeholders for IDIs.

Conducting In-depth Interviews:

Step 1: Making Venue arrangements (Online i.e. Zoom, Teamviewer, Skype)
If the IDI is taking place offline, it is important to note that the venue must be arranged somewhere convenient and accessible to respondent, normally the interviews are conducted in the respective office of Respondent. Prior to finalizing your venue you can drop an email to the respondents about the desired venue location and after getting their consent Interview can be arranged.
Similarly, Online IDI is easy and accessible for the respondent to attend. All that is required is good internet connectivity. The Interview can be arranged on a variety of online platforms such as the Zoom Meeting Room, Team Viewer, Skype etc. Also, for IDIs other options like WhatsApp video, iPhone’s facetime, and Facebook video chat can be utilized as well.

Step 2: Inviting Respondents
Respondents consent to take an interview will be followed by an invitation for an interview. Offline session invitation shall include, venue location, description of IDi, moderator, etc.
Online Invitation will also be sent via email, it will contain a link to any of the desirable online platforms along with a description of IDI.

Step 3: Recording Arrangements online
In face to face Interview,recorder can be set with the permission of the respondent while in online session, recording can be turned again after consent from Respondent.

Step 4: Actual Discussion more points
Once the interviewee is at the venue or has joined an online session, the IDI is good to begin. Moderator will introduce himself and the agenda of discussion, after this manual/interview guide will be followed to conduct the session. Each question has a set of probing points and in case the respondent does not comprehend the scenario a hint can be given which are marked as probing points with a moderator. Also, it is crucial for the interviewer to pay attention to what the respondent is telling and follow-up questions should be asked if clarity is required for any of his/her responses. If in case the respondent feels offended due to any question don’t stress on it and instead move on to the next question.

Step 5: Concluding Interview Session
After the interview ends a letter of appreciation can be furnished to the respondent for sparing his/her precious time for this session.


Step 1: Keeping summary notes during the discussion
It is important to take notes of key points during the discussion. For this Assistant moderator can be tasked to carry out this activity of taking notes.

Step 2: Writing Transcripts
Transcripts of IDIs are very crucial and important for extracting relevant information. All the discussions have to be written down either during the session or later (if recordings are taken) for Reporting and Analysis.

Step 3: Make Summary of each discussion
Summary of all relevant and important responses i.e. Question wise has to be extracted from transcripts and a comprehensive report will be created for highlighting key areas which may include improvement areas, core problem areas, opportunities, threats, strength and weaknesses.

Step 4: Topline Report
Based on the summary topline report will be prepared, it contains all the important points identified by respondents which are directly related to Objectives of IDIs. It is preferred that topline report should be a grid with questions on one axis and precise response by respondents on other providing a very clear glimpse of the overall discussion.

Step 5: Analysis
Based on the overall discussion and topline report analysis is drawn to conclude the outcomes of the discussion in line with the Objectives of carrying out this discussion. The Analysis is shared with the Client and thereupon necessary action plans can be prepared to address the problem.