Coronavirus COVID-19 FAQs

At Directions, we are committed to designing flexible, custom solutions for our clients across a wide range of industries. While we hope you find these FAQs helpful, we still encourage you to reach out to your Directions or SEEK contact to discuss your specific needs.

Should we even be doing research right now?

We realize it is anything but ‘business as usual’ right now. The lives of our clients, staff, and the consumers and professionals we tap into every day have been disrupted in an unprecedented way. Yet, we know business decisions still need to be made and that they are better made when driven by insights from your target audience.

Attitudes and behaviors of the public are undoubtedly being affected by current events, and so we caution against making long-term plans based on data collected during this period. However, the market is experiencing a new reality, meaning now more than ever, it is critical to understand reactions of your target audience and keep an eye out for when they begin to return to normal. Some effects may be lasting and the only way we can understand them is through research.

Can respondents answer questions realistically? Should we expect data to look abnormal?

We recommend including an opening statement in all surveys to acknowledge the current environment. This statement can also set the appropriate context if you need respondents to answer in reference to usual or typical conditions. Use language such as ‘if there weren’t a current threat from COVID-19’ or ‘thinking of prior to,’ but we caution against creating a ‘pretend COVID-19 never happened’ mindset/attitude. Please reach out to your Directions or SEEK contact for a sample of appropriate language based on your specific needs.

Beyond the opening statement, we are thoroughly reviewing each survey or discussion guide question-by-question and modifying language as needed. Contextual framing appears to be effective in producing consistent results for most question types, but to ensure data validity and reliability, we recommend building in a soft launch and having preliminary results reviewed for abnormality before moving forward with a full launch.

Can we measure usage and behavior for our category?

Recent and near-term behaviors are undoubtedly affected in nearly every category, but you should still be able to obtain typical usage and behavior with framing. We suggest framing questions around ‘general’ or ‘typical’ usage or occasions (‘thinking of a normal visit’) versus being time specific (‘thinking of your last visit’). Note, however, that this excludes categories where even typical usage or behavior has been significantly impacted (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.).

Are there certain types of research we should consider postponing?

The short answer is: it depends. Each study – and each question – must be evaluated independently based on objectives, methodology, category, target audience, availability of secondary data sources, intended use of the results, etc.

Audiences can still provide generalizable data and think objectively about product and services.

In particular, data collected in a RELATIVE context is inherently more reliable. An example of this is a MaxDiff exercise in which respondents select the 'best/most' and the 'worst/least' options from a given set within a series. Resulting rankings are not expected to be impacted, UNLESS for example, a COVID-19 related option was added to the exercise, which we strongly advise against.

The availability of existing or secondary data sources can also help to validate or normalize data collected during this period. An example of this is including a control item or control cell in your current research, and if needed, applying calibration weighting to results based on actual sales data.

We caution against conducting the following types of research at the moment:

  • Research with the objective of gauging share
  • Forecasts or projections of near-term buying
  • Strategic research based on most recent occasion such as an occasion-based segmentation
  • In-person qualitative research (See suite of alternative Digital Qualitative Research Solutions)
  • In-Store research (Ask your Directions or SEEK contact about potential alternatives: virtual aisle, self-guided mobile ethnos, reaction to aisle/store imagery in an online board/focus group, etc.)
Will respondents be available for this study? What is the impact on response rates?

Respondents are still available on panels. Panel metrics are being closely monitored and we’ve seen no impacts as of yet – panelists are participating as usual.

While decline in response rates was initially a concern among non-panel recruits, the public is quickly adjusting to a new normal and response rates have rebounded – even increased in some cases.

In the near term, we expect that we could face some difficulty in reaching specific audiences, such as medical professionals and healthcare workers. We are aware of this and will work with you to plan accordingly.