In-person research – from visiting customers in their stores and offices, to shadowing people when they shop or order at the drive-through, to in-home research – is among the most powerful ways of gaining insight. And while I have done some in-person research recently, it is still not the norm during the pandemic. We can’t always meet outside or safely social distance inside, which is why we have come to embrace video chat when in-person research isn’t possible. There is measurable value in remote research, as stand alone or in conjunction with asynchronistic and respondent-directed techniques.

Video Chats Let Us See Inside – with No Fear

Although most in-person research is insightful in ways we couldn’t have imagined, we’ve done a few that could have gone badly. Now that we’re living with Covid, much higher levels of trust and additional precautions are more important than ever. Clients and insight teams, videographers, and recruiters have to work closely and openly communicate expectations and what is and isn’t acceptable. Although we’re learning the right questions to ask when we screen people during Covid, it is not a perfected art.

So, video chat is, in some ways, a welcome change from in-person research. Through the lens of their cameras, they give us tours of their homes and offices (including basements, garages, gardens, closets, kitchens, refrigerators and home offices). They show us how they set up and use products. (You’d be surprised what gadgets people use, and how many gadgets they have). They show us where they store things. (It’s often not where we expect and in more places than we think). We see how much inventory they have. (It’s usually more than we imagined and has been there long before Covid). And if you haven’t seen anything that differentiates them or brings them to life, ask them to show you the most unusual thing in their home or office. Be ready with a straight face and 3 follow up questions – not just about what they show us, but what we see along the way. 

Some Things Remain the Same

Insight comes from everywhere, and often in an unexpected way. Whether in person or remote, or some kind of hybrid, we are social beings who like to talk, listen, and learn, so that we can make people’s lives safer, easier, and better. Improving our ability to connect – and how we do it is part of our Covid journey.