how we've run successful research in a pandemic - and how you can too.

by: PLAY

With customer attitudes, purchasing habits and preferences changing with each lockdown, research is more crucial than ever.

The simple fact is the better and more in-depth your research, the better your campaign strategy and the better your results are likely to be - regardless of COVID-19!

So, using examples from successful work with our clients during the pandemic, we show you how you can continue (or begin!) using research to ensure your brand's success in 2021.


Without clear answers, it's impossible to create an effective marketing strategy.

Now, it wouldn't make sense to launch a business without some kind of business plan, so the same thinking should apply to your product launch and marketing strategy. To sell the benefits of your product or service, you need to understand who you're selling to, what problem you're solving for them and how your prospective audience perceives your product or service.

Without knowing the answer to these questions, it’s impossible to create an effective product launch and marketing strategy.

In the words of Albert Einstein,

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

And to that we would add:

If you can't sell it simply, you don't understand your audience well enough… Yet.

The great news is that's easily fixed.


How different research methods reap different results.

Not all methods are created equal, so to get the best out of your research, it's important to understand which methods you should be using. To find out which method is best for you, check out our previous blog HERE.

In the past 12 months, we've helped plenty of brands identify where they should be focusing their efforts with their audience despite limitations in face-to-face research. 

Plus, we've learnt some tips and tricks along the way that you can use to better plan your research in the future.


1. Video calling: 

Perhaps the most popular method of 2020! We’ve brought clients (metaphorically!) into homes in WA, ACT, SA and QLD, and had them ‘meet’ respondents from further out of Sydney and Victoria than project budget and schedule would typically allow. 

A great advantage of using services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams is enabling more stakeholders than before to observe interviews: some small black screens on a call are much less intimidating than having multiple people sitting in your living room hanging off your every word.

In turn, this has meant that we've been able to engage more stakeholders in the project, who can discreetly funnel questions through to the interviewer, thus ensuring that we can fully explore key research priorities. This is definitely something to keep in mind when multiple stakeholders want to experience an interview in real-time.


2. Online focus groups and discussion boards: 

We’ve used online focus groups for sensory discussions where we wanted to have more control over how participants were tasting the products we’d sent them. We ran smaller groups than we would have if they had been face-to-face, but after months of practice catching up with family and friends over video calls, most Australians are now used to the technology.

An online discussion board worked well when we wanted participants to spend more time on creative and memory exercises, when testing stimulus that evolved over time, and when we needed to cover a lot of ground.


3. In-home usage testing: 

Whilst stuck in lockdown, participants were thrilled to get something in the post. Cleaning products, personal care, food: we sent it, they tried it. Participants let us know what they thought either via online surveys, trial diaries or video interviews.

With more time at home, we were able to get better response rates and gauge how often participants were likely to interact with us, giving us greater insight to their behaviour and allowing us to plan resources more effectively.



4. In-store shopper research: 

By following governmental regulations, retailer requirements and the Research Society’s guidelines, we were able to conduct in-store fieldwork safely, using eye-tracking glasses to share shopper behaviour with our clients who weren’t able to visit the stores themselves. This technology also enables clients to see through a participant's eyes (in real-time!) the kinds of brands, packaging and messaging that a participant is drawn to. 


5. Mini focus groups and in-depth interviews: 

The size of our facility in Sydney allowed us to maintain plenty of social distance, which, along with buckets of hand sanitiser and hand wash and mountains of wipes, allowed us to welcome participants safely. We conducted not only individual and paired interviews, but also hundreds of CLT sensory tests in our purpose-built facility.

Of course, at PLAY we also have our faithful go-to’s that continue to be effective such online surveys which you can read more about HERE


Use research learnings to effectively protect and promote your product in 2021 (and beyond!)

Like any investment, market research saves a company from making very expensive mistakes down the line and often means you reach your business goals (ahem, revenue goals!) sooner with fewer detours.

If you're ready to get your product in your consumer’s cart, we'd love to help. To get started today, you can reach us on 02 8097 0200 or

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about the author


A boutique insights agency who love to help you decipher complex customer behaviours. Big fans of snappy reports and hot chips. We call Sydney and Melbourne home but LOVE to travel (although lately, our most exciting trip has been from the study to the fridge).

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