Even During a Pandemic, No Man is an Island: How Remote Interviewing is Helping Clients (and Saving Market Research)

A Guide to Conducting Research in the Age of Covid-19: Part 2

By David M. Schneer, Ph.D./CEO

In our last blog “Now is Not the Time for Radio Silence with your Customers” we posited that now is the time to reach out to your customers.  Like a well-designed questionnaire, our Covid-19 blog series will move from the general to the specific regarding the conduct of research in today’s environment. Our focus today is remote interviewing.

So, your exploratory focus group study that was planned for May just got canceled. Your ad agency just finished the campaign executions that you were going to test via one-on-one in-person, in-depth interviews, but now all of the focus group venues you planned to visit are closed.

(Expletive deleted)! Now what?

Fortunately, there are a variety of excellent remote qualitative interviewing methods that have been appropriately and successfully used for many years. Pigeonholed by some as alternative low-budget data collection methods for those who can’t afford to fly moderators around, these services now are the lifeblood of the market research industry. Ironically, these non-traditional qualitative platforms have earned newfound respect for keeping qualitative research very much alive (and powerful!) these days. And with the newest video tools now available, you don’t lose important body language signals in responses (assuming you have a high bandwidth connection).

As a body language master and qualitative moderator, I can tell you that in-person interviewing yields significantly more information than remote methods for those who can decipher the cues, but phone and video remain powerful alternatives for quickly collecting many types of data—especially now.

Conducting qualitative research remotely via the popular virtual platforms shown below can yield an amazing depth of context for many of your objectives.

Collecting information via these platforms provide the following benefits:

  • Lower cost than in-person
  • Unlimited geographical reach
  • Improved feasibility
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Better response/show rates
  • Live video feed
  • More organic respondent experience
  • Real-time communication
  • Limitless, geographically-dispersed observers
  • Expedited project timelines
  • Digital stimuli
  • Unobtrusive note-taking
  • Mitigation of “group think”
  • Unlimited recording/transcribing


Of course, there are tradeoffs with any type of methodology. Such is the case with remote interviewing. For example, it may be more difficult, if not impossible to read facial micro-expressions and other body language cues with choppy internet service. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of utilizing this approach.

Download our more in-depth comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of remote interviewing.

Stay tuned for our next blog on what you can learn from someone’s voice during phone interviews or video chats.

For additional information on COVID-19 visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus information page.