Consumer research in lockdown: the unexpected benefits

When you join a new research company, your first project win is always something you hope to achieve quickly. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when a few weeks after starting at Boring Money I secured a project with Quilter, proposing face-to-face focus groups to meet their research objectives. It was all going well… until COVID-19 turned up.

by Georgina Clarke, Director of Research Projects and Business Development

Before the news broke, we’d had our project kick-off meeting, the topic guide was approved, respondents were recruited, and venues booked. But it soon became clear that the research could not go ahead on a face-to-face basis as planned, so we had just four days to find an alternative approach.

I’d undertaken a small amount of online qual in previous roles, and Boring Money had also completed a few projects using this approach. We’d actually just started working with a new partner, Incling, who are digital research experts offering a user-friendly platform with a range of functionality to support qualitative research. They were more than happy to support us with the set-up and work with recruiters to provide the new instructions to the participants.


The shift in approach actually worked in our favour

As we were a few recruits short for some of the more specific target segments (people with high levels of wealth who use a financial advisor), moving online meant that we were no longer restricted by geography.

We re-designed the topic guide for an online approach, identifying which questions would be pre-scripted and which we would use as additional probes as the conversation evolved. We worked out how we could accommodate our planned flip chart tasks into a text-based discussion, which involved a second moderator creating the flip chart content live during the session and uploading different versions for participants to respond to.

The team at Incling quickly set up the project for us on their platform and we had a dummy-run to ensure everything was working smoothly. They also offered to join as an observer during the first session, to provide us with the additional reassurance in the case of any hitches.


Extra flexibility for clients and observers

The first 90-minute groups kicked off at 6:30 and went ahead without any issues. A further group went ahead afterwards, and then two more a couple of days later. For the second evening our clients from Quilter joined as observers and were able to pass on comments and requests while we moderated throughout the evening. This flexibility proved an advantage over traditional viewed groups, where clients would have to wait for the moderator to pop behind the screen to speak to them. A further benefit was that as soon as the groups finished we could download a full transcript, as opposed to having to wait for the recording to be downloaded and transcribed.

For all four online focus groups, we had a full turn-out of participants, when you’d typically expect a couple of last-minute cancellations or no-shows on the night. Although this is probably not surprising given many people were confined to their home, it emphasises that now is a really good time to engage your customers and potential customers in research.

The end results were a project that was kept on track despite the disruption and, most importantly, a happy client!

Quilter had been working closely with the Insights team at Boring Money to finalise the topics and questions that we wanted to explore face-to-face with UK investors. We had gotten to the stage where all of the qual sessions had been arranged for the following week, but we were in an environment where the pandemic was worsening by the day in the UK.

To ensure the research could continue with minimal disruption, Georgina and the team at Boring Money proposed a shift in methodology. They had identified a way to carry out this research in a way that would be safe and much more acceptable to those individuals that had already agreed to take part. I’m sure we would have seen numerous dropouts in the days, if not hours, before the group discussions were due to take place if we hadn’t altered the plans and moved everything ‘online’. By adapting the methodology, the research still took place during the week it had been originally planned for – with topline results provided to us before the end of that very same week! In what was (and continues to be) a very uncertain environment, this prompt change in approach by Boring Money enabled our research project to remain on-track.

- Robin Queripel, Research & Insight Manager, Quilter


Following this success, we have other online qualitative projects underway which will make use of the range of functionality offered by the Incling platform. As well as online focus groups, this also includes bulletin boards, diaries, comms/concept testing and more.

If you would like to hear about how online qualitative research could help you given the current restrictions, or see a demo of the Incling platform, please get in touch:


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