The move back to face to face research – not as simple as it sounds.

As restrictions start to ease around the country, we thought it would be timely to check back in with the Telmy community to see how participants feel about attending face-to-face research.

Back in March, we checked in with our Telmy community and found many participants were not open to coming along to face-to-face research. There was a huge amount of uncertainty – both about research and life generally!

There are many factors at play when considering the move back to face to face methodologies – impact on researchers, risk and liability, uncertainty, hygiene at venues, and more.

Firstly though, our clients want to know if it’s feasible to even find people to come along and share their thoughts again at a central location?

To find out, we connected with 500 Telmy members from around the country – and they told us the answer is YES! However, whilst on the surface participants are happy to come along, newly embedded social norms could make the practicalities of how this plays out a little more complicated.

Let’s take a look at some of the key findings.

Not surprisingly, participating in online research is still the most popular choice – 85% having no problems getting involved. Of the face-to-face methods, one-on-one interviews are the most popular choice with 84% having no problems, followed by 73% for groups.

Shopping centres are less popular, and around half would still not be comfortable with someone coming to their home for an interview – reflecting the changed way we live our lives and how protective we’ve all become of our homes.

What kind of research do people want to go to?


Coming along to face-to-face research often means sharing a room with strangers. Interestingly, many don’t have a major concern with this. 67% have told us they are comfortable with 6 or more people in a room.

How many people can be in the room?


Further, when asked about concerns in attending face-to-face research most participants say they’re not worried about the cleanliness of the venues or about being close to other participants. Travel to venues, especially on public transport, is more of a concern.

Concerns about heading to group rooms.


When we delve into the detail and look at quotes from participants, however, it’s clear that there are underlying expectations around social distancing measures and cleanliness procedures…

“A big open place, probably a big park with great airflow. Ensure social distance rules are applied and that masks and disinfectant spray are available.”

“There are marks where everyone has to stand and also sanitisers and masks in place if a person had forgotten to bring a mask.”

“All staff (and guests) I see should be wearing gloves, masks and hand-sanitisers.”

“Marked areas for people to sit, hand sanitiser and a clear outline of cleaning regimes that have occurred and their frequency.”

The practical implications of these expectations could have far reaching ramifications for the industry as we all try to move back to some sense of ‘normal’.

Patrick Strachan, from The City Group Rooms, says “The City Group Rooms is proud to be hosting face to face in person focus groups again. The first job starts next week! We have an extensive Coronavirus (COVID-19) policy that ensures everything is as safe as it possibly can be.” Practical actions in place include only serving individually wrapped food, increased cleaning schedules, hand sanitiser in all rooms and an entry survey to check for health and to allow for contact tracing post-session if required.

How the industry moves back to face-to-face research – where typically participants need to wait in a communal area for their session to start and then to sit around a shared table – is yet to be determined. One key strength of face-to-face qual is to gauge group response, energy and the body language in the room. How will this be impacted by enforced social distancing rules. And how do researchers measure this impact when interpreting their findings?

Of course, the flip side of this is whether researchers and their customers are keen to get back in the room. Expect to see more clients looking for remote viewing and effective streaming services – potentially allowing researchers to be more flexible with their session times – and end clients placing significant duty of care requirements on researchers and venues.

These findings indicate that while people are keen to get back to research, social norms and expectations around what should and shouldn’t be done are starting to embed. Put simply, they don’t want to feel there is any risk of getting Covid, or of other people not following the rules. Hopefully this makes it easier for researchers and venues to practise appropriate measures with cooperation from the general public.
This week, Telmy will be releasing new features in the Telmy Researcher Portal that makes running remote groups and interviews a breeze. Stay tuned for more information, or get in touch with Telmy today for a demo.