The onset of the coronavirus directly impacted REAL Insight’s most utilized methodology: in-context, in-store research. Whether using pre-recruited respondents or intercepting shoppers at shelf, our signature form of research—the innovative technique on which the company was founded 30+ years ago—was essentially removed from our toolbox.

To fit the limitations of the pandemic, we pivoted towards mobile and virtual methodologies which presented the challenge of maintaining the integrity and authenticity we are known for. By leveraging our expertise and embracing our innovative nature, we developed solutions that, when tested with one of our key partners, produced nearly identical results to our in-person methods.

With the return to our favorite place—in-aisle—we asked our project directors their thoughts about our virtual capabilities and how they feel about returning to in-person research.

What has been good about the virtual pivot over the past year and a half?

Molly Volker (Sr. Project Director): We have been able to take our years of experience and layer it on to virtual research. Being able to conduct research on our research helped confirm that we [were] onto something good. It was rewarding that we could still help our clients and add value during a time when everything changed, including the entirety of our work…I was grateful that we could still add value while keeping everyone safe.

Emma Connolly (Project Director): It’s great to have an additional solution for our client’s research needs, especially as we will [likely] be navigating more covid surges in the future. Seeing our team come together to [develop] two [virtual] solutions for our clients has been a team building feat like no other and then partnering with a Fortune 500 CPG company to test our solutions head-to-head was so validating, especially since they both performed so well with small differences that make them each better options for different situations. Virtual also gives us a great opportunity to do research in stores that are historically difficult to get permission to do research in, such as club stores (Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s) and stores like Aldi/Lidl, etc.

What surprised you about the change?

Molly Volker (Sr. Project Director): I was surprised by how well we were still able to connect with our respondents through both virtual and mobile methods. Since everyone had to get comfortable with remote technology, our respondents had much fewer issues with our technology. I was surprised by how much I missed being in a real store with real people too.

Michelle DeVaughn (Sr. Project Director): How quickly and easily it was to gain rapport with participants. I think people are very comfortable communicating virtually now.

What excites you about being back in-store?

Emma Connolly (Project Director): I’m excited to be back on the road, in our natural habitat of grocery store aisles and hotel rooms. I’ve missed traveling and meeting people from all over the country in person. Whether it’s being in the grocery aisle in the northeast learning about the breakfast staple “scrapple” or about the “funeral potatoes” everyone loves in Utah; I’ve missed that.

Michelle DeVaughn (Sr. Project Director): I have missed the intercepts; not only observing them shop but the challenge of getting them to take a few minutes to answer some questions from a stranger. Plus, in store there is always something new and great people watching!

REAL Insight is committed to delivering authentic, in-context consumer insight to our clients, regardless of circumstance. We are excited to be back in-store and have enjoyed the process of developing mobile and virtual methodologies and are excited for the continued insights and opportunities they will provide us and our clients.

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