Why Moderators Matter Even More When Moving Sensory Research Online

Why Moderators Matter Even More When Moving Sensory Research Online

Historically, sensory research has been conducted in person. But, as we’ve all learned the hard way over the last year and a half, sometimes circumstances beyond our control ultimately force change. While the pandemic necessitated a move to online methods for marketing research in general, this transition has been particularly difficult for sensory research. It’s certainly been a learning experience for many; however, we believe the change has also created an opportunity to explore the rich insights that can be obtained through virtual methods, not to mention the convenience and flexibility it can provide. Here’s how to ease your transition to online and why your moderator may be your biggest ally in the process.

Sensory Research Then and Now

Pre-COVID-19, it just made sense to conduct sensory research in person, especially for complex projects in which a range of stimuli required testing in a controlled environment. Product labs where consumers would come to a central location were the norm. Now having consumers handling the same stimuli and being in close quarters for extended periods of time is just not possible due to current safety protocols.

What many clients don’t realize, however, is that while conducting sensory research online wasn’t necessarily common before the pandemic, it’s not new for researchers like us. Online tools and techniques have been a great resource for years; the key is that your sensory research team knows how to achieve the same level of quality and rich insights in this digital environment.

Moderating Sensory Research Online 

Some of the key challenges in conducting sensory research online are in knowing which online tools will best support the methodology, navigating the level of control required, and making sure the consumer can articulate their sensory experience with the same depth and detail they would in-person.

Having a moderator with sensory experience can be incredibly beneficial here in:

  • Choosing the best methodology – As the methodology used will have different implications online, a moderator with both sensory expertise and an awareness of different online tools and techniques will be best suited in designing the research to meet your unique objectives.
  • Determining level of control or freedom – With an online method, we are able to dictate the parameters of any product testing. For example, is it most important to control the situation in an at-home usage test or are we more interested in getting feedback on how a consumer naturally uses a product?
  • Articulating the experience at a sensory level – There are nuances and a lexicon in the sensory world that make it different than other type of research. Your moderator’s understanding of those differences not only allows them to pivot easily in an online environment, but can also help them take your research from nice-to-know findings to actionable insights.

Benefits of Sensory Research Online

As clients move sensory research online, they’re finding their research is not only just as successful, but that there are also a number of unexpected benefits as well.

First, being in someone’s home via video chat – instead of hovering over them in person – can give you a context that’s incredibly powerful. Respondents simply feel more comfortable in their own space and as such, you may learn even more. And now that video chatting with friends and family is more common than ever, people of all ages are becoming increasingly more familiar with this way of communicating.

Next, there’s a convenience and flexibility to conducting sensory research online. Neither the research team nor the consumers have to worry about the logistics of travel. Plus it’s easier for consumers to participate remotely and fit in the research around their schedule. Not to mention, it’s a safer environment given the ongoing pandemic and eliminates the distraction and challenges of in-person methods due to mask-wearing during the sessions.

But to benefit fully, it’s essential that you work with a moderator backed by a solid team that’s experienced in conducting sensory research online. Our experience ranges from early stage exploratory to pre- or post-launch testing and we’ve spent years vetting platforms and solidifying partnerships that we can leverage for any technology aspects we don’t handle in house. All that combined with the strength of our operational efficiencies makes us a valuable partner in both fielding virtual studies that run smoothly while also obtaining the rich detail and depth required to meet the needs of our clients.

To learn more about moving your sensory research online, contact Blueberry today.