Differences between respondents are noticeable far before the focus group. Some are very communicative during confirmation calls, going so far as to confirm that they will be 15-minutes early per their confirmation email, while others may be anxious and simply ignore your efforts to contact them. With so much effort going towards show-rates for hosting market research sessions, it goes without saying: proper attendance is critical.
As market research professionals, we need to remain cognizant that participation of your target market is not as important to them as it is to us. Respondents are certainly not the ones to blame. This may be their first-time hearing of a focus group or interview to garner their opinions.
A main goal that must be accomplished during initial recruitment and the confirmation process is making the respondent’s experience as smooth and understandable as possible. The best way to build trust with the respondent is clear and proactive communication.
Here are 7 tips we use to increase research attendance:
Simplify Virtual Research
While technology is a part of our everyday life, literacy with technology can vary drastically from person to person. With the majority of market research now taking place virtually, we must simplify our processes to cater to those that may be less technologically inclined. When possible, use platforms that respondents are already comfortable with, such as Zoom.
Not every respondent is confident navigating their own computer for virtual research and when the research’s start-time is just minutes away, both the researchers and participants can get antsy with worries of potential technical issues that neither party can solve. To avoid last-minute mishaps, provide simple, easy to navigate instructions to join the session. To ensure that respondents are comfortable logging in and that their equipment is adequate, conduct “Tech Checks” along with confirmation calls by having a “practice run” for logging on.
When sending confirmation emails, send calendar invitations and provide direct links to Zoom so your respondent may join the session with ease.
Vary Communication Methods
The days of hearing the word “communication” and assuming it’s verbal are gone and with so many methods to communicate, people have found they have natural preferences. Preferred methods of communication can vary from person to person and catering to those preferences will increase attendance.
Some respondents will simply forget about the appointment entirely unless someone speaks with them directly on the phone, while others have grown weary of spam calls. At Observation Baltimore, we use methods such as text, call, and email to appeal to all preferred contact methods.
Provide Directions for In-Person Research
To make your business easy to locate for in-person research, be sure your address on Google and your own website is current. To be as accommodating as possible provide detailed instructions for those traveling to your facility not only by car, but by public transportation too. If your office is located in a building complex, make sure to be clear on how to navigate the building.
Sending reminders at the appropriate time is an often-overlooked aspect of the recruitment process that can directly impact research attendance, and your ability to replace a respondent if needed. If you confirm a respondent’s attendance too early, they’ll forget by the time the interview is slated to begin. Alternatively, you may put undue burden on your team by trying to replace a respondent that canceled when they received an email the morning of their group!
Be sure to reach out a few days before the study to account for respondents that may not be able to confirm right away and to give your recruitment team enough time to find replacements if needed!
At Observation Baltimore our confirmation policy is to reach out to scheduled respondents two days before their appointment. We also contact respondents the day of participation (‘look forward to seeing you today’) and absent participants 15 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time.
Offer an “Early Bird” Drawing
To incentivize respondents to not only attend their focus group but to arrive to the group with time to spare, offering a small “Early Bird” raffle of $25 for respondents that arrive 15-minutes early before the appointment begins encourages respondents to be punctual.
Ask for Respondents’ Questions
We’ve all had questions that we didn’t ask that we later wish we did. Respondents may think they will be able to easily locate your facility or log into your virtual group and later find it much more difficult than they’d imagined.
Answering respondent’s questions prior to the research fosters trust between the respondents and your organization. During the closing script, have the recruiter ask the respondent if they have any questions regarding compensation or how the focus group will be run. This not only eases the mind of the participant but prevents additional issues from arising later.
Make it Easy
The value proposition offered by participating in a focus group or interview and the rational of respondents is simple: they’re able to express their opinions, feel heard, and contribute to a category in which they already participate. Respondents thrilled with their experience will tell everyone they know how to make $150 in just 90 minutes by talking about how they shop.
If you want to increase your research’s attendance, your research should be easy to attend. Respondents shouldn’t need to struggle to participate or feel unsure of your company’s credibility throughout the process. Directions and instructions should be provided to simplify needed processes. All staff, from Project Managers to Recruiters, should be able to answer basic questions about the research process to encourage transparency and build trust.
In summary, whether we like it or not, there will be situations (sick children, work, internet went out) where respondents are not able to attend the group. While it is inevitable, we should never let it begin to affect the research. At Observation Baltimore, we communicate! Always check with the moderator to see their preferences on allowing late respondents in the sessions and with these tips, your research’s attendance will soar!