When to Choose In-person or Online Research

Researchers were relegated to virtual research for so long that they’ve adopted it into their normal approach to new projects. While virtual research isn’t going anywhere, requests for in-person research are on the rise. Each methodology offers its own benefits and downfalls. Below, we will discuss the limitations of and when to choose each in-person or online to make the most of your research.


Online Research:

Cost Benefits:

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, research was done largely in-person for each individual market. Researchers were frequently on the move, acquiring air-miles as they bounce from market to market to speak with respondents in every location their clients wanted to reach.

The cost of flying a marketing team from city to city isn’t cheap, and neither are the hotels and food accommodates to that coincide with them. Once companies were forced to look outside of the box and conduct research online, firms quickly saw the massive upside of being able to have their teams conduct research from the comfort of their living rooms.


Hard to reach participants.

When speaking with respondents from all walks of life, researchers need to keep inclusivity a priority. This means making accommodations for the segment that you’re researching. Some busy folks, like Business Professionals and Healthcare Professionals are pressed for time. Using online research allows these hard-to-reach individuals to take part in research from the comfort of their homes or offices.


Faster turnaround time

With online research, teams don’t need to account for travel time and the time spent organizing hotels and the research space. Removing non-research-related aspects of conducting research has allowed researchers to expedite their projects.


Smooth mixing of methods

During in-person qualitative research, moderators may use a show of hands or paper surveys to gather quantitative insights. Instead of taking the time to count responses manually, online research allows moderators to seamlessly poll participants & collect data immediately.



Hard to reach

In the same way that technology can allow researchers to speak with busy or hard to reach respondents, it can also be a barrier. Some segments, such as seniors or lower socioeconomic respondents, may not have the technology or technical literacy needed to complete research online. In-person facilities are often located along bus routes to make attendance easier for segments that may require assistance.


Sensory Aspects

Some products rely heavily on ergonomics. For example, a carpenter would need to feel or even use a drill to be able to carefully review it. With proprietary products, companies may be hesitant to send test products to respondents’ homes. In-person research allows researchers to see how respondents would interact with their products.


More engaged

Each research endeavor has its own unique approach. For mock trials, respondents are asked to participate for several hours as they explain the case being researched. While these could theoretically be done online, researchers know that participants will become sidetracked by the distractions in their own environments, potentially missing information that would be crucial to understanding the issues.



In-person research isn’t only done within the confides of a focus group facility. Methods like shop-alongs and ethnographies allow researchers to get insights into how respondents are in their natural environment. Observing respondents can present opportunities to document habits respondents may never mention if they self-reported shopping trips.


Choosing when to use in-person or online research is largely situational. Some research may benefit more from being done online, while in-person may be the only option for some. If you’re still unsure of what works best for your research, our team at Observation Baltimore is here to help!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024 at 1:42 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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