What to use between Synchronous and Asynchronous Market Research

Market research studies are conducted in both real time or over an extended time, depending on what is defined as the best methodology to collect data for any particular study.  These two methods are known collectively as ‘synchronous’ and asynchronous approaches to data gathering. Both employ tools that have been designed for or adapted to serve as information collectors for insights generation.

synchronous-vs-asynchronous-market-research-toolsSynchronous market research tools refer to data collection systems where data collection takes place simultaneously, in real time, whether the researcher and respondents are in the same place or not. It involves real-time conversations between a moderator and respondents and can be conducted via the traditional face-to-face approach, through the telephone, or online. Whether in person or through a web room and conference line, a synchronous approach enables a live and personal connection and interaction between the participants and the moderator. Since this approach happens in real time, it might be suited for short-term market research online communities.

Both web-enabled interviews and focus groups as well as face-to-face in-depth interviews provide the closest analogy to the concept of synchronous market research. Products and services exist on the market to serve each approach such as CyberFacility, offered by Civicom, which combines  global audio phone lines with an Adobe web room to showcase respondents and moderators through webcams and to feature stimuli for insights probing.

Throughout the world, there are numerous in-person market research facilities with private research rooms designed to make respondents feel comfortable and open up in a live meeting. With in-facility live research, there is often product testing such as with food products where the environment can be controlled.

On the other hand, asynchronous market research approaches occur when participants engage with a study at a time of their own choosing within a given time frame. With the evolution of the internet, there emerged an increasing demand for market research asynchronous tools like group chats and emails, which led to a surge in the development of market research online tools and solutions - online bulletin boards being the most popular one.

Asynchronous online platforms are ideal for conducting market research online as well as making room for individualized activities for respondents to engage in over an extended period. In this method, researchers and respondents are not required to meet or be online at the same time. This enables individuals who cannot commit to a given time slot to still be able to share their insights for asynchronous qualitative studies allow respondents to reflect over time without feeling pressured in the moment. The researcher also has more time to consider the respondents’ comments before drawing conclusions from the discussion.

The rise of asynchronous tools is not at all surprising. According to Ray Poynter, author of “The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research: Tools and Techniques for Market Researchers”, ‘asynchronicity’, a term he defines, is now far beyond the world of just market research. People are so invested in multi-tasking that they want to approach projects at a time and in a way that suits them. For instance, ATMs and online banking lessened the demand for banking tellers. The same goes with online shopping which has replaced physical stores or malls for multitudes of people. The shift in people’s lifestyle and behavior toward multitasking and online activity gives evidence of how logical the rise of asynchronous market research tools is, given these new ways of life.  

As a market researcher, the core of what you decide is the best approach for gathering the insights you need for your study is what will determine whether you turn to synchronous or asynchronous methodology for your project. Fortunately, there are excellent tools for the two that are available today including support which ranges from excellent to non-existent. It is important for a researcher to understand not only what they need in a tool but also what level of support is required and provided with, before jumping into a solution. Whether synchronous or asynchronous, most market research tools require some support. It is the wise research who knows how to identify a company that considers your project their number one priority and to make the most of that discovery once you find it.