Editor’s note: Brian Lamar is VP of insights, EMI, at Research Solutions, Cincinnati. 

We have seen a surge in the demand for research, specifically online quantitative research. Whether it is a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to better understand consumers’ changing behaviors, fielding studies tied to the 2020 election, organizations trying to use up their 2020 budget before the end of the year – or a combination of all three – the overall effect has been a surge in the need for insights. But with that surge has come some fielding challenges.

You may have experienced these challenges when fielding research studies in the past few weeks. I want to offer my perspective and some recommendations as we all navigate through this. 

Industries around the globe have seen and felt the impact of a tumultuous year – and market research is no exception. We saw response rates increase in the spring and summer. Respondents were utilizing different devices to take surveys than in the past due to working from home and other changes in behavior. Likewise, VPN usage greatly increased as many worked from home, necessitating adjustments to digital fingerprinting measures used to evaluate fraud. 

While marketing research has always experienced waves in terms of supply and demand, 2020 has seen more extremes. Research spend was incredibly high in Q1 of this year. However, demand for surveys was extremely low in the spring and summer (overall that is; however, in some industries many were still spending quite a bit). Sample companies were not immune to the tough decisions many brands and marketing research firms had to make in summer 2020. Cuts were made and many sample providers had to make the tough decision to lower panelist recruiting budgets until demand increased. 

Fortunately, the industry has rebounded this fall and we expect this to continue through the winter as brands try to levera...