The Insight Rooms: Hope for the future as face-to-face picks up pace

30 May 2022
Terry Ohene-Amoako

Terry Ohene-Amoako

Lab Manager

Welcome to the “New normal”

We’ve all heard this term a lot over the past year or so. It has become a bit of a cliché. But when I step outside, the world feels a lot like the old normal. Or, more accurately, it’s stepping inside that feels reminiscent of the good old days. Pubs, restaurants, clubs, museums, theatres. Indoor venues are bustling with life once again.

Here at our stunningly designed and brilliantly equipped research facility, The Insight Rooms, life has started to return to our labs too. Over the past couple months enquiries have increased and, crucially, bookings have also. We here at Spotless have finally made the return to F2F too. It’s a promising start to a year that has been preceded by two very difficult ones. 

 

Clockwise from top left: Lab 1, Viewing Room 1, Viewing Room 2 and Lab 2

 

Speaking of viewing facilities

 The Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly tough on venues. In an instant we went from being the beating heart of qualitative research to a virtual flatline, but it’s been great to see our rooms bustling with activity once again and how excited clients feel about being back in a viewing facility.

Reflecting on the return of face-to-face research, what I find most reassuring is the response I get when I talk to people about their feelings toward it. It’s overwhelmingly in favour. Online alternatives have kept our industry going throughout this period but the general sentiment is that running groups and interviews this way just isn’t as fun or engaging for those involved. There’s an energy to being in the room that you don’t get when you’re separated by a screen. As a result, researchers often feel as though they’re not getting the very best from these virtual sessions.

 

Hope is on the Horizon

Whilst many researchers have long been keen to return to in-person research, they are beholden to their clients who have been a little slower to re-embrace its benefits. There are, however, indications that more and more End Clients are jumping on board. I’d been consistently hearing that they have developed a taste for the speed, ease and cheapness of doing things online. “It’s good enough”, they’d say. Now they say there is less pushback when F2F is suggested. End Clients are also talking about their fond memories of in-person research and how it enables them to get the very best possible from their projects.

 

Co-creation workshop in Lab 1 – Photo: Spotless.co.uk

 

Where do we go from here?

Good enough isn’t always good enough. Not to say that online is only “good enough”. I admit I may be biassed, but I’m fully aware that it has its benefits and has secured its place in this era of the new normal. But I’m optimistic that the future isn’t going to be online only.

Early indications point to a hybrid approach as the best way forward, where a mix of online and offline methods are used within the same project, taking advantage of the benefits of both.

This is an idea that precedes the pandemic but now it seems to be building traction. I hear it in the conversations I have with clients and industry friends, like Krishna Juggapah, Field and Operations manager at Acacia avenue, who says “With clients electing to have a more hybrid approach, we’re looking at doing research which offers the best of both worlds – the flexibility and ease of online with the openness and insights of F2F. That might mean using both online and F2F or one or the other; we’re aiming to get the best approach for each project”. I’ve also read about it in articles such as this one from Research Live, which is based on a presentation given by Peter Totman, Head of Qualitative at Jigsaw Research, at this year’s MRS Impact Conference.

Overall, I’m  encouraged by the rise in bookings we are seeing. Our labs are filling up again, and not only with projects that have to be done face to face, like tasting, touching and testing ones. Good old fashioned groups with pens, paper and stimulus boards are returning too.

 

The Insight Rooms Main Reception 

 

So, if you’re yet to return to face-to-face research, itching for that buzz of being in the room with your participants again or simply curious to find out more, I encourage you to consider how in-person elements to your projects would enhance your findings and your experience.
Then, I’d encourage you to book The Insight Rooms!

Others already are, and we’d love to have you too.

 

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