This project couldn’t have been more prescient as we, like many other people following the news, were becoming aware of how disparately the pandemic was impacting certain communities and the strain within the provision of public services for those on the margins of society. Our client wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers faced by people who identified as belonging to these communities.
Overall the project required over 200 participants from backgrounds as diverse as Traveller communities, members of the LGB community, people with life-limiting conditions, victims of sex trafficking and transgender men and women.
While the scale and the scope of this project was daunting, the online methodology undoubtedly enabled us to cast a far wider net than any pre-Covid, geo-specific, research might. However, it also presented challenges too. While our primary tools – our opt-in database and social media presence could still be used; their efficacy was limited with low representation within these demographics. Additionally many mainstream charities were under increasing strain and could only offer limited assistance.
We overcame this with new approaches – researching extensively, developing contacts, and individualising our screening style. This meant finding grass-roots campaigners and community members to snowball recruitment amongst wary asylum-seekers and trafficking victims, while screening respectfully, via indirect – conversational style – questions, to assure transgender participants and victims of sexual harassment. Elderly and homeless groups were sourced mostly through family members and received IT assistance to ensure their participation, including gathering signatures digitally via Adobe Sign to meet with GDPR and MRS compliance. In addition to compliance, we were keenly aware of our safeguarding responsibilities and created a policy on how to respond to disclosures of harm or trauma from some of the most vulnerable participants.
The end result was a series of online focus groups with much of the preparation done through a combination of online outreach, long telephone discussions and sharing information on the goals of this important initiative. The pandemic, in many ways, presented an opportunity to conduct this project in a way that might not have been envisaged before. Through our perseverance, multi-faceted approach and inspired thinking, the client was able to engage with people who are often stigmatised, marginalised or otherwise underrepresented in market research.
Acumen have worked with The Value Engineers for a number of years, collaborating on a wide range of market research studies, so we were delighted when they asked us to help on an international study for their client about PlayStation users.
The aim of the research was to ‘bring gamers to life’ with a multi-phase project which sought to identify specific types of PlayStation users, with a segmentation tool developed by The Value Engineers, before the second phase of the project where the participants would be interviewed and filmed in their homes.
The challenge of this project was that the client wanted the second phase of the project to take place in 5 international markets – Turkey, Poland, France, Spain and Italy – with all research completed within a short space of time. This presented logistical challenges for the team at Acumen who were responsible for finding and screening all participants to ensure they met the requirements of the segmentation tool and schedule all the in-home interviews across multiple countries and time zones.
As an established fieldwork agency Acumen have built up strong networks of suppliers in all of the markets required for this project and we worked collaboratively to cast as wide a net as possible to ensure we could find the exact types of participants needed. We also worked closely with the client, providing regular updates on how the recruitment and screening process were progressing. This meant that we were able to respond proactively to any changes in requirement or expand the search when potential participants fell out of the segmentation tool.
During the second stage of the project, when researchers were visiting participants in their home, the team at Acumen acted as a single point of contact, arranging the schedules of the researchers and providing in-field support to ensure all elements of the research were completed within the required timescales.
The Value Engineers were delighted with the content they were able to collect and collate through the second phase of this project and, following an evaluation of this project, have begun further development on their segmentation tool which will allow for it to be embedded in a way that will enable us to use it as part of our recruitment process when working with them. The findings from the research have also been reported back to the end client and shared internally. Initial feedback has been that the study enabled them to understand their customers in new and exciting ways.
Acumen’s Healthcare fieldwork team were approached by an independent research agency, to find participants for a study they were conducting on behalf of a pharmaceutical company. The research was intended to explore the pathway to recovery for people with Hepatitis C, who also inject drugs, and what potential barriers to treatment they might experience.
To understand these issues, the research agency wanted to meet with an expert panel, in a single session in which they brought together key stakeholders within the field and experts in the treatment of Hepatitis C. The intended panel was to consist of Hepatologists, GP’s and Prison GP’s, Specialist Hepatology Nurses, BBV Nurses, Drug and Charity Workers and Community Pharmacists.
The main challenge with this project was not only finding participants who matched the specific, and sometimes niche, profiles that the client had specified but also ensuring they were based in the geographical area that the research was taking place in at the time they were needed.
To begin, the healthcare fieldwork team assessed the feasibility of the project by analysing the overall numbers of people who matched the criteria on their in-house database. From there they were able to estimate the total number of contacts they would need to meet the clients criteria. After making initial contact with potential participants on the database the team began researching organisations and companies who might interact with the participants needed. The team were then able to identify new potential participants and offer finder’s fees for those making contact on their behalf.
The team also used third party databases and community forums to advertise the research which enabled them to identify further participants who might not have necessarily taken part in this kind of research forum before.
As with all research on sensitive subjects it is essential that the fieldwork team are transparent on the purpose and details of the project so that all participants are engaging with the project with full and free consent. As many of the participants on this project were already professionally and personally engaged with the subject matter the team at Acumen were able to recruit all of the stakeholders the client wanted to meet with.
Acumen were asked by a research agency to help with a project they were conducting on behalf of a Biopharmaceutical company. The company were seeking feedback on a new app that had developed to provide support and information to people with a range of respiratory problems.
The app, which had been designed for smartphone users, had a number of features including the ability to capture and monitor data on how patients are using their inhalers. In order to test this functionality, Acumen were asked to find participants who suffered with Asthma, and had been diagnosed over various periods of time, in addition to people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). All of the participants had to be using different types of inhalers in order to fully assess their user experience of the new app.
An additional element of the research involved recruiting Healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines and specialisms. These included: Respiratory consultants; GP’s; and Nurses who specialised in respiratory ailments or were Practice Nurses working within a respiratory clinic.
Acumen’s Healthcare fieldwork market research team have an extensive in-house database with participants who’ve signed up to take part in market research studies. It contains healthcare professionals of all levels and specialisms in addition to information on people who have been diagnosed with a range of conditions. For a project like this, the database that the Healthcare team have built up, is an invaluable resource.
In addition to this, the team also used their presence on social media to target people who were likely to meet one or more of the quotas required for this study. Social media is an ideal resource for research that requires participants who are comfortable with smartphones and technology.
Utilising these two methods enabled the team to draw on a large pool of potential participants who were then carefully screened to ensure they all met the criteria specified by the client. The challenge on this project was in finding people who were local to the area the research was taking place in, but the combination of the team’s database and their presence online enabled them to find all the participants the client wanted to speak to.
At Acumen as part of our quantitative market research services we’re always happy to work with clients wherever they are in the process of creating their brief. Often people have a clear idea of the parameters of their research but increasingly clients will ask for our guidance on the feasibility and practical solutions needed for their project. We were recently commissioned by a well-known retailer to provide data for an online market sizing project. The results of this were intended to help the retailer get an overall picture of the market but with a specific segmentation to clearly market different demographics within the market.
To achieve this Acumen conducted 1700 online interviews via a number of panels which we have access to and then structured the sampling to match the client’s needs of an overall market sizing exercise and the segmentation required. Quality was implemented in the programming and data delivery stages, helping the client with additional requests outside the original brief.
Due to the way we structured this project we were able to be flexible to the client’s needs whilst supporting them through a demanding report period. Not only did this approach allow the client to get the most out of their data, something which is important to us, but we also delivered the project within a total timescale of 2 weeks.
see also a case study our award winning quantitative research for the GLC
A leading footwear brand wanted to know more about the purchase process that consumers go through when buying new shoes. They were interested in collecting sample data across a variety of markets including the UK, US, China, France and South Korea.
The quantitative market research team in Acumen have networks of interviewers throughout the UK and partners who can provide on-street interviewers throughout Europe and much of the world. We collaborated with them to create a schedule and a quota which would ensure we could meet the number of completes the client required in the time that was needed. The team used their own app to capture the data the client needed, positioning interviewers so that they could intercept shoppers and perform exit interviews. As this project was being conducted across multiple countries our survey also had to be formatted to the linguistic needs of that location.
We were able to program the survey for all countries ensuring that questions and responses were accurately collected in a consistent format which ensured data delivery was a quick and smooth process.
We were able to meet the clients required quotas providing them with a full picture of the consumer purchase process across a number of markets with complete accuracy and consistency. The client was then able to incorporate this into a number of campaigns which targeted potential customers with POS advertising and promotional material based on the analysis of the data we provided.
In addition to conducting qualititative market research on consumer goods and shopper behaviour we also frequently work on a range of projects which seek to understand complex social issues or sensitive subjects. As a fieldwork supplier we often relish the opportunity to work on these projects as they require a slightly different approach to the work we do.
We were recently asked by a research agency to assist them with one such project. The research was exploring the issues of relationship breakdown, the various factors involved when families separate and what, if any, support services had been accessed either during or after such a life-changing incident. The client wanted to speak to wide range of people, including low social grades and ethnic minorities, whose relationships had broken down for a variety of reasons. Some of these included relationships ending due to infidelity, a lack of intimacy, or for financial reasons.
When working on this project our team were acutely aware of how important it was to consider how best to approach such a sensitive topic with potential participants. We worked closely with our client and liaised with our team to ensure that all parties were fully briefed on the finer details of the project before commencing recruitment.
We’re also fortunate in that we are able to work with our in-house recruitment team, who have an active database of over 100,000 participants that have all opted in for research and are engaged and enthusiastic. They were able to tailor their approach to the project, emphasising the importance of the research in shaping the way future support services could be delivered or accessed. This meant that the participants who applied to take part were enthusiastic about sharing their experiences, knowing that it would help others in their situation.
We were overwhelmed by the response to this project with many people throughout the UK coming forward to share their experiences of personal trauma and relationship breakdown. We were able to recruit participants from a variety of backgrounds ensuring that the client was able to get detailed picture on the varying experiences of a variety of people. It was gratifying, for all those involved, that we were able to contribute to something as important as this.
Acumen were contacted by the Greater London Authority to help find participants for a quantitative research project on how people from marginalised groups and communities accessed support services for issues relating to employment. The GLA specifically wanted to speak to low-paid workers and migrant workers – people who are usually underrepresented in research. The purpose of the research was to understand the levels of awareness of employment rights amongst those groups and also to gain an understanding of what barriers they faced when trying to access relevant services.
We were aware that the lack of engagement with institutions amongst these demographics would be a significant barrier to our usual research recruitment methods. We overcame this by working with local community groups, snowballing recruitment and explaining the research process in detail to try to allay any suspicions about the nature of the research. Through this we were able to recruit a full range of backgrounds, including Vietnamese nail salon workers who were being covered in the news at the time about the issue of modern day slavery in their profession.
The dynamic and flexible approach to the recruitment in addition to finding venues which would seem neutral to the participants enabled us to succeed in providing the GLA with participants who met the specific criteria but also had a willingness to share their personal stories and experiences which went to the heart of the initial brief.
As we were working directly with the GLA on this project, it was thrilling to learn that the insights we provided were being used to identify new ways to tackle economic fairness amongst some of London’s most vulnerable workers.
Myles Wilson, who commissioned the research for the GLA said, “Low-paid migrant workers are a particularly challenging and hard-to-reach group so recruitment was a key concern for us when planning this research but Acumen were very proactive and updated us throughout.”
For our work on this Acumen were named as finalists and eventually won the award for Best Data Collection (Face to Face) at the 2018 MRS Operations Awards.