If you said the phrase “Zoom fatigue” in 2019, you’d likely receive blank stares, confused expressions, and replies of “What?!”.

Although Zoom video conferencing has been around for over a decade now, its use skyrocketed during COVID-19 lockdowns. In 2019, Zoom had 10 million users. By 2020 that number shot up to 300 million worldwide, a 2900% increase. The pandemic forced businesses to use Zoom to stay connected to employees and customers when working from different locations. 

Today, over two years since lockdowns began, many businesses are still utilizing remote work and teleconferencing on a hybrid or full-time basis. What’s more, many business activities like market research that were once done in person are now almost exclusively done digitally to save time and money. While video conferencing certainly has its perks for researchers, participants are struggling with burnout and Zoom fatigue from the accumulation of video-based tasks. So how can researchers overcome participant fatigue and get the market research insights (MRI) they need? Let’s find out. 

Why Are Video Calls So Draining Anyway?

Virtual market research (MR) is the perfect way for small and medium businesses to collect agile insights without paying a lot of overhead costs. By moving focus groups and interviews online, they can avoid some of the costly items associated with market research. Virtual MR doesn’t require a venue, travel time, food, drinks, or extra materials. As long as a participant has an internet connection, they can join. While digital MR is a beautiful thing for research teams, it can be a drag for customers that may spend all day at work on video. 

Video chats are more draining than in-person discussions for a few reasons. Firstly, they require us to focus intently on conversations to absorb the information. Secondly, it becomes easier to zone out and lose focus. We’ve all been guilty of checking emails or social media while on a video meeting. Finally, at-home distractions and interruptions can force us to multi-tasks and not capture the full breadth of the conversations. 

While the drivers of Zoom fatigue may be hard to avoid, there are many things that researchers can do to keep their participants engaged in research. 

5 Ways To Easing Zoom Fatigue During Virtual Market Research 

Have Incremental Breaks

Online focus groups are an ideal way to capture rich insights from real customers. They are also incredibly efficient and cost-effective. Even with these benefits, however, they can fall victim to zoned-out participants. To combat that glazed-over expression, integrate small breaks into your session. For example, if your focus group is scheduled for two hours, put a five-minute break in every 30 minutes. This break gives participants time to use the restroom, get a drink, attend to a quick household task, and reset their minds. While it may not always be possible to give this many breaks, especially if a conversation is taking off, do your best to offer them when you can. 

Reduce On-Screen Distractions 

Encourage participants to remain focused and present when conducting their interviews or focus groups online. Instruct them to close all unrelated programs and find a quiet space to engage in the session. Moreover, allow members to blur their background or use a plain colored background to avoid distracting participants with what’s on their bookshelf or how cute their cat is. Lastly, if it’s conducive to your specific research project, suggest that participants that are not speaking turn their audio and visuals off so the group can listen to one person at a time. Reducing the visual cues our brain has to process may significantly reduce Zoom fatigue. 

Keep Things Short & Sweet

Focus groups and interviews are great ways to peel the onion behind customer motivations and behaviors. However, they can also lead to long and drawn-out responses from consumers. As a researcher, your job is to keep the session focused and timely. If you let one participant speak for too long, you risk losing the engagement of your other participants. Ideally, you want to get as much information as possible from as many different members as possible. Offer pre-planned concise questions and probe further where necessary; just watch the clock while you do it. 

Keep To The Agenda

You can avoid draining your research participants by making sure you’re well-prepared. Draft a detailed, minute-by-minute plan including all questions you plan to ask and how long you estimate it will take participants to answer. Also, schedule your breaks and leave some padding in case of technology glitches. Provide the agenda to all focus groups or interview participants, so everyone has clear expectations for the session. By being transparent about timing, participants will know what to expect and are less likely to become antsy during the research session.

Bottom Line On Zoom Fatigue For MRI

Since the height of COVID, market researchers have harnessed the technology of video conferencing platforms like Zoom to cut costs, increase convenience, and boost the efficiency of their research projects. The allure of virtual research has only grown with brands seeking real-time consumer data that allows them to remain agile at every turn. Virtual interviews and focus groups are an excellent way to gather rich market research insights with less stress and less overhead. However, they can add to the already rampant Zoom fatigue felt by people across the nation. To alleviate this fatigue, researchers can employ a variety of tactics. 

Researchers should build in incremental breaks during their focus group and interview sessions, so participants have a chance to refresh. On-screen distractions should be minimized to avoid stimuli overload. Researchers must keep sessions moving at an efficient pace to avoid long stretches of inactivity among participants. Finally, research leaders should carefully craft a session agenda, provide it to members, and stick to it as closely as possible. 

Virtual interviews are easy to run online with solutions like Live by Fuel Cycle. With capabilities like a virtual waiting room, screen sharing, whiteboarding, and even a private backroom for observers and stakeholders, collecting consumer data is seamless.