Pros and Cons of Face-to-Face Data Collection

As primary methods of data collection, interviews and surveys are conducted traditionally (face-to-face) and online. Although online research methods reach a wider audience, they are not substitutes for in-person data collection methods in some cases. Needless to say, face-to-face data collection is not without its advantages and disadvantages.

First, let’s check the benefits in-person data collection provides over the other methods:

Benefits of face-to-face data collection

1.     Deeper insights

Professional moderators can help respondents feel more confident in the overall process. With excellent communication skills, they can motivate participants and assist them in answering questions they have difficulty understanding. With online methods, even though the questions are open-ended, the answers may consist of just one sentence, which may not contain enough data. Whereas in face-to-face interviews, the moderators may continue the topic with more related questions in order to get more precise information.

2.     Visual aids

Face-to-face data collection is of great importance to market research. Companies use focus groups to determine specific strategies for new products and services. They require participants to assess the particular characteristics of a product like taste, smell, design, etc. It is possible to send product samples to participants if you are using online focus groups, but it requires too much effort and cost.

3.     Non-verbal cues

Researchers cannot fully observe the respondents’ facial expressions and body language while doing research using online platforms. Personal interaction with the target group may let researchers capture their behavior and attitudes towards the research subject. Sometimes, body language expresses the opinion better than words.

Now, let’s move on to the drawbacks associated with face-to-face data collection methods:

Drawbacks of face-to-face data collection

1.     High cost and Geographical restrictions

Higher organizational costs may be the primary reason why researchers opt for online methods. They need to hire an office or go to a place where the participants are to have a conversation.  In either case, you have to spend a relatively larger amount of money compared to web-based methods.

Some research projects require participants from different locations and, in some instances, from other countries. Large corporations may afford to send interviewers to different areas, but the same cannot be said about all companies.

2.     Time-consuming

The in-person data collection process typically takes considerable time due to participant recruitment and potential open-ended questions. Additionally, researchers or the participants may need to travel a long distance, which is another point that may be the cause of the extended data collection process

3.     Sensitive topics

Most respondents don’t feel comfortable discussing issues such as sexual behavior, drug abuse, and death when other people accompany them in the same room. Introverts may even feel nervous regardless of the subject. The anonymous nature of online data collection methods reduces pressure and provides deeper insights into the matter.