Common features of top viewing facilities

During the period of the lockdown the UK’s market research viewing facilities have understandably had a tough time.

As we enter July 2020 it appears that the lockdown is easing and that face-to-face, qualitative market research may be able to recommence in earnest very soon.  That means focus groups, co-creation workshops, depth interviews, product clinics and everything in between!

Of course, there are excellent viewing facilities the length and breadth of the country, and comprehensive details of these can be found on the Viewing Facilities Association website (https://www.viewing.org.uk) and on the Association for Qualitative Research (AQR) website (https://www.aqr.org.uk).

Selecting the right facility on a project-by-project basis can definitely make the difference between a good research project and a great one.  That is why we update our list of preferred qualitative research viewing facilities on an annual basis, based on a number of factors including:

Membership of the MRS.  

Like Brandspeak, all the viewing facilities used by us must be MRS company partners, so we can be sure that they are committed to upholding the same research and data protection standards as we are.

Location

Obviously this is a key one.  

If the viewing facility is poorly situated, it can be difficult to recruit respondents who are willing to attend the research session in the first place, or for recruits to arrive punctually – particularly if their session starts close to rush hour.

For groups involving mothers and babies / toddlers, the physical location of the facility is an important consideration, particularly if they are going to be arriving with prams or buggies.  

Ease of access to the building is also a key consideration as flights of stairs can be stressful or even impossible for mums with pushchairs to negotiate.

Access is also an important issue for clients who may be attending.  If they have flown in from abroad, then the venue needs to be easily accessible from the airport (particularly as they may be arriving at rush hour, intending to go direct to the facility).

Space

The proportions of the venue are important for several reasons:

  • It is important that both the research and viewing rooms don’t feel cramped as this can have a negative impact on the mood in the room
  • If the research requires the use of physical stimulus material the dimensions of the research room need to be sufficient to accommodate and display this with ease
  • For longer groups and workshops, mid-session break-out areas are handy to give participants space to relax and catch up with their messages and calls.  Key to this is often a space that allows participants to remain separate from delegates attending other research sessions in the same facility

Service levels

Again, a bit of a no-brainer.  Excellent levels or cheerful service are a must because they:

  • Put the moderator, the respondents and the clients at ease.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well the research has gone – if the client has a poor experience at the facility, it can reflect poorly on the research agency   
  • Ensure that any issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently by the in-house team

Food preparation

Some facilities that advertise themselves as being suitable for food preparation / sampling actually have only limited kitchen facilities.

If required, its worth checking for:

  • The appropriate hygiene and food preparation certification
  • The availability of ovens or hobs in addition to microwaves
  • A sufficiently large food preparation area and surfaces where several food samples can be made ready simultaneously
  • A separate area for used plates, cutlery etc
  • The availability of trained facility staff to help out with preparation and serving

In-house tech

In-house audio and video recording is now taken as standard. 

However, what is likely to become even more important as facilities reopen is their ability to offer streaming services so that clients who are unable to attend can still view proceedings live.

Rather than investing in in-house streaming technology, many facilities prefer to make streaming available via specialist, 3rd party suppliers such as Stream Team (https://www.stream-team.net), that they will organise on behalf of the commissioning agency.

Costs

Facility hire costs can vary according to location, time of day, the size of the rooms booked and the length of the session(s).

For example, the basic cost of 2 x 2-hour, evening groups held in a Central London viewing facility with standard audio and video recording will be in the region of £950 excl VAT.  

This typically includes tea and coffee and nibbles for respondents – especially important for those who have come straight from work for an early evening group.  

More substantial refreshments for respondents and clients are available on request – and will push the price up.

Outside London and other major cities, facilities tend to offer similar packages at a c. 10% discount to London rates. 

If viewing facilities aren’t required, or are too expensive, then hotel conference rooms can be hired instead.  These cost c. £400 for 2 x 2-hour evening groups, albeit without audio or video recording (this can be arranged separately).

The best viewing facilities in the UK

So, which are the best viewing facilities in the UK?

London

Well, if you are a London research agency like Brandspeak, or simply looking to run focus groups in the capital then these are a few of our favourites:

Spectrum London – centrally located in W1 (just north of Marble Arch), the building houses 5 large studios.  In fact, the largest can accommodate up to 20 respondents and 25 clients! https://www.spectrumview.co.uk

i-view London – located in the Strand and winner of the Market Research Society’s Best Viewing Facility award in both 2018 and 2019. Great location and service and some well-appointed rooms. http://www.i-viewlondon.com

Schlesinger Group (formally The Research House) – another excellent, central location in Wigmore Street, W1.  Well-appointed rooms, great service and one of a handful of facilities to boast their own, in-house chef! https://www.schlesingergroup.com/en/locations/united-kingdom/london/

Engine Rooms. https://www.enginerooms.co.uk

Bristol

Bristol is a great place to conduct qualitative market research because it tends to be overlooked by many agencies and clients. 

First Sight Studios is perfectly situated in the city centre, right at the end of the M32 and opposite Cabot Circus. 

Despite its central location there is plenty of low- cost, metered parking right next to the facility, which is great if the moderator has to cart around loads of stimulus material. https://firstsightstudios.co.uk/index.html

Manchester

If you are a research agency based in Manchester, or are heading that way to conduct qualitative research then we suggest:

The Talking Shop – a great location, just minutes from Manchester Victoria and Salford Central stations and a few minutes by taxi from Manchester Piccadilly.  

It’s another well-appointed facility with a friendly atmosphere and great levels of service. 

Their Magic Marker gizmo is great too.  It gives the moderator the ability to ‘mark’ any point of the discussion on the MP4 recording using a discretely-placed foot pedal.  

Whilst it shouldn’t be used instead of detailed analysis of the recording, it does give moderators the ability to locate specific parts of the conversation quickly and easily. 

Leeds

Roundhay Viewing – If you are heading to Leeds to conduct focus groups then our favourite viewing facility is Roundhay, situated in the Moortown area of the city.  It has provided consistent levels of excellent service over many years. https://www.roundhayviewing.co.uk/home

Brandspeak is qualitative research agency that uses viewing facilities extensively, both in the UK and globally.  This is just a sample of our favourite, UK market research viewing facilities.

Please refer to the Viewing Facilities Association website (https://www.viewing.org.uk) or Association for Qualitative Research website (https://www.aqr.org.uk) for other options.

For more information about Brandspeak’s extensive, qualitative research capability please contact us at enquiries@brandspeak.co.uk or on +44 (0)203 858 0013.

Jeremy Braune

View posts by Jeremy Braune
Jeremy specialises in delivering market research and consultancy programmes that enable organisations to maximise the impact of their brands, products and services, communications and customer experience delivery. His company, Brandspeak, has offices in London and Bristol and since 2004 it has been helping companies all over the UK and globally. Jeremy has also been a guest lecturer and speaker on London Business School's acclaimed MBA course, on the subject of Brands and Branding.

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