Benefits of Qualitative Online Research
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many research companies to find new ways to reach respondents, especially for Qualitative Research. SPARC, from its inception an online focused, mobile first research company had the benefit of ‘working, living and breathing online’ already. Still, often clients asked us to do the Qualitative Research face-to-face despite our pleas to do (more of) them online. There is power in observing facial expressions and body language, is an often used argument. With the pandemic, the interest for Qualitative Online Research has grown exponentially. In this article we discuss some of the possibilities and advantages of executing Qualitative Online Research.
The change was already there
A lot has already changed in the past few years. The use of social media and mobile devices has opened the door to rich consumer insights that don’t involve travel. Now, your team wants to tap the power of online qualitative research to capture in-context experiences and quickly understand problems and iterate on solutions.
Whether your focus is marketing, innovation or customer experience, many of the research objectives you traditionally looked to improve with in-person research can now be satisfied in an online environment—and with better results.
However, we’re not simply talking about “online focus groups” in the sense of getting these same groups of people into a video chat. Newer approaches to online qualitative research bring participants into social media-style spaces where they can have private or group conversations with moderators. This approach offers much more flexibility and richer data quality than the online tools that existed even five years ago.
Objectives of Qualitative Research
The three common objectives often targeted with in-person research are building empathy, iterating on ideas and capturing customer experiences.
While not all online tools offer the same set of capabilities, this should give you a basic idea of what to expect from modern qualitative online research methods.
1. Building empathy
One of the biggest gaps left by big data and quantitative research is empathy. If we can’t relate to the emotional aspects of our target—their joys and frustrations—it’s very hard to prioritize and communicate features, messages or innovations.
In-person and online qualitative research provide different data on empathy. The way you share and communicate is clearly different. As an example, let’s say you want to understand more about the home improvement market and bathroom remodeling.
In the focus group, you would ask the group a series of questions about their process, potentially drilling down further with two or three participants before moving on to the next question. To get the group to share feelings that might be hard to articulate directly, you may use a projective technique like the amusement park question to get the participants to relax and open up.
In an in-home interview, you might be focused a bit more on show-and-tell, drilling deeper with each person on the details of their specific process and looking for unarticulated problems or needs.
With online qualitative research, you get a bit of both. You can ask a series of questions and probe with individual or group follow-ups and you can also get the show-and-tell type insights by having them share photos or videos.
Today’s most successful teams are agile. They move quickly—always.
One of the true benefits of Qualitative Online Research is the ability to build, optimize and iterate on ideas. Let’s look at how this works in-person and online—both within a single group and across multiple groups.
Let’s say we had some early ideas for bathroom products that helped increase usable counter space and storage.
When building concepts, you are typically looking to prioritize needs or benefits, get detailed feedback on a series of concepts and either narrow down the list of concepts or create new or improved concepts based on your learning.
Qualitative Online Research has some distinct benefits over in-person research in this type of research:
- Larger sample sizes. You gain some benefits typically associated with quantitative research such as larger sample sizes (n=50-100) and national samples.
- Less bias. Online qualitative enables you to minimize bias by randomizing concept orders and having participants give private feedback before group discussions.
- It’s easier to follow up. You also get the iterative ability to go back to the entire group to vote on a generated list of needs and benefits generated within the qualitative research.
- And follow up again. Once that’s done, you also have the iterative ability to show participants the new ideas and concepts that were generated from the group.
One of the benefits of Qualitative Online Research for concept iteration is the benefit of participants being able to make more direct comparisons to competitive concepts they are familiar with or currently using—instead of being limited to competitive stimuli you might share with them at a focus group facility.
3. Customer experiences
Capturing and understanding experiences is a critical part of succeeding in the market. Whether you are looking to develop new solutions or improve current products or services, the gold standard for understanding experiences has been ethnographic research—which is a combination of live observation and interviewing participants.
In the age of selfies and mobile video, consumers are more interested than ever in sharing their experiences with brands—without the invasiveness of having anyone look over their shoulder. As a result, an entirely new level of insights has been achieved simply by asking consumers to record their experiences on their computers or smart devices.
Video and photo technologies are front and center in Qualitative Online Research solutions. While there may be situations where you want to be physically present, most situations can be covered through either a live video interview or combination of video sharing and follow-up questions.
Qualitative Online Research offers several other advantages compared to in-person research. Social media-style platforms enable more longitudinal observation, as well as the ability to ask both group and individual follow-up questions. You can often get embedded video analysis software that makes it easy to find themes, capture key quotes and build video clip reels that speed up the process of sharing results and acting findings.
Summary of benefits of Qualitative Online Research
- Time savings. There’s less travel and logistics for your team.
- Faster recruiting. Find research participants in a couple of days
- More representative. Enjoy geographic diversity and the opportunity for larger sample sizes.
- Richer responses. Get better data thanks to detailed one-on-one responses plus rich group discussions.
- Minimize bias. Reduce bias by responding individually before group discussions and randomizing concepts during the process.
- Faster reporting. Produce instant summary reports and sentiment analysis to get results quickly.
With these benefits, it’s no wonder that Qualitative Online Research methods are at the core of SPARC’s solutions – we didn’t wish for a pandemic to bring them to the forefront. We feel blessed (and privileged) we have invested in these solutions from the first day of our existence so we’re well equipped now to help our customers get amazing insights in these challenging times!
Get in touch!
If you want to know more about our Qualitative Online Research solutions, feel free to reach out to us or leave your details on the contact page. We will get in touch with you, electronically…