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Going Online with Qualitative Research

Considering doing focus groups online? Here are some options for getting the most out of your qualitative research.

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Going Online with Qualitative Research

  2. 2. WHY USE RESEARCH ? ➀ ➁ ➂ YOU WANT TO GO DEEP. What’s better than spending two hours with a respondent in a facility? Spending a week or more with them in their own home. Online tools allow us to engage with consumers over a longer period of time, on their own schedule and their own terms. YOU NEED A LITTLE PRIVACY. Using online tools and platforms, respondents can take us into the most personal areas of their lives. What might feel awkward and weird in person (certain medical conditions, personal care products, even financial services) can be accessible and comfortable online. YOU WANT TO COVER THE COUNTRY/GLOBE. When’s the last time you had a participant from North Dakota in your focus group? When we conduct in-person research in selected markets, too often we end up talking to the same types of people (hello, suburban Chicago mom!). Broadening our range enables us to get to critical audiences who are often overlooked.
  3. 3. 1+1 CAN BE>2 Selecting rock-star participants in an online community for a follow-up shopalong Sometimes, the best research design incorporates both online and in-person touchpoints, to truly engage with consumers in the most insightful ways. Consider the following approaches… Sending focus group participants home with a follow-up assignment to use the client’s product and then upload a short video about their reaction Using an online diary to track behavior before a focus group or one-on-one interview 3
  4. 4. 4 DIARIES AND JOURNALS COMMUNITIES & DISCUSSIONS LIVE ACTION WHEN When you want consumers to record a behavior or experience, once or multiple times HOW Often employs a smartphone app or mobile website to capture actions, feelings, or experiences live and in the moment; can be one time or repeated over a longer time period. EXAMPLES A snack diary to explore healthy (and not-so- healthy) snacking behaviors; a mobile shopping ethnography of the TV purchase process; a digital patient journey in the diabetes category WHEN When you want to engage a group of consumers in a discussion about a category, idea, concept or other topic. HOW Shorter (3-5 day) and longer term (weeks or months) discussion via web platform or app. Use of a computer with keyboard is sometimes helpful for typing longer responses and viewing stimuli. EXAMPLES Evaluation of ad concepts for a life insurance campaign; exploration of wants and needs among parents in the online education space; ongoing quarterly touchpoints with IT directors to assess changing infrastructure needs WHEN When your discussion topic benefits from having a live connection between moderator and participant(s), but meeting in person is not practical or feasible. HOW With a web-enabled platform that typically allows moderator and participant to see each other using a webcam. Discussions can be one-on-one or in a small group (<6). EXAMPLES Discussion of experiences trying a new weight loss plan; understanding reactions to a new drug for Stage IV cancer patients; roundtable among industry leading architects about software wants and needs | O N E S T U D Y M A Y U S E E L E M E N T S O F A L L T H R E E |
  5. 5. 5 Respondents use their smartphone, tablet or PC to record answers in text, video or photos. Multiple choice questions are also an option. Studies can last a few days, a week, or even longer, and respondents can participate from home, work, school, in store, or any other location.
  6. 6. 6 Online communities often run for three days, although shorter and longer discussions make sense for certain projects. MODERATOR New questions are posted each day. The moderator monitors the discussion and posts probes throughout the day. RESPONDENT The respondents log in at least twice per day, once to answer the day’s questions and once to respond to specific probing questions from the moderator and posts from fellow participants. CLIENT TEAM Client team can observe and send messages privately to the moderator throughout the research. THE PROCESS REPEATS WITH NEW QUESTIONS ON DAY 2 & 3
  7. 7. 7 Conversations can be one-on-one or in a small group. (Any bigger than five participants and it gets unwieldy, though.) There are many virtual analogs to the things we would do in person: We can show images or video Respondents can share their screens for a virtual usability test Moderator can chat with the clients in a private back room Webcams are optional for when privacy is an issue (most often in pharmaceutical research) Tech support is always on hand, and respondents are always ‘tech-checked’ before the start of the research
  8. 8. 8 MY GRANDPA CAN’T DO IT. This might have been true in the early days of AOL and dial-up connections, but the pervasiveness of technology now means that any segment can participate in online qualitative research. I’M GOING TO SAVE A BUNCH OF MONEY. While there are savings to be realized by not traveling to multiple markets, the research itself is likely to cost about as much as a comparable in-person study. For example, the cost of an average online community lasting about 3 days with around 16-18 people costs about as much as 2-3 in-person focus groups with 6-8 people each. If you’re going to choose online qualitative, choose it because it’s the right method not because you want to save money. YOU CAN’T DO ___ ONLINE. With the proliferation of online qualitative tools and the explosion of features within those tool sets, there’s very little you can’t do online these days, and in some cases you can actually do things better online. For example, a client looking to evaluate concepts can show them online, ask consumers to record a short video of their initial reaction, and then use digital tools to mark up their likes and dislikes.