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Qualitative Market Research: Pros & Cons of Moving Your Study Online

By Fieldwork on March 31, 2020

Data collection is a constant puzzle from product development to marketing & sales, but put all the pieces in the right place, and strategies form a picture ready for action. For many desired outcomes, in-person qualitative research is the answer. While it may be more of an investment, qualitative work is worth the investment to get the actionable insights needed to help drive key business decisions.

Market researchers are pressed for time and can experience constricting budgets. This was true before we experienced a global pandemic. We're living in a time where focus groups and other qualitative projects need to go on, but teams are feeling pressure as online research is the only option. But not every digital collection method is a perfect fit.

Having a partner to help determine if your study is the right candidate for online collection can make all the difference. Considerations including ease of technology, confidentiality, and type of data collected should be a part of a strategic team discussion. Options seem limitless to gather marketing data and focused opinions of products, designs, marketing, and brand performance through quick surveys and online responses. Although online quantitative data collection can be fast and straightforward, it does come with some problematic issues of its own.

With our years of expertise in both in-person and online qualitative work, we offer some help as you assess the pros and cons of moving your qualitative project online. 

Let's Do It

Ethnographies

Ethnographic conversations that were going to take place in a consumer's home convert easily to online virtual sessions. In this type of interview the respondent appears in their environment and their responses can produce ideal results, by using one of many devices. These interviews can show how the customer best reacts to new items, equipment, or ideas in their environment. They can include opportunities for a consumer to take a camera to show products in their home, or to journal with video to document the experience with their recordings. In this atmosphere, live or asynchronistic reviews of the consumer experience can be ideal.

Respondents with Time Constraints

Business or medical professionals who already have a challenging schedule can plan quick meetings to give opinions on camera without having to leave their office, home office, or medical practice. They can join a meeting without scheduling extra time and expense for a commute.

Online Interviews

Respondents who experience some barriers to travel or accessibility to a focus group facility can benefit from online interviews. These can be based on age, disability, or health concerns. Transportation may create an additional burden for some respondents that makes them unable to join a traditional focus group.

Extreme Locations

Antarctica is probably off the table for your travel budget, but Ohio can be overpriced for small-scale projects as well. When working with data collection for a specific location, such as political polling, collecting the demographics online can be ideal over an in-person interview with additional travel expenses.

Ad Testing

Working on brand, logo, and design, often times, requires modification of fonts, colors, themes, and more. The back-and-forth nature of this type of project can efficiently and effectively be accomplished accommodating the necessary collaboration, in online focus groups.

Let's Discuss It

These collections can be appropriate via digital interviews but are best to discuss and mitigate pitfalls with your research team.

Concept Testing

Testing concepts requires customers to discover your product, service, or idea in front of a researcher who shares the customers' immediate facial or verbal reaction. Researchers can interview by providing a simple product description and recording responses. Researchers should address confidentiality concerns and precise experience expectations to avoid compromising data or releasing trade secrets.

Instructional Video or Document Testing

This type of research collects the efficacy of instructions, to make sure they can be followed, completed, and retained. Items in this arena can include product installation or new medical equipment. Additionally, managing a respondent decay time (24-hour decay period) to see if they can replicate the same success, after a forced delay, may be a challenge for interviewers and development budgets. New medicines, new medical devices, or new consumer products benefit immensely from understanding how the consumer unpacks a product and interacts with it. An online qualitative session can chronicle the user experience, along with the effectiveness of the provided instructions. 

However, if the respondent experiences roadblocks such as, can’t open a box or can’t read instructions that are too small or are missing a simple tool to complete a process in the early phases of this project, it may be best to have support staff available, online or in-person, to talk through the first critical steps in the process.

Researchers find a growing demand for moving qualitative studies and focus groups online, but not every project or product produces comparable results on and offline. Having an expert team as a partner will help determine the value and experience needed to evaluate all avenues of the market research process. When the team can address all concerns of qualitative research, then a cost-benefit analysis can adequately be resolved internally.

Fieldwork puts your marketing team to work by streamlining the data collection process and perfecting the survey process. Our respondents are vetted with regular correspondence and non-disclosure agreements. Moderators are trained to secure corporate confidentiality and support technicians are always online to fully host sessions, just like in-person focus groups. Fieldwork is proud to have researchers that know something about technology - not technologists who know something about qualitative research.


You're not alone. There is someone with you every step of the way. Now more than ever, a partnership with Fieldwork means you focus on the research; we'll do the rest. Click the button below to start a conversation with one of our recruitment specialists.

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Topics: Market Research Services

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