At RealityCheck, we’ve been doing online qualitative research for 15 years. We built our first online platform in 2005 and have since run hundreds of studies with thousands of respondents for Fortune 500 brands.
As more and more brands take their qualitative research online over the next few months, we thought it was a good time to share some things we’ve learned about the right way to do online qualitative to generate deep insights.
Here are three pieces of advice for brand insights managers and directors for conducting successful online qual projects:
Choose the right platform for the job
There are many online qual partners out there who offer many different technologies. Platforms range from basic Online Bulletin Boards (OBBs) to more sophisticated Activity-Based Platforms that allow for a broad range of projective techniques. There are streaming services for real-time interviews and online focus groups. There are mobile platforms, designed to engage respondents when they are away from home. And there are platforms that combine some or all of these elements.
Some clients default to the comfort and familiarity of Online Bulletin Boards or webcam focus groups when another platform would have far better suited their objectives.
Our Advice: Apply good study design principles when conducting online qualitative, just as you would in any other research setting. Your objectives and study design should drive your choice of platform rather than the other way around. Familiarize yourself with the various online platforms that are out there and find the right platform for your design.
Also consider asking for proposals from research partners with different types of platforms to see how each might approach your project. Ask for a demo of their technology so you can see what the platform experience will be like for respondents and your team.
Prepare your team for the online experience
Your internal team needs to understand that the online qualitative client experience is different than the face-to-face experience. Brand team members who are new to the online experience often approach it with the same expectations as they do face-to-face qual. If your team does this, they will be disappointed.
Online qual is its own animal with its own advantages and challenges. Make sure your team understands that the experience – from client observation to analysis – is different than in-person focus groups, IDIs or ethnographies.
Our Advice: Work with your research partner to plan the team experience for your project. Just as there are many online qual platforms, there are many ways brand teams can engage with fieldwork. If your team expects to “observe,” like in face-to-face qual, make sure they understand the online platform you’re using and what the observation experience will be like. There are many creative ways to get teams immersed in online qual fieldwork, but all of them are different than sitting behind an observation mirror munching on snacks!
Make it fun and interesting
We’ve learned that the key to generating deep insights online is to make the experience feel more like social media than research. The more interesting you can make your study, the more engaged and trusting respondents will be. This not only means higher completion rates. It also means deeper learning. The best online qual designs are those that create safe, interesting digital spaces for respondents to share their beliefs, values and brand experiences, either one-on-one or in collaborative groups.
Our Advice: Start by thinking of online qualitative differently than you think of face-to-face qualitative. If you approach online qual simply as doing face-to-face qual online, you’re in for a let-down. Instead, leverage the unique strengths of the digital world. Think about how people like to engage and share in other digital environments (like social media and gaming) and consider how you and your research partner can replicate this for your study.
Storytelling (either text or video), sharing image and video posts, collaging, and projective image and video uploads are just a few of the activities you can leverage in online qual that, if done right, will engage respondents and deliver deep insights.
As always, we’d love to hear from you. What questions or comments do you have about the world of online qualitative research?
If you would like to talk about moving more of your research to online, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org