Online Qualitative Methods

How is online qualitative research conducted?

There are lots of different online qualitative research approaches but the one most widely used in Australia is “over time bulletin boards”. In this method people log in over a number of days and comment on questions as they come up and chat with other participants and the interviewer.  There are a number of purpose built platforms available and these range from simple through to complex.  The good news is ‘the consumer’ can be shown photos, videos and any amount of visual material to respond to.  They can also upload images of their use of products, or anything you want that helps understand them better. 




State of play of online qual

A survey with 49 Research Insights Managers in Sydney and Melbourne shows they believe online qual will be cheaper, quicker and better for reaching geographically dispersed people.

What was fascinating was these research experts didn’t say it can provide new, different and better insights about brands and consumers.  Essentially they expect it will mirror the online quantitative revolution.

However online qual is not cheaper and quicker.  Here’s why.  Recruiting the right people still needs to happen, they still need to be ‘incentivised’ to attend, and the purpose built platforms cost money to build or lease.  So a lot of the cost components are the same.  Because so much comment is generated the analysis can actually take longer – and analysis can’t be missed if you want the full benefit.  So that just leaves reaching geographically dispersed people, and in Australia this is a real benefit. It’s also great for getting business to business customers involved (who might not come along to a group discussion) and interviewing people in regional areas.


Should you consider online qualitative?

Absolutely.  If used well online quality can be invaluable.  One of the most exciting aspects is the ability of people to upload their own photos and materials as part of the discussion. In overtime groups people can do tasks, come back and report on their experience.  People can think about things and comment again.  It really teases out the considered response which is just invaluable.

However, use it for the information and insights.  It may not necessarily be cheaper and quicker.