Fifteen years after using our first bulletin board, we remain forward thinking, continuously launching and employing new methods.
Online qualitative is more a venue than a method, as many qualitative methods can be conducted online or, increasingly, via mobile devices. Online approaches can be real time, such as webcam focus groups and IDIs, or asynchronous, such as online communities.
Online research conducted over time can include a mix of individual activities as well as group conversations, and yields nuanced, rich feedback unlimited by the “talk time” constraints of a real-time session. Additional advantages to online qualitative include greater respondent candor, convenience and geographic specificity – studies can be local, national, or even international, with no travel needed.
Webcam Focus Groups
Using webcams, discussions take place in real time, in a password protected virtual focus group room, through a platform like QualMeeting. Respondents can see each other, and the moderator, on the screen. This option is perfect when your customers are scattered or hard to reach, if you want geographic representation without having to conduct groups in multiple markets, or if you just don’t want to travel.
Webcam focus groups are used for all of the same reasons you might choose an in-person focus group. Stimuli can be shown on screen, or (if they need to be handled) can be sent to participants in advance.
Webcam interviews are online one-on-one interviews in which the participant and moderator can see each other as well as the stimuli (storyboard, video, website, etc.) utilizing webcams and a split screen through a platform such as QualMeeting. The client team views remotely and can suggest prompts or clarifications to the moderator via a chat box.
Webcam interviews take geography out of the equation, allowing you to conduct interviews across the country in a single day. You get a close-up of the participant’s facial expressions as they view the stimulus, something that is difficult to achieve in a focus group facility. This makes them ideal for web usability studies and advertising communication checks.
Online communities take place over time (short term or long term, ranging from two days to weeks or even months), hosted in a platform like QualBoard, with respondents answering questions or reacting to stimulus posted by the moderator, as well as responding to each other’s posts. They allow for anonymity, unlimited response time, and iterative or longitudinal learning. Respondents also have the ability to upload photos and video, and complete homework assignments before or during the session. Most online platforms are now mobile optimized as well, allowing for unlimited creativity in study design.
Online communities are ideal for exploratory research when rich, nuanced feedback is needed. They also work well for message development or evaluation (the over-time method allows for iterative learning) and whenever a topic is sensitive.
“I never had this method [online communities] to use before. Maybe because it allows them to somehow be both open and private at the same time, and because it lets them take as much time as they want to respond, these respondents have offered more heartfelt testimony than I have ever had access to. “
Account Planner | Big Arrow Group