Press Release – Research Association
The benefits of on-line qualitative research are misunderstood and under-used by market researchers and their clients compared with traditional face-to-face focus groups say two leading qualitative researchers.MEDIA RELEASE
MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017
On-line qualitative research misunderstood and under-used
The benefits of on-line qualitative research are misunderstood and under-used by market researchers and their clients compared with traditional face-to-face focus groups say two leading qualitative researchers.
In a Research Association NZ seminar entitled “Let us come to you – enabling participant-centric conversations” Karin Curran of Curran Research Associates and Louisa Wood of Ipsos counted off the many benefits of on-line qualitative research.
They questioned why researchers and clients require people to physically get together for a focus group when we live in an on-line world and on-line research typically provides more in-depth and accurate information from a more diverse panel.
“In 10 years neither of us have ever had a client who regretted opting for on-line,” said Ms Curran.
The presenters said the benefits of on-line qualitative research included:
• Sensitive topics: People are often more comfortable talking about sensitive personal or health issues on-line than face-to-face.
• Diverse locations: On-line qualitative research can easily and affordably get panellists from diverse locations when the cost of getting these people face-to-face is high
• Detailed responses: A 12-15 person on-line panel over five days (correlating to two standard focus groups) might provide 300 pages of transcripts as each person will be engaged for one to two hours compared with just 10-15 minutes in a face-to-face group
• Accurate responses: Rather than asking “Do you eat healthy foods?”, on-line researchers can ask “Please send photos of the contents of your pantry and fridge” to provide more accurate responses than aspirational answers about healthy eating
• Subjects correct themselves: Over a five day on-line conversation respondents have a better opportunity than in a one-off face-to-face focus group to reflect on their answers and correct them if they are inaccurate
• Group pressure: People are more likely to give honest answers on-line to questions involving social or environmental responsibility e.g. “Do you recycle?” than face-to-face
• Divisive issues: For a question like: “What are the biggest issues facing Auckland over the next five years?” people in a face-to-face group may be unwilling to give their thoughts on immigration and crime but will on-line
• Non-native English speakers: An asynchronous on-line approach gives non-native English speakers time to translate and understand questions and prepare answers, important in our ethnically diverse world
• C-suite and professionals: On-line is ideal for busy, time-poor C-suite and professional panellists (e.g. doctors) as they can organise to respond when they have time rather than having to be at a focus group or interview at an appointed time
• No crowding out: Often in face-to-face groups some people dominate the conversation so others aren’t heard whereas on-line there is no need to compete for floor time
• Organised transcripts: Transcripts are organised by topic making them easier to follow than face-to-face transcripts which can jump around
• No weather or parking issues: For on-line research
Ms Curran and Ms Wood said there are some operational considerations for researchers looking to take their qualitative research projects on-line including:
• Recruitment: Skilful recruitment of good quality panellists who reflect the diversity of the sample population is just as important as for face-to-face research
• Daily management: Communicating with the research subjects daily to ensure they are meeting their obligations will ensure they respond well
• Clear guidelines: Setting clear guidelines for the research panellists, for example on how they should answer questions and how much time they should take to do this, will help
• No less expensive: The reason for going on-line should not be to save money as there is a lot of work involved – typically it will be over a week and there will be more data
• Platforms: There are dozens of top and second tier on-line research platforms from which researchers can choose appropriate functionality and a responsive supplier
• Mobile apps: There are special mobile apps for qualitative research that participants can download – web-based platforms can be device agnostic and researchers need to consider which medium (desktop and/or tablet/phone) will best suit the research and the participants and design the research accordingly
• Incentive payments: Should be made as for face-to-face focus groups
• Time flexibility: Researchers can work moderation time around other commitments