4 steps to winning more online qual projects post-Covid.

Published 28 May 2021 6 minute read

Online qual
Select Child

Researchers around the world are facing a dilemma..

The pandemic has made traditional research either difficult or impossible. The solution is doing qualitative research online. But because this is a (relatively speaking) new way of gathering insight, many clients are unsure if online research can deliver the results they need.

So, to win more work, researchers need to help their clients understand why online research is such a good methodology for exploratory and evaluative research.

How do you best convey the depth of insight and how inclusive online qual makes your research? How do you showcase its ability to deliver the rich insights and support confident decision-making that your clients need?

Our Director of Research and Client Experience, John Whittle, recently ran a masterclass to answer these questions. If you’d like to watch the masterclass in full, just click here. Or, read on to hear how you too can:

  • Win more clients over to online qual
  • Win yourself more work

Step 1: Build client confidence.

With any research methodology, clients want to feel confident that it will deliver the depth of data and richness of insight they need. Showing your clients what will be asked of participants, the activities they will be undertaking or having them observe parts of the study helps build that confidence.

Helping your client understand what steps are taken to engage participants and build rapport all helps to reassure them that there will be energetic discussions taking place which will unlock consumer insights.

It gives them a sense of control over the project and illustrates the value of the deep, contextual data and insight into people's behaviours and attitudes that the project will deliver.

To take the clients on this journey, you need to get prepped and have the process of doing qualitative research online mapped out in your head. As with any form of research, this process starts with the brief. What is the client is looking for? What is the data that they want?

Next you need to select the online research platform that is the right fit for you

One of the joys of online qual is that it offers researchers a vast array of tools that make it easier to capture, explore and analyse your data. Think about the tools that will help you to elicit the best results for your clients:

  • Do you want to capture people in a specific moment or ritual?
  • Do you want to gather spontaneous reactions to concepts?
  • Do you want to control biases and avoid the herd mentality
  • Do you want participants to give individual responses and then come together as a group?

Mapping out the questions and activities you want participants to undertake in advance will help you to select the appropriate research platform, as well as how to design the finer details of the project and make decisions on how you might do the analysis.

This is primarily for you. Your client might want to know why you’ve chosen a particular platform, but what they’re really asking you to demonstrate is that you:

  • can leverage the platform you’ve chosen to the best of its ability
  • know that the platform is safe and secure and looks after your data (and theirs!)
  • know what you’re doing and are in control of the scope of the study
Work closely with your supplier

Your client may want to see how the online qual project or research community might look and feel, and how participants will experience it. They may also have questions about recruiting participants, timelines, and security.

Ask your suppliers for the information you need. Here at Further, we provide slides that show the depth of responses that our platform offers, as well as demonstrations and masterclasses using the range of different tools and functions.

We can also share examples of project designs, talk you through all the onboarding, timelines, security and data storage issues. We even run Dragons Den-style workshops. We give you some training and then you pitch to us, as though we are the client. This lets you hone what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Our goal is to ensure that you have the resources you need to make your client feel confident and excited about the project. Anything you need to check with us, just get in touch.

Step 2: Show your client how they can get involved.

One of the reasons why clients like traditional, in-person qual research is because they get to sit in a back room and observe proceedings in real-time. They can, however, also do this online. Many platforms have a back room for observers – so make sure you choose a platform that offers this.

Then, explain to your clients how you will onboard them, what they can and can’t do when logged in – including whom they can communicate with - what data they’ll see and what curated content you can generate for them.

Market researchers discussing doing qualitative research online discussing brainstorming and ideas at meeting

Step 3: Understand - and address - the myths around online qual research.

There are many myths and client concerns about online qual that make clients wary. It’s important that you understand what are and can steer your client accordingly. Here are some of the most common concerns...

Myth 1 - Will doing qualitative research online deliver the in-depth, detailed insight I need?

The truth: Online research allows you significantly more time with each participant than a traditional in-person focus group. In addition, it does this within the comfortable, familiar setting of the participants’ own homes. This helps you to create deeper connections with the participants and – therefore – to gather in-depth, rich and detailed data.

Here’s the evidence to back those statements up:

  • The traditional, in-person focus group typically lasts for 90 minutes, so each participant is giving you 90 minutes of their time.
  • The online equivalent of this is a three-day research community. Each participant is asked to contribute 20 minutes a day, so each participant is giving you 60 minutes of their time.
  • At first glance, it might appear that you get more time with participants in the in-person focus group. 
  • In a traditional focus group, everyone has to be there at the same time. So those 90 minutes are actually split between the eight individuals. Divided equally, you get just 25 minutes of data from each person.
  • In contrast, in online research people engage at the times that suits them. They don’t have to compete with one another to be heard. This means they contribute their full 20 minutes a day. So, you gain 60 minutes of data per person.
  • Plus! Over the longer timeframe offered in the online community (three days versus 90 minutes) you get to know your participants better because you interact with them on different days when they are in different moods. This drives richer, more meaningful insights.
  • Another benefit of doing qualitative research online is that it allows you to build relationships with your participants in an authentic setting. These days, people are used to sharing their thoughts and feelings online. Plus, they’re interacting with the research from the comfort of their own home.
  • In contrast, a traditional, in-person focus group is carried out in unfamiliar surroundings, with each participant surrounded by people they don’t know, which makes it harder for them to react and respond with full authenticity.

The result? People are more likely to share openly and honestly in the online setting, where they have the security to be themselves and aren’t influenced by the group. This drives rich, meaningful data.

Myth 2 -   Online qual won’t be as quick and efficient as traditional research.

The truth: Just as with in-person research, efficiency comes down to good planning, good communication and good coordination. But there are particular aspects of online research that can make it extra-efficient:

  • Participants don’t have to travel anywhere. This means that you can run multiple studies at a time, or one study across multiple markets.
  • Online research gives you access to tools and functionality that make it easier to order and explore the data. For example, video transcription, heat maps, tagging.

Myth 3 -  Online research isn’t cost-effective

The truth: Done well, qualitative research generates rich contextual data and insight to help clients make confident decisions and take the next step. The cost for both online and in-person research should reflect the value and quality of the outputs that you receive.

With traditional in-person research, your costs comprise incentivising participants and hiring a venue, as well as the research itself.

By doing qualitative research online, while you don’t have the venue and travel costs, you get the benefit of more time to explore people’s real lives in context.

Plus, if you’re running asynchronous methods online, you’ll get more time to iterate your questioning and probing, effectively giving you more bang for your buck.

Group of business people in an open concept office brainstorming doing qualitative research online

Step 4: Set out the additional benefits of online qual.

1. Online research allows you to reach a wider range of more diverse people.

In-person focus groups only attract people who have the time and ability to travel to a destination nearby. The online qual method allows for much greater participant diversity because it removes the geographical barriers, therefore making it more inclusive.

2. Online research lets people communicate in natural ways that they find comfortable.

In-person focus groups rely heavily on verbal communication within a group setting. Online qual research on the other hand opens up a whole plethora of additional approaches: you can communicate as a group or one-on-one.

Participants can conduct creative exercises or activities like shopping trips, record videos of their daily habits and rituals, type their answers to structured and unstructured questions, or conduct homework tasks. The range of formats helps participants find their individual way to open up and share detailed insights.

3. Online research lets you go in situ, in-the-moment.

A key limitation of traditional, in-person research is that your participants are often put placed in unfamiliar settings with strangers and asked to talk about an experience that’s already happened, therefore relying on unreliable recall.

In contrast, participants can take part in online qual research using their tablets or smartphones from an appropriate location - the shops or at home, for example. The net effect is that the data and responses that are captured are more naturalistic and emotional.

Feeling inspired?

If you’d like to watch the masterclass in full, please click here.

If you’d like to talk to us about the best ways to win your client over to online qual, please contact us today.

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