In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons to the various forms of qualitative research, as well as when it makes sense to use online qualitative research. We’ll also provide some examples of companies that have successfully used online qualitative research for business improvement and growth.
Pros of qualitative research
The main plus point of qualitative research is the fact that you can get all the angles of the topic you are interested in. That is to say, the way this kind of research is set up enables you to glean even the small details about the topic of your interest.
For example, if you are in the beverages business, you can find out things you hadn’t even thought of. What if, throughout your research, you discover that the grooves on your bottle packaging make holding the bottle cumbersome for your customers? How might your production plans change, and how much potential loss in profit and brand reputation would you be saving with that one piece of information?
The subjects – your customers – might also tell you that there’s a slight unwelcome aftertaste to your product. In short, qualitative research will provide you with an idea about your product – a hypothesis so to say. You can then carry out quantitative research to find out if everyone really doesn’t like that aftertaste or if they have a hard time gripping your bottle.
Cons of qualitative research
Whilst this type of research gives you detailed information, you do not need a large number (or data set). From a small sample size, you can get to know a fact about your product but just not how widespread this fact is. This means that you can hardly generalize the information you get from qualitative research because it doesn’t cut across your whole crowd of interest.
Another problem that often crops up when conducting qualitative research is that the validity of the research is hinged to the skills of the person (or company) conducting the research. Since the aim is to solicit opinions, researchers need to be able to connect with customers with a high level of rapport so that they can answer freely and honestly.
In this short clip, Nigel Bradley, a marketing research professional, emphasizes these skills that your researcher needs to have to be able to carry out qualitative research.
To minimize these cons, check out how you can design your online qualitative research to give you useful results.
Qualitative research design
For any qualitative research to come to fruition, you need to have certain success factors at your fingertips. First and foremost, you need to know what your objectives are. You don’t just move out and start researching before you know what you want to use your data for. By defining your objectives, you make the process more defined and streamlined.
Now, since this type of research is carried out on a small number of people, you need to ensure that you have the right subjects. Your insights will be less useful if the people you are interviewing are neither knowledgeable about nor connected to your subject of interest. And more importantly, you need a researcher who is experienced in carrying out qualitative research. They need to be able to bring out your theme of interest when interviewing the subjects.
You should also identify the right methodology that you will use to achieve your objectives. Melanie Rankin of B2B International stresses this point: “Once you know what you want to find out, you need to ask yourself one question: ‘Does this topic require group discussion or individual in-depth understanding?’
There are a number of ways to carry out qualitative research. So you have to be able to choose the correct way to meet the objectives. For example:
- Focus groups (offline & online)
- Online community research
- Case studies
- Expert opinions
- Open-ended survey questions
- Observational research
As an example, in-depth interviews (IDIs) will be more appropriate to gather an intricate understanding of a decision making unit whereas focus groups will be better for discussing a new creative concept.”
Focus groups, on the other hand, provide you with a snippet of what your target market will think about a certain aspect of your product. Focus groups can also be taken online using a community research platform. A benefit of such an approach is that online participants sometimes speak more freely because they’re at home and feel anonymous. Additionally, online focus groups allow qualitative research to be completed more quickly and at a lower cost.
Examples of online qualitative research
Several companies have taken the online qualitative research route to great success. Here are some examples.
RTL is a media company facing what many others in the business go through. Viewers have plenty to choose from and you have to provide them with what they want or they will switch. Mirte van Deursen, project leader in Research and Intelligence at RTL, was tasked with finding out what kind of content millennials were yearning for. She set up an online community with CMNTY and named it WE ♥ VIDEO. In this community, she carried out qualitative research, getting opinions of the 18 to 25-year-olds about media content. These insights formed plenty of change in the kind of content RTL put its energies into. The content creators even forwarded more questions to be posed to the community members so that they could get more insights. From all this, RTL created an online format called The Mix-Up which was well received.
Profacts is a market research agency that deals quite a lot in qualitative research. A prominent radio station looking to change its image approached Profacts. Senior Research Consultant Karen de Visch set up an online focus group of listeners on the CMNTY platform. She carried out qualitative research to find out their views on the station’s slogan, its general image and the artists it featured over the waves. Karen collected plenty of suggestions from the group, using them to tweak the new brand concept for her client. This very concept was introduced into the online group to get more insights about it. At the end of it all, she was able to forward some clear suggestions to the radio station about the direction that direction they should take with their brand.
Related Post: Successful Online Communities And The Value They Bring
Where to next?
If you want to get better insights into your target market, online qualitative research can help you get a real feel of your potential customers. This type of research offers plenty of advantages including being able to go in-depth about a particular theme. To gain from online qual, you need to get some success factors right. These include finding the right subjects and the right researcher to interact with them.
Want to experiment with an online research community? Start a trial of CMNTY Platform today.