Online qualitative research has proved to be a powerful approach to collect good qualitative data. Overall, qualitative research, done well, can provide deep insights into many issues. In contrast, those who resist it argue that it is slow, difficult, and subjective.
At the recent MRA Insight & Strategy Conference, Jim Bryson, CEO at 20|20 Research, discussed how to speed up qualitative research projects, make them easier, and more objective.
Making Qualitative Research Faster
Traditionally, qualitative research projects take 6 to 8 weeks from the bidding process, screener development, recruitment, fielding to analysis and reporting. Bryson proposes speeding up the process by taking advantage of the technology revolution and the capabilities we have now available. These include:
Live Webcam Interviews
These use the webcam camera many have attached to or embedded in PCs or laptops. The main advantage of this method, compared to traditional focus groups, is that it allows for a great diversity of participants at a lower cost, as there is no need to travel to many cities to reach different types of participants. This method allows for personal interaction, is convenient, and shortens the project time.
Live mobile interviews
These take advantage of the high penetration of smartphones. Their main advantage is allowing for in-context interviewing, which is very useful in shop-along and ethnographic studies. This method also allows for personal interactions, is convenient, and speeds up project completion. Again, no need of travel or facility setups.
These use digital tracking to find participants while they surf online, or via emails and online surveys and direct them to real-time interviews. Bryson proposes to use this method mainly to facilitate and speed up the recruitment process and argues that it is more cost effective, but many qualitative researchers say the quality of participants found this way tend to be lower and that nothing substitutes the need to screen them by a human being, wiping out any potential savings in trying to avoid using recruiters. However, it is, without doubt, another source to diversify the participant pool and cut costs on traveling.
In this approach, both qualitative and quantitative research run in parallel shaving weeks from the project timeline. Online quantitative surveys are used to recruit participants in qualitative research. The most common example is to invite survey takers to participate in 3-day Bulleting Board Focus Groups, which can be conducted while the survey is running, but this approach can be applied to other qualitative methods as it is essentially another recruitment method.
Making Qualitative Research Easier
This is a hard nut to crack, Bryson admitted. We haven’t found the best solution yet, but there are ways to facilitate the process such as the use of:
- Technologies, like the ones discussed above, to eliminate travel and fatigue
- Technology to transcribe, sort, and filter the information gathered
- Content and group tagging
- Text analytics tools (we are still looking for one that really works for small datasets)
Making Qualitative Research More Objective
A common obstacle to using qualitative research is the need for numbers to support decision making. The solution to this problem, according to Bryson, is to use hybrid approaches in which qualitative and quantitative research are married to provide more impactful insights.
By linking qualitative and quantitative via the participants, we get immediate depth into questions that only provide breadth. Hybrids provide numbers with depths and also reports with visual elements that bring the results to life. Qualitative research helps to show the reality behind the numbers to decision makers with vivid examples (e.g. video, audio, images) to support results from the quantitative research, creating what Bryson calls, “reports that pop.”
In essence, Bryson urged qualitative researchers to stop applying one-size-fits-all methods for recruiting, analyzing, and reporting to all qualitative research projects, and get on with the technology revolution that can make the process faster, easier, and more objective.