How Much Qualitative Research Should Be Conducted Online?

By Maria Twigge

Undersea: Representing Qualitative Research Depth

In a time when consumers spend the majority of their work and leisure time online, why is qualitative research lagging behind, when the field could be at the forefront of engaging with consumers in this space.

OfCom reports that UK consumers spend more time online than they do sleeping, averaging eight hours forty one minutes online and only eight hours twenty one minutes asleep!
Online is today's consumers' natural habitat.

The Online Enviornment

We are not only spending more of our time online acquiring information, deciding, buying and socialising (in the UK we are lead participators in the EU on social networking sites, ONS). But we are placing more and more value in the connections we are making online.

Yet, often the first approach we will go to as qual researchers is face to face. We will consider online when we want something 'fast and simple' or to try and reduce costs, but qual researchers tend to look to a face to face method if they can.

Key Reasons for Conducting Qual Research

  • To achieve depth of understanding
  • To understand the context of behaviour
  • To understand the reasons behind behaviour/decision making
  • To understand emotional as well as logical/rational reactions
  • To explain lifestyle and be sensitive to all the complexities of cultural phenomena

I would suggest that achieving depth and emotion are the two most frequently cited reasons to conduct research face to face. But, if we all spend so much time online - especially social networking - then is it fair to say that depth and emotion cannot be achieved online?

Well, in recent research, Facebook demonstrated emotional contagion occurs online; emotions can be communicated and understood online effectively (as demonstrated by the impact of shared emotional content on Facebook) and OKCupid increased depth in interactions (by removing profile pictures they showed that people will interact more frequently, quicker and in more detail - resulting in deeper connections).

So shouldn't we, in the market research industry be leading the way and also exploring how to get more out of researching online?

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Maria Twigge

Maria Twigge- Research Director

Personal Bio: Maria has worked with FlexMR for over 7 years, applying psychological patterns to online research. She has previously delivered insights for ITV, John Lewis and more.




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