How much of your marketing efforts are now focused online and digital? From direct emails, online advertising and more online and digital dominates our marketing practices. And now we have witnessed the rapidly increased importance of mobile and content marketing.
So, if our focus on outward marketing communications has shifted into the online sphere, why is our research lagging behind in the physical space? The simple answer is that there is still a knowledge gap between those that have adopted online marketing practices and those that provide research. Of course, some aspects of research have made the transition already.
Perhaps the most obvious is the example of analytical data. Platforms such as Google Analytics offer direct access to audiences’ online behaviour patterns. However, this produces larges volumes of data that needs to be quantified and matched. Monitoring online behaviour patterns and understanding the data produced can allow quick adjustments to marketing strategy to increase consumer engagement, interaction, purchasing and more. But these services don't give us a full understanding of behaviour.
This is where the knowledge gap lies. It is still a widely held belief that qualitative research must be held in physical environments, because that is the realm in which the products exist. It is believed to be easier for participants to interact with stimuli and for researchers to probe into the inner-workings of the human mind. However, that is not necessarily the case. So, why should you consider replacing your qualitative methods with online alternatives?
A Natural Enviornment
There is a strong case for conducting almost all forms of qualitative research in an online environment from focus groups and interviews to panels and interactive tasks. The first reason for this is that, for most consumers, it is a much more natural setting. In a digital era, most of us are already familiar and comfortable sharing and discussing opinions in an online space. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram we openly allow others into our online lives on a daily basis. Physical settings, however, are still an artificial and constructed environment.
For consumers to open up about their experiences in an honest manner, it makes sense to create a familiar and approachable environment. Online communities, forums and blogs are already familiar to most consumers and it takes little effort to make these a place for open discussion. Of course, some ground rules must be established and enforced. But in general, online research negates the issue many researchers face of extracting limited information from shy or nervous participants.
The Consumer Journey
Supermarkets Are A Great Example of How Insight Influences Consumer Journeys
We often discuss the consumer journey and how to improve it at its most critical stages. However, in most forms of research, the consumer journey is but a distant memory. As the fog of memory sets in, crucial information can easily be lost or exaggerated. The closer that qualitative research can happen to a consumer’s recent experience with a brand or product, the more relevant and pertinent the information should be. For this, online qualitative research offers unparalleled advantages.
By using online research, it is possible to access consumer thought processes both immediately prior to, during and after an experience with a brand. Our powerful Diary MR tool allow our customers to track changes in consumer opinion in real-time and even add video elements for even richer insight. By reducing the time between consumer experience and research, your results and analysis are more accurate and relevant than any quantitative technique.
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits of online qualitative research, similar to quantitative research, is the removal of geographical barriers. This makes online research a great option for companies with a large number of, or geographically diverse consumers. Traditionally, research carried out in physical spaces has either been expensive (due to increased transport costs) or has had a modicum of geographical bias.
When all participants are recruited from the same area, it may often be the case that participants have had experiences with only one or two brand representatives (or locations). Therefore, by recruiting from a larger and more geographically diverse sample population, it is arguable that consumers will provide a more holistic (and overall, more accurate) picture of the brand.
Access to Participants
Another great, but often understated, feature of online research is the increased access to participants that it provides. Rather than simply asking participants to take part in a single focus group or interview, our online research platform allows our customers to invite consumers to take part in multiple studies and gain the benefit of mixed method results. What’s more, if you follow our guide to lowering participant drop-out rate, it is possible to retain participants for longitudinal studies and track changes in their perspective over time.
Online Research Can Generate Better Insights for Less Cost
The single most obvious benefit of online research is the cost savings that it provides. However, it is important not to confuse cost reductions with quality reductions. If carried out in the correct manner, online qualitative research can offer better insights for a lower cost. We offer flexible pricing for our services and our software can be used on a rental or purchase basis.
It is clear that there are a great number of benefits to conducting market research online. The technology is in place to provide rich insights. And with so many other marketing services taking advantage of the internet, it is surprising that more qualitative research is not carried out online. Perhaps, it is the knowledge gap that still exists between the two (digital and research) professions and the professions' tendency to stick to tried and tested techniques instead of innovations.
But, one thing is for sure: we are challenging more businesses to step ahead of the curve, and reap the benefits of online research, using our fantastic range of online quant and qual tools.
To book a free trial of the FlexMR research platform and make use of our wide range of quant and qual tools, click here. Or, click here to read more about the flexible service levels we can provide.