Reasons to believe in online qualitative research

With a global internet penetration rate of 59.9%, it’s no surprise that consumer behaviour is increasingly taking place online. With a click or a swipe, we can order products from the other side of the world, book a restaurant or medical appointment, and of course connect with friends, family and colleagues. According to GWI, participation in online forums and blogs is also on the rise, as people are looking for a space to connect and belong.

For a long time now, the market research industry has known the need to be where consumers are, in the digital space. For years, online methods were growing slowly and steadily, while ‘in person’ was the leading choice of qualitative methodologies; but the pandemic changed that abruptly, with online focus groups, in-depth interviews and communities now taking the lead. In fact, according to the GreenBook GRIT Report, online communities are the third most used method for qualitative data collection.

In markets like South Africa, we’re somewhat behind the times in the adoption of online qualitative research. There are many ‘reasons to believe’ in online qual, but here is my top three…

Reason #1: More open and honest

From behind their computer in their own secure environment, people are more daring. They tell truths they would never share with us otherwise; they do not feel watched or observed through a one-way mirror nor by other respondents or moderators. Anonymity enhances validity and minimizes socially desirable answers. By consequence, taboo subjects are tackled more easily online than offline.

Online qualitative research has the power to quickly get to an emotional level and get personal responses to stimuli, which typically takes more time and effort in offline settings.


Reason #2: Context potential

Participants are not invited to come into the world of the researchers, in online market research. Instead, researchers enter the homes and lives of participants.

Mobile accessibility only increases this context potential, making it possible to gain feedback on real-life moments instead of staged experiences. Rich multimedia can be gathered in situ, such as photos captured in-store and videos filmed in-home.


Reason #3: No regional constraints

Where offline research often has significant regional constraints (participants, researchers and clients have to come to a central location, often leading to a geographical bias), online research can easily bring people from very different locations together (both nationally and internationally).

Besides the advantage of not having a location bias, people are also just more inclined to join a research project from the comfort of their own home rather than having to travel to a specific location.

We’d love to showcase what Insight Communities can do for your brand. So get in touch to request your showcase!

Better Together Vol 4 - Closing the relevance gap

Online Insight Communities

Research communities, online discussions boards, bulletin boards, insight ecosystems… what’s in a name. In this bookzine, we bring clarity by defining four different community types, each linked to a concrete research need, illustrated with best practices. 

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