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Research Spotlight: Online Qualitative


Originally published June 2021


Qualitative research is the best approach to explore in-depth the "WHY" behind human behaviors as they relate to our products and services. Recent evolutions in technology use, such as the widespread adoption of smart phones and videoconferencing, have opened exciting new possibilities for qualitative research by enabling research methods that previously would not have been feasible. However, online qualitative research also has its own unique set of challenges that have to be anticipated to ensure that the project will be a success.

Advantage Research prides itself on conducting successful online qualitative studies for a variety of clients with both consumers and B2B professionals, and we would like to share a few things that we've learned along the way:


Conduct a ‘tech check’ with participants ahead of time.

This ensures that participants have all of the equipment they need, and that they know how to use it. This is also a chance to build rapport with respondents, and to share a preview of how the research will go. Doing this a few days before the study will free up time during the actual session that might otherwise have been spent on troubleshooting, talking through housekeeping items, etc.

Have a “Plan B” ready in case the technology fails.

One thing that many of us learned during the COVID lockdown is that technology is a wonderful tool...when it works! Preparing for technical issues can be good insurance against wasted time combatting them. Some examples of "Plan B" options that Advantage uses:

• Have a dedicated tech support person sitting in on each group

• Have a backup moderator available at a different location

• Have a short “technical difficulties” image or video queued up

Participation works differently online.

There will be longer pauses or brief silences caused by technology and by the different social cues of videoconferencing. Eye contact works differently; participants may be looking at “you” on their screen and not directly at the camera. An experienced online qualitative researcher will be able to account for these differences and will have a plan in place to deal with anyone who is not participating or is being disruptive.

The "back room" works differently too.

No more passing notes on little slips of paper - questions and follow-up requests can be shared with the moderator in real-time! A good online moderator is able to manage the flow of communications between the back room while also keeping participants engaged and enthusiastic about the exercise.


If you need help with online qualitative research for your organization, Advantage Research can recommend an approach that is right for you. Contact us today to start the conversation!