Will online qualitative research really save time and money?

by DJI

Our clients have asked us how incorporating new technologies into qualitative research can save money, time, or both, on their projects.

Experience has shown us that online bulletin boards, virtual focus groups, online journals or blogs, image or video diaries, or mobile research often do not deliver the expected time and money savings.

You will almost certainly trim your travel budget. Clients and moderators can coordinate and conduct research right from the office.

But online qualitative approaches are unlikely to be cheaper or faster overall.

  • Costs for facilities and recruiting are often replaced by fees for use of the hosting software and access to panel respondents.
  • Professional fees may be higher to compensate for more time spent managing respondents and analyzing results.
  • Depending on your target group, extra time should be budgeted up front for explaining the process to participants and walking them through it, as there tends to be a wide variation in comfort levels among mainstream consumers. You can expect some drop-outs based purely on this.
  • Also allow some additional time for software bugs and other technological adventures.

It’s true that you can get instantaneous transcripts of an online focus group session. But to develop actionable findings and conclusions, the information from online research sessions must still be carefully sifted and processed. What’s more, sifting through this information can often be problematic because there is much less non-verbal, contextual information — body language and facial expressions — to go with it.

Online qualitative research may not always save money.

We have found that online approaches to qualitative research do offer some great benefits, but saving time and money are not among the most compelling of them.
How are your experiences with online qualitative research measuring up to your expecations? Drop us a note on Facebook, tweet or email us — we’d love to hear from you.

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