Four Critical Tips for Moving from In-Person to Online Qualitative

April 27, 2020

As the current pandemic is forcing us to find new ways to do things, you, like many researchers, may be trying online qualitative methodologies for the first time. However, there is one key ingredient: participants. And just like with in-person qualitative, all participants are not created equal. You have to find the right people to give you the information you need: engaged; fluent; articulate in text and writing; and, of course, qualified for your project.

Here are four tips to help prepare you and your team for a successful project and to help you get the most from your first online qualitative projects:

  1. Select the right technology partner. There are many different providers with online qualitative platforms and moderators to choose from, so don’t settle for the first partner you evaluate. Look at several; check out their ratings; and find one that can meet your project objectives. Think about your project objectives and look for one that matches your project management style and personality as well. Your technology partner should have an online platform that allows you and your clients (internal and/or external) to observe the online discussion and make comments and suggestions to help the moderator get the most out of the exercise. And very importantly, make sure your partner is able to provide 24/7 customer service and tech help for you, your clients, and participants. You never know when something is going to cause a problem, and you want to be able to fix it quickly.
  2. Recruit your participants. Just as with in-person qualitative research, participants are where 'the rubber meets the road.’ To ensure you have the best participants for the project, acsertain your screening requirements are crystal clear; you may have fewer participants due to technological limitations, so there is no room for error. Try to get respondents who have plenty of experience beyond traditional online surveys, as they may be more familiar with or open to participating in online qualitative research.

    Additionally, try to get respondents with a history of providing high-quality responses for marketing research purposes (in other words, participants who genuinely want to share their opinions, not just to get the incentive). Test for language fluency – the same as you would for in-person projects. If you are using a bulletin board or chat-format platform, make sure your participants are comfortable expressing themselves in text/typing.
  3. Get familiar with your partner’s platform. Don’t let the online discussion be the first time you use the online qualitative platform. Work with your partner’s support team to learn how to use the platform to the fullest. You might run a test simulating an online discussion with yourself, your clients, and several colleagues acting as participants. You must be fluent with the platform to make the most of the limited time you have with the technology, the moderator, and your carefully selected participants.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. As with in-person, frequent reminders to your qualified participants with the exact time and date of the online qualitative project will help ensure a good show rate. Remember that with traditional online research, respondents can take the survey whenever they want; but with online qualitative, there is usually a specific date and time they are scheduled to participate. These frequent reminders not only help the respondents, but they can also help to develop rapport with the participants. This rapport is critical to getting quality information, and it is a little more challenging to do than with in-person methodologies. Try to get access to your participants calendar app to make scheduling and reminders easier. Send a video reminder so they can see what you look like and to humanize the process. Communicate extensively between your technology provider and your sample provider to prevent glitches and ensure perfect timing. Finally, communicate with clients to set appropriate expectations. It may seem like overkill, but it will pay off in a better project outcome.
  5. Summary

    Online and in-person qualitative are different animals, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be equally effective in gaining the information you need. Don’t resent the coronavirus pandemic “forcing” you to move online; embrace it! You may even find that you like online qual better and will use it more – beyond the pandemic.

    Symmetric’s sample panels are your best source for online qualitative participants. Many have participated in online and in-person qualitative research previously, and they have been vetted extensively to ensure the highest-quality data. Contact Symmetric today for more information.

    We also have a team dedicated to online qualitative research, so if you would like to use our preferred platforms and moderator experts to run your project, contact us today!