When people think about online marketing research, they’re typically thinking of a traditional online survey. While we love quantitative research and online surveys at Evolve, did you know that we can also conduct qualitative online research? One of my favorite research methodologies is online bulletin board focus groups.
Online focus groups provide the same type of rich, colorful data that you receive from an in-person group, but offers some unique advantages by being in a digital environment. Respondents are carefully recruited and screened to ensure they meet the target audience for the study, just like they would be for an in-person focus group. But instead of showing up to a physical location on a particular date and time, they are provided with a link and login credentials to log-in during the fieldwork period at their convenience. This eliminates many scheduling conflicts the respondent may otherwise have. It also removes the travel barrier associated with traditional groups. So instead of having to conduct a few focus groups in Oklahoma City, a few in Tulsa, a few in Dallas and a few in rural locations; we can interview everyone remotely at the same time.
The groups typically take place over a 3-day period and operate like an online forum. Respondents spend about 30 minutes each day answering the questions and completing the exercises. When they first see each question, the other responses are hidden so they are not influenced by the rest of the group. Once they submit their answer, they can then see what the other respondents wrote and reply to them, initiating a conversation and dialogue. Evolve moderators will also ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights and encourage additional conversation amongst the group.
The anonymous nature of online bulletin board focus groups is particularly useful for sensitive social research subject matters, such as medical conditions, sexual health and risky behaviors – things that people might be hesitant to talk about in a face-to-face setting. Respondents can even send a private message to the moderator if they are uncomfortable with the group seeing a particular response.
Since the respondents are typically participating in the study at home, we can get creative with the types of questions we ask. So instead of asking what they eat in a typical day, we can ask them to upload a picture of their refrigerator or pantry, showing what the groceries they have on hand!
Think online focus groups might be a good fit for you? Give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss your specific project needs.
Posted by Stewart
Stewart is passionate about all things research. Designing studies, conducting UX labs and IDIs, moderating online focus groups and analyzing data - Stew does it all. When not researching, you can find him cycling, hiking or hanging out with his dog.