Mobile phone and globe

The Golden Era of Online Qual is Here

Acclaimed marketing podcast RBDR prides itself on providing news insights and commentary you won’t find anywhere else for the market research industry. The host, Bob Lederer, has seen it all throughout his twenty-six years in the business. He dedicates two full episodes to’s Chief Strategy Officer, Jim Longo, which speaks volumes about the value of Longo’s insight.. Watch the video below.

When the global pandemic brought traditional research methods to a grinding halt, qualitative researchers shifted their operations online. It was a scary moment, made scarier because it happened almost overnight. But the result may well be the ushering in of a golden era of online qualitative research.

Pre-pandemic, there was already a shift in the qualitative research industry toward the virtual realm. In that sense, COVID-19 did not cause this shift so much as accelerate it.

What COVID-19 did accomplish was to toss a stone into the pond of tradition. Organizations were already prioritizing empathy as a key metric, adopting and scaling online qualitative methods. The pandemic further jostled the marketing establishment, bringing to light the many benefits of qual research done online.

Suddenly, the time-honored techniques of the past fifty years have competition. There are other options to explore.

That’s not to say in-person research is obsolete. It’s not. But recognizing that there is a time and place for in-person research, rather than assuming that every research initiative must take place in person, represents a major shift in the collective market research mentality.

Researchers have learned not to imagine constraints where they don’t exist. You don’t need to be in the room to relate to someone. You can read emotions and expressions online, and there are even techniques to pick up on the emotional cues of texts. The voice of the consumer echoes through the digital realm. Respondents feel more comfortable in their homes vs in a sterile focus group room environment which leads to deeper consumer intimacy.

At desk with a headset

Likewise, new recognition translates into quantifiable changes at the bottom line. Why fly to meetings in Los Angeles or New York when you can schedule them online? What’s saved on airfare can be reinvested into research, cutting down on peripheral costs while yielding high-quality research. Your dollar goes farther online.

We’ve heard from agencies and brands that have made the switch (by choice or necessity) that they are able to run 3-4 qualitative research projects via online in the same time they were running 1 in-person.

Additional benefits of online qual we’ve heard include:

  • Greater diversity of panel. Recruiting online means that you can find populations in rural environments, hard to recruit demographics since you are going to them or reaching them while on break at work or in cities where you don’t normally have facilities.
  • Global reach. supports consumer conversations in over 100 countries through our own team and our global network of service providers.
  • Shorter research cycles. Online, everything happens more quickly and in a more structured way: recruiting, scheduling, discussion guides integrated with the interview experience, insights analysis and sharing.

Mobile Screen Share Integrated into Market Research Meeting Room

There’s still work to be done. True, it’s easier to arrange meetings and recruit subjects, but there remains a distinct skill set needed to interview and ask questions. New training purports to “up-skill” marketers so they can ask more provocative questions, but there remains a need for skilled analysts who can examine data, transcripts, and videos to extract critical nuggets of information.

This is where insights departments and independent moderators should become more involved instead of merely pulling levers as part of the data collection process.

Jim Longo knows the industry like few others, and is tailored to channel that knowledge to your direct benefit. Get a demo today!

Sign Up for our Newsletter