Qualitative research’s typical methodologies are bottlenecking R&D efforts. Not a good thing, since the past decade has meant more for qualitative research than the preceding 50 years. That’s not promotional hyperbole either: internet technology adds new capabilities unmatched since transatlantic telegraph cables. Yet the vast majority of qualitative research services are slow to adapt, holding back clients’ efforts and progress.
At Discuss.io we understand that timing affects maximum return. The sooner a research team organizes a panel the sooner they can start recording and investigating data, which in turn can affect anything from new business initiatives to product launches. Output is an important goal on par with quality samples and credible sources.
Qualitative research practices typically lack the competitive factor that most enterprises depend upon. A slow and inconsistent process that requires anywhere from weeks to months of scheduling, organizing focus groups and IDIs (in-depth interviews) requires leasing or otherwise finding a facility, enticing potential participants, and either finding local research specialists or covering the travel costs of regular team members. Expensive and unwieldy, this prototypical approach strains budgets, slows progress, and limits findings.
Focus Group Research: Its Current Prevalence, Practices, and Progress
Focus groups have been popular for 70 years precisely because of the above convolutions. Makes sense, as the cost of research makes collecting a larger range of general opinions more appealing. Research still suffers, however, from maligning in-depth options like IDIs and small presence groups, which usually require such facilities as well.
No matter the reason for bias in methodology, researchers organizing focus groups must make some major method based-decisions. How many focus groups to create is important to consider, as is the size and markets of each focus group.
In the past, researchers argued over which combination, size, or amount yields the best results. Today, these are petty concerns for one reason: prevalence of online activity. Consumer online access reached a toppling point by 2006, and researchers particularly realized the internet’s potential for qualitative data collection. An onrush of digital services cropped up to meet the demand, and even today new platforms and tools rapidly develop within this continually diverse field.
ESOMAR’s Global Research study of 2013 offers some interesting insight to the current industry:
Focus groups accounted for 17% of research spending in 2012
The 17% portion was a declining share compared to 2011
Online qualitative research accounts for a mere 6% of total spending, a growing share
Online qualitative research continues to grow, but its adoption is slow because of past phases. The feel of conversations with clients has changed; from familiarization of online qualitative research, to growth of application capabilities, to specialist analysts who keep atop the latest methods…if not devise their own. Three years ago, for instance, user training centered on introducing digital qualitative techniques to researchers who were largely unfamiliar with the niche.
With greater proliferation comes greater practice, and most researchers today are quite familiar with digital methodologies. In fact, most are eager to understand the best use and application of these new methods, as well evaluate each option’s qualities and shortcomings.
Discuss.io: Taking Qualitative Research, Focus Groups, and IDIs to the Next Level
Online qualitative techniques are becoming faster, broader, and more sophisticated. Prioritizing an innovative approach that emphasizes fast turnaround, Discuss.io expands qualitative possibilities through continual development of its technologically sound, bandwidth-efficient HD video platform.
Feature laden and browser-based for enhanced stability, the application allows researchers to gather more detailed consumer insights than ever before. In particular, Discuss.io’s technique allows researchers to more closely examine the lifestyles of respondents. Such information offers far more context and detail than interviews removed from the participants’ residence, like a focus group facility.
Cloud technology, smart devices, and general efficiency allow quick access to survey respondents who were completely unavailable before online capabilities. Further, such access is detail rich, providing plenty of insight to the participant’s background and lifestyle. These frameworks, as predicted, add unparalleled richness and validity to research efforts.
The following table shows how options are becoming more varied since the recent days of focus groups/IDIs and ethnography.
Web Cam Groups
Real Time Focus Groups
Mobile Live Internet
Mobile Self Ethnography
Web Cam Interviews
Mobile Live Interview
Qualitative Research: The Future We Work to Realize
Run by a team with over a half century of experience within corporate research and research supply, we at Discuss.io are well aware that R&D must adapt to meet demands and avoid bottlenecks. The days of “talking head, focus group moderator” are gone. Qualitative researchers and consultants must now understand various sorts of technologies, their application, and how to refocus sample into more distinct categories. Continual skill adoption is imperative for keeping up with other departments’ logistics, as online and mobile research is set to expand even more rapidly in the coming years.
Discuss.io offers a quick and effective solution, yes, but its ultimate benefit is a drastic increase in potentiality. The world is never getting smaller, our access to it is getting larger. Likewise, gauging respondents’ closeness to their product decisions will never be more streamlined or simpler. The ability to remotely communicate and collect data, however, is becoming more and more unhindered by distance or traditional scheduling.
Here are four steps for qualitative researchers that maximize adaption and minimize obsolescence:
Realize that Traditional Strategies are Very Much Alive
Newer methods provide the researcher better toolboxes to find refreshing insight from different perspectives
Always avoid procedures that do not enhance reach, speed, or overall quality
Recognize that Interviewing and Examination Skills Still Distinguish Outstanding Qualitative Research
You and your team still have to compile questions, analyze findings, gauge validity, and assert direction
Investigate Possibilities and their Application to Research and Marketing
Most technology suppliers and other providers offer 24/7 assistance
Utilize your own professional expertise when appropriating new options
Find others with complementary skills to handle platform tools pertinent to their roles
Only Expand on Customary Methods if They A Research Value
New procedures are much more accessible when appraised with a customary approach
Always remember that such procedures can add a world of depth and context
Zach Simmons is the Founder and president of Discuss.io. Zach has 20 years of experience building software. Prior to founding Discuss.io, he was the Technical Product Manager for Amazon Web Services (S3) where he ran the team that built the infrastructure that now powers a significant percentage of the modern Internet. Zach holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
An entrepreneurial leader, Zach is passionate about building disruptive and agile SaaS based market research startups as an alternative to traditional market research. Seeing a need for change within the Industry, Zach launched Discuss.io, bringing Market Research to the digital age.