Online qual finds its moment

Online qual finds its moment

  • May 04, 2020

One of the most significant impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic is the way that it has changed the way we engage with people. This applies not just to us as individuals, suddenly navigating the world of Zoom parties and online learning, but also to companies and brands who are unable to interact face to face.

For some companies, this means rapidly catching up to embrace technologies and methods that others have been using for years. This is particularly true in the world of market research. While it’s not new, online qualitative research has seen a surge in popularity lately. With face to face research not possible, many companies are now discovering the depth and insight that virtual approaches bring.


Even without social distancing regulations, online research has been a powerful tool for qualitative researchers for many years. Some of the advantages of online qual are outlined in our post here.

The question we are asked most often by those who are unfamiliar with this approach is: is it as good as focus groups or depth interviews? The answer is clear – in many cases, not only is online as comprehensive and trustworthy as traditional methods, our experience is that it is often superior in a number of ways. There are very few situations where a virtual, online approach will not work at least effectively as traditional qual.

It’s not the same

A big mistake that can be made when switching to online qualitative research is to simply approach it in the same way as you would, say, a focus group. This not only creates problems, it also means you might miss out on some of the main benefits.

Real time online focus groups, whether in the form of a chat room or video conference for example, often suffer for offering less than a traditional focus group, but without any other real advantages. As well as requiring all respondents to be available at the same time, with all their technology working properly, they can be extremely difficult to moderate and people, understandably, can lose interest in contributing.

Instead, it’s important to design your research in a way that takes advantage of the main benefits of a remote approach, including:

  • allowing people to contribute when and where it suits them
  • giving everyone, no matter their personality type, an equal opportunity to contribute in a safe and comfortable environment
  • providing opportunities for immediate responses, as well as space and time for building on and developing ideas

It’s also important to remember that while are many traditional qualitative techniques that translate well to the online context, such as drawing, there are also other techniques to consider that work particularly well online, such as video or even audio responses.

Taking the plunge

For over a decade, Edentify has been developing and refining online qualitative research techniques. Our Virtual Workshops have helped to inform and guide our clients across a range of needs, including strategic research, customer experience and journey mapping, and creative development and evaluation, and many more.

Taking your qualitative market research online doesn’t have to be scary, and it definitely doesn’t mean compromising on the results. And while it might be the only option for qual during lockdown, it might end up becoming one of your favourites.