5 Ways to package online qual

Tom Woodnutt

Tom Woodnutt

Feeling Mutual

Tom Woodnutt is Founder of Feeling Mutual, the agile online and mobile qualitative research specialists. He helps clients and agencies run global studies and offers training in the space. Tom has been a Digital Skills trainer for the Association of Qualitative Researchers (AQR) and is a regular speaker at industry conferences, including the MRS, MRMW and IleX.

Can you hear the screeching sound of worn-out wheels? It’s just the bandwagon passing, creaking under the strain of so many agencies claiming to be a part of the latest industry trends. From ‘co-creation’ to ‘agile research’ and ‘behavioural economics’ – gratuitous use of these buzzwords can irritate clients and come across as cynical attempts to appear progressive. They hear them coming a mile off.

Innovation should reinforce your agency proposition and not just be generic or ‘for the sake of it’. The key is to use innovation to differentiate yourself in ways that are meaningful and true to who you are as an agency. Online qual can play a helpful role in this when it is packaged in ways that reinforce your agency’s brand proposition.

Here’s five examples of how to use online qual to reinforce different agency propositions:

1. The reality-researchers

Behavioural economics theory is now mainstream. We know that people struggle to remember and articulate what they did and why they did it. Many research agencies talk about finding ‘real’ people and wanting to get closer to ‘actual behaviour’ but few use methods that truly deliver this.

Online qual can help you get closer to people’s actual behaviour by giving them a more natural and contextually sensitive way to provide feedback. For example, mobile video can be used to capture real-world customer experiences. You can then ask them to review their videos in order to improve their ability to introspect. Similarly, using online diaries can help people keep track of what they did and how they felt. 

2. The client-collaborators

Many agencies promise clients that they will give them direct access to their customers. But all too often they default to face-to-face group discussions with a one-way-mirror between them.

Online qual makes it easier for clients to talk directly to their customers. It removes the potentially intimidating (and time consuming) experience of asking them questions face-to-face.

3. The multimedia storytellers

All researchers know their value is not just in the insights that they gather but also in the impact that they make. How better to make a big impact than through multimedia reports that go beyond text and verbatim quotes? An auto-ethnographic video of someone in their natural environment can create a more vivid impression of who they are than any text-based quote. The problem is that it takes time to go through all the video footage. So it can make projects expensive or unprofitable (if not properly costed for).

Use online qual video more pragmatically when telling multimedia stories. For example, select just a few participants – based on what they told you in the text-based online qual discussion – and ask them to repeat it to camera (webcam or mobile video). This means you get a genuine response on video without having to wade through hours of footage.

4. The expert-consumer consultants

Increasingly agencies talk about the value of speaking to expert consumers. These individuals – often called ‘opinion formers’, ‘mavens’ or ‘prosumers’ – are disproportionately valuable to brands: both in terms of their influence and knowledge. However, they’re also expensive to recruit and harder to find than typical consumers.

Online qual can give you a far more flexible way to speak with this group. You can find them using Liveminds (for example by recruiting people from Facebook who have liked influential media e.g. Vice for youth-culture or Wired for tech-early adopter projects). Then you can automatically screen them and keep them engaged in Facebook before inviting them to Liveminds for in-depth ad hoc projects.

5. The agile co-creators

It’s difficult to read anything in the market research industry press without coming across the term ‘agile’. Too often researchers’ interpretation of ‘agile’ misses the point. It’s used as a proxy for ‘fast’ research but in reality its true essence is reactivity: building experiences based on feedback from users. The problem with face-to-face research is that it can often be too expensive to do several rounds.

Online qual is perfect for agile development because it’s so easy to reconvene your participants. As long as you get their permission to be recontacted when you recruit them, you can simply get back in touch with them online at a later date and show them how the concepts have been developed using their feedback.

Whatever your agency proposition and beliefs, you should think about how online qual can bring them to life. Innovation should reinforce your brand, not be mere window-dressing.

If you’re interested in the online qual mastery course Masterminds then please get in touch – for more information simply email

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