I’ve spoken to many traditionally-minded qualitative researchers who feel nervous about testing strategic ideas (like new product concepts and brand positionings) online. They fear that they won’t get the depth of response they’re used to in face-to-face research. Once they realise that you can actually get more depth in online research than face to face, they start to see the potential.
The value of online research is particularly high when the project is global; you can save thousands by cutting out the direct cost of travel, viewing facilities and simultaneous translation. Here are ten ways to get global online concept & positioning research right.
Articulate the concept carefully
It should be possible to express any idea in a simple form. Try and boil your concept down to a single statement and get reactions at that basic level. You can always drip-feed more detail to them if you want to (such as visual references that bring it to life, reasons to believe, made-up examples, features etc).
Tip: Remember to make it very clear that what you’re testing is not an advert (people always assume it is!).
Don’t ask too much (too soon)
In online qual, you have to respect people’s time and only ask them to commit as much time as you agreed when you recruited them. If you ask them for 20–30 minutes a day (which is the optimal level) across five days, then you’ll get more than enough detail. Try and limit the number of questions you ask in relation to each concept to avoid them getting too rational. Say around three questions a day – you want to get their gut response and then use the probes to explore things in more detail.
Tip: Try to avoid including every question you want to ask up front. In a five-day study, you would ideally test up to four ideas to get a good response and you can always probe to get more coverage where you need it.
Don’t ask too many people
It can be tempting to recruit big samples to reassure clients that the research is fully representative. Try to avoid this, because more people means more content to analyse and moderate, which unnecessarily inflates the overall cost of the study. Having fewer participants does not mean you’ll get less feedback when you’re using online qual – the number of participants is always going to be relatively small when comparing to quant research.
Tip: I’d suggest speaking to between 10–24 people per market. You can remind clients that you’re getting more time with each person than you would in a face-to-face study.
Explore participants’ personal context
Include a warm-up question that lets people talk about themselves. Perhaps ask them to share an image of something that they care passionately about. The more they share, the more connected they feel to the group and to the project. It becomes less a transactional piece of research and more an interesting, social experience. This eases the pressure on cash incentives and maximises participation. Also, knowing a bit about who the participants are helps you make sense of their responses to the concepts later.
Tip: As a moderator don’t be afraid to be yourself. The more you share, the more people feel motivated to take part.
Get a gut reaction score
Their first response is often the most valuable because it shows their instinctive reaction without it being over-intellectualised and too much ‘system 2’.
Tip: When testing multiple concepts, get participants to put a number out of ten, so you can keep track of how each idea performs relative to others.
Start privately before opening up to the group
One of the best things about online qual is that you can ask questions in private before opening the discussion up to the group. Private responses reduce group bias and gives you a pure read on their individual reactions.
Tip: People are more willing to open up online and the fact it’s remote and anonymous leads to more frankness and less posturing.
Use a recruiter experienced in online projects
Ideally, work with a recruiter who has done online qual before. If they haven’t, they might over-price the study or suggest excessively high incentives that aren’t necessary. For the record (depending on the brand and project) I would generally suggest keeping incentives to a similar if not slightly higher level than in face-to-face research.
Tip: I’ve used Behavioural Recruitment™ powered by Facebook for online qual and can vouch for it.
Work with a trusted moderator network
Limited budgets mean it makes sense to work with independent moderators because of the cost saving. It’s important that you can trust them to probe enough and in the right way; to know how to build rapport; to extract the vital quotes and build a strategically minded summary report.
Tip: If you don’t have any in your network, check out the Liveminds global moderator network for approved freelance researchers around the world.
Work into a shared analysis template
You can very simply build an analysis template using the structure of the discussion guide. Moderators will then fill this in by selecting the key quotes under general observations and insights.
Tip: I’d suggest encouraging moderators to share their views on what it means for the client by including their recommendations in the analysis template.
Get a video summary
Your report will be better if you can include videos of people sharing their views and feelings in their own words. Rather than asking people to share multiple videos, try and get them to record just one. This could be based on a general overall question or you could ask them to repeat an earlier answer they gave you in text form (see six ways to create vivid videos from online qual for further advice).
Tip: Give people a few tips on recording useful videos, e.g. holding the mobile steady, recording in landscape and using the selfie function to ensure they stay in the shot.
In conclusion, working online for concept & positioning research can not only be better value, it can give you more depth – especially when it comes to global research projects.
If you’re interested in finding out more about carrying out successful global online qual projects, please come along to the next Masterminds training session. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.