The golden rule of great online qualitative research

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.

The single biggest rule for achieving online qualitative success is costing it properly. That may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how often researchers will under cost online qual research projects. In order to get it right, we need to properly appreciate the benefits of online qual research and bust the myth that it is cheaper and quicker than face-to-face.

So why does this myth persist? In my experience, both researchers and clients hold three false beliefs which contribute to this misconception:

  1. They falsely assume that online qual is cheaper than face-to-face
  2. They underestimate the consultancy time necessary to carry out online qual
  3. They undervalue the true depth of research provided by online qual

Gaining greater insight

When an industry embraces online technology it is usually able to do things more quickly and at a lower cost. This is what has happened in the music, insurance and even quantitative research industries. However, it does not apply to online qual research. While quant research benefits from the economies of scale that online technology provides (since the unit cost goes down the more people and questions you ask) with online qual the more you ask, the more information you have to analyse and moderate. Online qual provides a greater depth of insight but often needs more consultancy time than face-to-face.

So why do online qual?

Getting a deeper understanding of your research subject through online qual has unique benefits that cannot be attained through face-to-face research. Online qual provides:

  • More efficient conversations across location
  • Richer colour through multi-media feedback
  • Intimacy through privacy leading to more authentic responses
  • Greater depth through parallel one-on-one questioning and instant transcripts

These benefits will be explored in a future post in this series, along with some tips on how to cost with accuracy, and design to get the most out of the medium. The better that researchers can articulate the unique benefits of online qual to their clients, and the more accurately they can cost (and justify the cost) of the project, the more successful they will be. Stay tuned for more ideas in this series.

If you’re interested in our Masterminds training course on the subject, please get in touch with

Get monthly email updates

Sign up to receive regular emails containing reports, event invitations and inspiration from market research experts.

You can unsubscribe at any point, for more information on how to unsubscribe, our privacy practices, and how we are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Notice.

Contact us at or call us