Online qualitative research in SurveyMonkey

The other day I came across a company in the drinks sector that does its own research, rather than commissioning an agency, using a combination of Facebook and SurveyMonkey. They had built up a consumer panel on Facebook, and the interesting thing was that they were using SurveyMonkey both for quantitative and qualitative research. For the latter they would run a survey consisting almost entirely of open ended questions, and this would produce (at least some of) the in-depth feedback that they wanted.

Leaving aside the question about whether this really is “qualitative research”, this got me thinking. The company was quite happy with the qualitative feedback that their research generated, so what reasons would there be for them, or any other company for that matter, to use a dedicated qualitative software tool rather than SurveyMonkey for online qualitative research?

The answer, of course, is that with dedicated online qualitative software you can go back to, and interact with, participants, and you can encourage participants to interact with each other. Also, they can upload images or videos with their answers. All of which means you can generate richer, deeper insight. And then, of course, an online qualitative software package would usually include tools for filtering or tagging transcripts, and exporting to Word, which saves time for moderators.

The other point is that this company operates in the wine trade, and their Facebook panel was of wine drinkers and aficionados. So the qualitative research they conduct would be on a topic that would be of interest to participants, and on which participants would be relatively knowledgeable. This would mean that they would be relatively likely to answer research questions fully without encouragement or interaction. The same could not be said of other subject areas.

Nevertheless, this approach works satisfactorily for this company, and it provides an example of how imagination and innovation can lead to new ways of conducting qualitative research.

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