Online qualitative research case study – Roundup Weed killer

Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, have developed a new applicator which is designed to enable gardeners to apply weed killer more accurately than is possible with a spray. The idea is that gardeners can use it on individual weeds which are growing in among flowers, vegetables or other plants.

Monsanto wanted to test the usability of the new applicator and its appeal to gardeners, and to develop marketing communications. They commissioned a bulletin board focus group with thirty participants, including a pre-task which involved the participants being sent an applicator and trying it out in their garden. Participants were all experienced gardeners and regular users of weedkiller, and they were recruited traditionally (via recruiters, rather than online).

Monsanto used the research to improve the design of the applicator and clarify the instructions, as well as to refine the advertising message.

One of the benefits of the bulletin board approach to the research over several days was that the client could view the results each day, and then determine what areas of research they wanted to focus on during the following day. In practice this meant asking different participants a range of different questions, depending on what they had said previously, the point being that there was time for the client to think through their particular areas of interest.

This research cost around one third of the amount that it would have cost had focus groups been used instead of the bulletin board, and took around a third of the time to run.

Gary Philpotts, UK Business Director for Lawn & Garden at Monsanto, who commissioned the project was delighted with the results, saying “VERY interesting and informative. This research was quick, cost-effective and very useful. It was the first time we have used online, rather than face to face, group research, and we will definitely use this approach again”.