We are often asked about the comparative merits of online and face to face qualitative research. Although we are, of course, enthusiasts for online, we are not so hard line that we don’t appreciate the merits of face to face. Indeed, we are classically trained and have run plenty of f2f groups over the years, as well as other qualitative methods such as depths and accompanied shops. We enjoyed them, and they were fruitful.
But one aspect of online qualitative research which we think is of particular appeal is the fact that the lead time is so short. With no booking of venues, accommodation or refreshments needed, no waiting for printed stimulus materials, and no travel time involved, you really can set up and run your research in days, hours or even minutes, rather than weeks. Equally, results are available instantaneously, rather than having to wait for a transcript.
The other major task of course before running any qualitative research is recruitment. Whereas with f2f research this can take a number of days, with online qualitative research it can be undertaken much more quickly. This might be from recruiters with databases or panels, or from customer lists, from websites or communities, or even from Twitter or Facebook.
One of the measures of the “quality” of information gained from research is its timeliness, because this is a key determinant of its relevance. And in this respect online qualitative research is particularly strong.