If you’ve ever been in a focus group, agreed to be an in-home product tester, or answered questions about a brand’s products or services during a one-on-one interview, you’ve participated in qualitative (qual) market research. Qualitative market research studies customers’ behaviors, motivations, and opinions about a specific product or service. Qual research is primarily conducted through focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and in-home usage testing. Qual research aims to collect data on the “Why?” behind customer decisions. For example, the purpose of a qual study may be to understand why shoppers buy specific products online. 

Online research communities are among the most popular and cost-effective ways for market researchers to capture real-time qualitative customer data. This article will examine the best ways to use qualitative research in a research community setting. 

The Most Effective Qualitative Research Methods For Research Communities 

An online research community uses an internet platform to initiate, organize, and collect in-depth qualitative customer insights. Perhaps one of the most powerful benefits of online research communities is access to an on-demand pool of research participants. What’s more, the intimate nature that communities provide means researchers can collect personal insights about their customers and truly get to the “core” of their behaviors. 

Beyond rich data collection, online communities are becoming so popular because of convenience. If COVID taught us anything, it’s that almost anything can be done virtually, qual market research being no exception. Virtual interviews, focus groups, and in-home tests are the most effective ways to conduct qual in a community setting. 

Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews are a great way to get consumer insights from online community members one on one. In-depth interviews utilize an open-ended, discovery-oriented data collection method where the researcher can more deeply explore a respondent’s feedback and thought processes. 

It’s essential to have the right technology, and video conferencing options such as Zoom or Google Hangouts won’t cut it if you’re hoping to gather insights. For the best experience, look for a specialized virtual interview tool, such as FC Live, that will allow you to conduct in-depth interviews with transcription and reporting.

These interviews often produce some of the richest data in market research and are invaluable to virtually all organization departments. Here is a quick guide to virtual interviews.

Virtual Focus Groups 

Another effective qualitative research method to use in a community setting is virtual focus groups. An online focus group is like an in-person focus group conducted entirely through the internet. Online focus groups are completed through a platform where participants use their webcam and microphone to interact with the group. There are many platforms to choose from, though Fuel Cycle offers a waiting room and hidden moderator features, which most others don’t. 

The benefits of virtual focus groups are vast. Without geographical limitations, researchers can pull from a larger pool of potential participants and save money in the process. Because virtual market research is easier to organize than traditional, in-person research, it’s advantageous for researchers to run multiple projects at once. Additionally, by researching on a global scale, research teams gain a broader range of insights, leading to more insightful answers and cultural nuances.

With tools like FC Live from Fuel Cycle, it’s possible to set up a controlled study with a hidden observer. Stakeholders are able to watch participants interact with products while remaining undetected by participants. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F), a Fuel Cycle client, has taken advantage of our FCX tools like Live with excellent results.

In-Home Usage Testing 

In-home usage testing is a specialized form of market research where brands provide their products to consumers to use in their homes. This testing aims to see how consumers react to products in their natural home environment instead of a lab or simulated set-up.

At Fuel Cycle, we use various in-home usage testing tools to gather rich customer data, including diary studies, video/photo diaries, pre-and post-test evaluations, and qualitative discussions. A virtual in-home usage focus group or interview can offer powerful real-time feedback. Researchers can “meet” testers remotely and ask questions while they are using the product.

There are numerous benefits to brands who conduct in-home usage testing in a community setting. Companies are able to gather candid feedback about their products before they go-to-market, implement product improvements quickly, enact packaging, prices, and marketing improvements, and save money on testing.

In A Nutshell 

According to Greenbook’s 2018 Q3-4 report, 59% of organizations are already making use of insight communities, 21% are considering using them, resulting in an overall 80% that have an interest in them. There’s a reason communities are so powerful-An online research community is the perfect solution for brands looking to collect continuous qualitative customer data. Online communities are efficient, reliable, and cost-effective ways for market researchers to gather rich data from users without the significant costs and inconveniences of traditional in-person market research studies. 

By utilizing virtual interviews brands can peel back the proverbial onion of customer motivation and more deeply explore respondent feedback in a comfortable home setting. Virtual focus groups are another effective tool for collecting feedback from a larger group of community members. In fact, researchers can conduct multiple focus groups in one day through video conferencing, making it an incredibly efficient and productive way to harness the benefits of the community. Lastly, in-home usage testing allows brands to see and hear from their customers about the different ways their products are used in natural settings. In-home testing combined with virtual interviews and focus groups can help companies build better products. 

Is an online market research community on your radar this year? If so, see how FC Live can help you develop a deeper understanding of your audience here.

We’ve recently teamed up with UserTesting, a leader in video-based human insight to make your customer research even better. With Fuel Cycle communities directly within the UserTesting® Human Insight Platform, users can efficiently reach and manage their networks of customers. Learn more about this exciting collaboration here today. 

Author: Dan Marzullo