How online qual adds VALUE

I’ve been intrigued recently by the number of researchers who are trying to understand the “value” of online qual versus face to face, social media “scraping,”  etc.  Here are some thoughts that come to mind.

There is more consumer data available than ever before.  Data is everywhere but marketers remain challenged with turning that data into usable information so they can truly understand their customers.  At the end of the day, when marketers peek out from under piles of consumer data, they are craving in-depth understanding of consumers and a way to communicate that to marketing and strategic
decision-makers.  Tools that provide depth of understanding will grow in value as breadth becomes easy but depth becomes increasingly difficult.

Online qualitative brings tools to assist in developing a deeper understanding of the customer if the methodologist understands how to use the unique capabilities of online qual. 

Online qualitative is not simply “conversations online.”  If it were, it would be of limited use.  Online qual adds capabilities that did not exist before or were very difficult or very expensive.  Two such capabilities stand out above the others. 

  • Longitudinal Qualitative — Understanding behavior over time
  • “In place” qualitative — research at the point of purchase/consumption/interaction

Once the methodologist fully understands the power of these two concepts, it changes how they look at qualitative. 


A powerful method is the so called, “digital ethnography.”  I also call
it 3D ethnography or 360 degree ethnography.  Regardless, it is the
capability to use online tools to be everywhere at any time and place to
get real reactions from consumers in real time. 

Here are a
couple of simple examples:

  • Product Placement – blogging or QualBoards that follow the ups and
    downs that consumers experience when trying a new product.
  • Family Vacations — QualBoard discussions prior to a family
    vacation to understand decision processes and expectations.  Blogging
    and text messaging during the vacation to get “in the moment” feedback. 
    Family webcam interview to assess post-visit feedback from the family.

The point is that online qual adds VALUE and insights when the
researcher understands how to apply it.  Plus, they are not stand-alone
methods.  They are designed as tools to mix and match.  Its a new day in
qual.  As researchers we better study, learn and be willing to
experiment a bit.

Attached is an example from a powerpoint
presentation of what I call a “3-D Ethnography.”  You will see that it
is all qualitative, but the method uses various tools to understand
behavior and attitudes over time and in place.  There are many many
tools that can be applied once these concepts are understood and
accepted.  

The permutations of this methodology are endless. 
IUU can use these concepts to develop custom methodologies and to
develop branded IUU products.  

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