Online group discussions: my story

Having almost three years of experience in offline qualitative research I have to say I was curious, but also a bit wary, to do focus groups online when I started working for InSites Consulting a few months ago.
Would the people that participated be as open?
Would the insights be as deep?
And would the client feel as satisfied with the output?
It came out that all these questions could be answered with a definite YES.

  1. Participants appeared to be very open and spontaneous in their answers. Perhaps it’s the relaxed setting of being at home and the anonymity that causes people to really open up and share their views on things.
  2. The depth of the learnings also doesn’t suffer by doing group discussions online. You can use exactly the same projective techniques and the same exercises to stimulate imagination and creativity. We use a special online platform that allows showing all kinds of visual stimuli to participants to enable these techniques. Next to that we work with 8 participants in each session which is surprisingly easy to manage online. This of course generates additional input.
  3. Finally, as for the clients, I have been pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm about our approach and our platform. They are able to follow the sessions from home and post additional questions to me to ask the participants if needed.


Is it then really such a success story? Well… I would say yes. In my opinion there is actually hardly any difference between offline and online research and next to that, all ages (young and old) can participate and geographical boundaries are crossed effortlessly.
Of course I cannot unravel facial expressions from consumers, but smiley’s appear to do the job just as well. I don’t have a flip chart to write on, but now I just use the white board for that purpose and to show all kinds of material.
For me it’s been a great experience so far, that’s why I’m planning to take online qualitative research forward…
Want to read more? Check out our ESOMAR award winning paper.

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