Digital Research “The times they are a-changing”

So sang Bob Dylan in 1964, and occasionally since then too. I must confess I’m not really a Dylan fan, but when asked to write a few words about how Critical Research approaches digital or online qualitative research, Mr. Dylan’s words were the first that came to mind. Let me explain.

As a company, we have always preferred to take a face-to-face approach, rather than digital qualitative research methods, such as an online approach, when it comes to convening discussion groups. 

Traditionally we felt our findings would benefit from the ability to read body language, and have people in a slightly unnatural environment (that of a face-to-face discussion group).  Compared to a very unnatural research environment of an online group discussion.  If we ever needed more geographical coverage or demographic variety than the budget would allow for face-to-face groups, we would use a top-up of telephone interviews.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many things and brought research challenges for us as market research  and fieldwork specialists.  It has resulted in our potential respondents becoming much more used to online meetings.  With the proliferation of the use of online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Teams, and Whereby to name but three. 

An online group call is no longer the very unnatural environment it once was. It’s by no means perfect, but we have become far more used to the occasional technical glitches, the interruptions by children, offers of tea from family members, or delivery drivers.

Where once we shied away from online approaches, we are now embracing them as are our respondents, for both group discussions and individual or paired depth interviews. For example, recent work for the Financial Conduct Authority saw us conducting hour-long interviews with individuals about the financial and emotional impacts of Covid-19.

Some respondents report preferring a video call to a telephone interview, saying that it is nice to see and speak to someone they don’t live with!

The practical and emotional barriers that once existed are significantly reduced. So much so, that alongside individual and paired depth interviews, we are now conducting mini and full discussion groups online. 

Furthermore, we have created an online version of our Critical Flow Customer Journey Mapping technique.

Please contact Dr. Nick Williams our Director of Qualitative Research for more information about any aspects of our qualitative and mixed-method approaches: [email protected]