Innovations in webcam-enabled online and mobile research platforms and methodologies have provided a wide variety of benefits to consumer research. These tools have improved our ability to collect in-context consumer feedback as well as making it easier to conduct research with participants that are more difficult to recruit, widely geographically dispersed, or otherwise challenging to engage in research. Small business owners, high level executives, and medical professionals are examples of the types of audiences that have relatively low recruiting incidences and getting them to take part in face-to-face market research is difficult as they are groups who are notoriously short on time due to significant responsibilities of time to their workplace.
Instead of conducting traditional in-person focus groups with these difficult to reach audiences, webcam-enabled online focus groups provide an alternative method to engage these audiences in real time group discussions. While the group and inter-personal dynamic is different in online focus groups versus in-person focus groups, we here at W5 find webcam-enabled online focus groups to be comparable in their effectiveness for facilitating engaging group discussions and drawing out meaningful insights.
One of the benefits of online focus groups is that respondents seem to be more relaxed, and therefore also more open and willing to share their true thoughts, because they are participating from their natural home or work environment. We have also found during online focus groups participants may be more willing to disagree with one another because there is not an in-person social pressure to conform to group opinions. Conducting focus groups online also eliminates the need for research teams and clients to travel providing further benefits of convenience and travel cost savings.
Clients sometimes express concerns about issues with the webcam-enabled online focus group platform technology. Our online focus group platform partner has many years of experience managing online focus groups and always performs “tech checks” with focus group participants and makes sure that all problems and questions that participants may have are worked out prior to the actual fielding of the groups to ensure the groups run smoothly. During the webcam-enabled online focus groups our online focus group platform provider assigns a dedicated technician who observes the groups and is immediately available to help with technical problems should they arise. If a participant’s connection is lost, as can happen with participants’ individual home and work internet connections, this dedicated technician works to get the participant online as quickly as possible, usually in under two minutes.
Overall, we here at W5 find webcam-enabled online focus groups to be a valuable tool that expands the reach of our research capabilities and a tool which we recommend to clients who may be looking for insights from a natural context or who need to engage hard to reach audiences. Our Spotlight case study this month explores how W5 has used this methodology to gather small business owners’ reactions and feedback to a new community partnership program.
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM EVALUATION WITH SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
A national non-profit advocacy organization was considering developing a small business partnership program whereby small businesses would enter into a marketing relationship with the non-profit organization and gain exposure to the non-profits members. Small business owners’ reactions to the program had to be gauged before proceeding further.
The target audience for this engagement was a difficult one to recruit and the client wanted a true broad national read on feedback to the proposed program. W5 proposed a webcam-enabled online focus group methodology so that small business owners from across the country could be recruited to participate in this research. Focus groups were scheduled at a variety of times over two days to allow participants to choose a time which was most convenient for them. Clients were able to simultaneously view the focus group discussions while participating in a “virtual backroom” conversation with W5 consultants.
W5 moderated engaging conversations with small business owners about their likes and dislikes of various proposed elements of the program. In addition to determining overall appeal of the program and the likelihood of small business owners to participate, program details including the expected cost and the length of terms for the program were discussed and evaluated. As a result of the feedback and insights gained through this research the non-profit advocacy organization was able to make recommended changes to the program to meet the needs and desires of small business owners.
Spotlight is a special feature of the W5 Blog showcasing W5 consultants’ approach to designing marketing research studies, creating engaging deliverables, and informing strategy. For more information on W5’s approach to qualitative or quantitative research contact: projects@W5insight.com.