Prioritizing Engagement in Online Qualitative Research

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Online Qualitative Research


One of the most significant steps a brand can take when conducting market research is choosing the right research partner. And, when making this decision, obvious factors like company reputation, experience, cost, and practiced methodologies are rightly prioritized. However, something that often gets overlooked is engagement. 

Active engagement is central to all great research, but it’s especially important in the online qualitative world. With the recent emergence of online qualitative as a supplement to or change-of-pace from more traditional research, choosing a partner who prioritizes engagement is as important as ever. In online qual, an emphasis on engagement can serve as a tipping point – taking research from average to great. 

And, with important brand decisions and the cost of research, brands should seek out research partners who are truly proactive about engagement – approaching the topic with both participants and clients in mind. 

Participant Engagement:Speaking with engaged, thoughtful, and articulate participants plays a major role in obtaining great insights. Conversely, the absence of the right type of participants can result in unanswered objectives or hazy conclusions. Therefore, look for researchers who employ a multi-faceted approach to ensure participant engagement is a top priority:

  • It all starts with great sample – Researchers must have established (and followed) best-practices in screener development that quickly capture target consumers. Additionally, their sample partners should be vetted to ensure the recruitment of thoughtful, articulate, and responsive participants.
  • Establish participant/moderator relationship – Moderators should make a point to quickly establish a working relationship with participants and communicate instructions and expectations clearly to ensure continued, committed participation.
  • To promote participant engagement, they should engage! – Once in field, moderators should actively post follow-ups and probe for clarity, all while encouraging participants along the way.
  • Mix it up! – Video responses, card sorts, mark-up tools, and creative ideation activities should be used to create a dynamic and thought-provoking participant experience. 

Client Engagement:We find that when clients play an active role in the research by requesting follow-up questions and driving virtual backroom discussions, we always end up with a more complete, thorough understanding of the insights.  Their active engagement helps moderators uncover the oft-nuanced objectives that help round out the research, leading to satisfied clients. To make this fulfilling research experience a reality, look for researchers who strive to: 

  • Communicate early and often – Prior to going live, moderators should talk with clients to set expectations and develop research plans that work best for them.
  • Encourage active participation – Engagement-savvy researchers encourage clients to get involved! Whether it be submitting participant probes or utilizing virtual backrooms for topical discussion and brainstorming, engagement-focused researchers bring everyone in dynamically and creatively to yield the best results.
  • Bring the story to life – While active engagement from clients is ideal, this won’t always happen – and that’s okay! To combat this, researchers should deliver content that highlights key findings and can be consumed quickly; whether it be through in-field work sessions, debriefs, or final deliverables. Furthermore, the strategic use of participant video and image uploads should be used to create stories that bring findings to life. These highlights must be easily digestible, so clients can just sit back and watch the show if pressed for time. 

What does all this mean? While engagement may not always be top-of-mind, it’s a factor that brands should always consider when planning online qualitative research. 

At C+R, we pride ourselves on keeping engagement at the forefront, allowing us to achieve our clients’ research objectives and produce meaningful, actionable insights by keeping both participants and clients engaged!

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