Online Surveys & Online Focus Groups Play Together

Anyone who interacts with people understands that human behaviour can some times seem as unpredictable as the weather. But by combining online surveys and online focus groups you can go along way in understanding why people do the things that they do.

For a business you might want to understand how people react to a particular marketing message, or how you should effectively engage with employees. When combining the convenience of online surveys with the effectiveness of online focus groups you can answer many questions like these, and discover a whole new world of actionable insights!

It’s easy to see the differences between quantitative online surveys, and qualitative research methods like online focus groups, but how can they be combined, and why would you consider doing so?

Quantitative research is primarily done for statistical purposes. For mathematical reasons, it’s necessary to take a little bit of data from a large group of people. It’s good for things like opinion polls, where the emphasis is more on the quantity of respondents that fall into a given group, as opposed to what those respondents think. Quantitative research, for example, can tell you how many people in your capital city might choose vanilla over chocolate milkshakes.

Qualitative research is primarily done for the purpose of understanding why people think they way they do. It is not purely mathematical, since the groups involved in qualitative research are far too small for significant statistical analysis, and the information gained from them isn’t the kind that can be easily broken down like survey answers can. It’s good for things like new product or advertising development, where the emphasis is placed more on what respondents think and how they feel about certain things. Qualitative research might tell you that some people prefer chocolate over vanilla milkshakes because it brings up memories of enjoying a favourite chocolate bar.

Online focus groups and online surveys play together

Both forms of research have their place, but at first it’s still kind of hard to imagine combining them both online. On the internet, quantitative research has had more time to become accepted as the norm. Many of us have experienced an email survey invitation or a pop up window on a website asking us to answer a quick survey about the site, but opportunities to take part in qualitative research seem to be few and far between. This is unfortunate, because qualitative research often provides the basis for further quantitative research, the answers to online quantitative surveys can lead to valuable qualitative studies.

It can sometimes be difficult to get people to fill out a short survey, so it’s easy to imagine how hard it would be to get them to just drop into a random online qualitative research group! The good news is that by combining the two forms of research, you can select online qualitative study participants from among those who have qualified by completing the online quantitative survey. They meet a set of defined criteria and already show a propensity to participate online.

After a respondent answers a short online survey, the answers they’ve just given can give you ideas for further questions they’d like him or her to elaborate on. By simply requesting the respondent’s e-mail address during the survey, you now have a way to contact him or her to participate in an online focus group or community discussion board. Online surveys are very good at telling you what respondents think, but further qualitative probing can yield why they think the way they do.

Online surveys ask for very general personal information, like age, gender, and ethnic group. Questions like these can help you screen for survey participants that you would like to include in an online focus group. In this case, finding the appropriate participants is often cheaper and far less time consuming than it is in real life. Once again, you have the quantitative information you need, as well as the opportunity to include survey participants in an online focus group.

Things like product testing can also be combined with online surveys. By using survey answers to screen for respondents that fit the product’s target demographic and identify who is willing to participate in further live studies, you can find a pool of people willing to test out a new or improved product. This can be done with everything from websites, advertising, direct mail to shoes, with a very good degree of success.

Many people think of qualitative and quantitative research as two different worlds that occasionally overlap. With online, quantitative and qualitative research can be combined to achieve an effect that is greater than the sum of its parts. By allowing you to easily identify questions they would like a respondent to elaborate on, or even screen people for participation in online focus groups or product testing. Quantitative online surveys provide a very valuable addition to online qualitative research methods such as online focus groups.

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