The Changing Face of Qual

The Changing Face of Qual

Today’s Landscape

Today, results are needed in days, not weeks and while the demand for qualitative research is greater than ever the traditional ways of doing qualitative don’t always fit into the new landscape of agile development. The qualitative research industry has been disrupted due to technology, the current pandemic, and the emergence of social media and mobile especially. Costs have been reduced by new qualitative research approaches that in some cases exceed the quality of in-person research.

So where is qual moving to and what is the changing face of qual? We see three major opportunities, online, “in the moment” and immersive qual.

The Advantages of Online Qual

Here are just some of the advantages of today’s online qualitative research methods:

  1. Photos and video allow in the moment capture of in-situation experiences.
  2. The ability to talk with customers using social media over a several day period instead of just once.
  3. Automated tools allow a complete qualitative study to be completed in days instead of weeks.
  4. Flexibility to iterate within the same study, making changes to questions on the go as you learn.

Traditionally, qualitative research was used to answer any questions that quantitative couldn’t. Typically, a focus group would be used to ask the right questions and arrive at an answer. However, over the last 20 years, qualitative research has gone beyond simply understanding why customers feel a certain way and can now capture the context behind what’s influencing their opinions and decisions.  

The result is a deeper understanding of not only how customers feel but also why they are feeling the way they do. This also generates a deeper understanding of how the context of their environment makes them act in ways that are opposite to their attitudes and beliefs. Companies can then make better consumer-based decisions from everything from new products, brand positioning, packaging and planograms to in store signage and store layout. Also, more personalized products and experiences can be created by testing out ideas and early prototypes in the context of consumers lives.

Capturing in the Moment Feedback Through Video

For some time now, qualitative research apps combined with smartphones have enabled customers to provide more context to their experiences, so their answers are more reflective of their attitudes and behaviors. They can take pictures and video all within the app that can then be combined with quantitative findings to get even better results.

Here are 4 ways respondent online video plays an important role:

  1. Versatility – video can be used for many aspects of research including both purchase and usage behavior.
  2. Better Data – Respondents are more likely to answer truthfully if they are alone on video rather than in-person where their responses are more influenced by other participants.
  3. Brings results to life – major stakeholders are more likely to be engaged using video as it brings the results to life.

Online Immersive Qualitative

Explorer is using immersive qualitative research to bring environments to respondents online. This can be any environment from a store to a bank branch. Each respondent can have navigation control throughout the environment on an independent basis. We can also immerse the moderator into the online environment to conduct the discussion. This results in better qualitative discussions and provides the appropriate context for decision-making.      

Benefits to Stakeholders

Technology is rapidly changing online qualitative so agencies, brand managers and innovation teams can make better decisions. Here’s how:

  1. Providing a more comprehensive viewpoint – Qualitative can be combined with techniques for in-context photo/video sharing, one -on-one conversations, concept feedback and group discussions all in one place.
  2. Preventing the need for consensus research – Because new qual is faster and more affordable, teams no longer need to pick a winner based on little or no direct consumer feedback.
  3. Driving more low-risk decisions – Approaches can be quickly tested to find out what works and what does not before rolling out a larger study.
  4. Scalability – Proof of concept approaches can be benefited from right away instead of launching into some new, unproven, large, costly study right off the bat.


These new flexible approaches to qualitative research represent the next logical step in the evolution of marketing and product development. They are faster, more affordable, more flexible, and less risky than traditional approaches. The result is that companies can move forward with more confidence leaving every stakeholder happier in the end.

Explorer’s Online Immersive Qualitative Research Platform is a perfect example of how online qual is changing and combines many of the advantages mentioned above by bringing the store to the respondent. Contact us if you would like to learn more.

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