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  • Writer's pictureKaylie Dugan

How to Transition from Traditional to Online Qualitative Research

Online Qualitative Research

In today’s ever-evolving digital world, more and more businesses are turning to online qualitative research for their data collection needs. Compared to the traditional methods of in-person strategies, recruiting participants from around the globe virtually can provide rich insights into customer behavior that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to discover. But transitioning from in-person to virtual qualitative research isn’t without its downsides; as with any new process, there are various challenges--from technical security risks to practical considerations such as adequate training and maintenance costs--that must be considered before successfully integrating a workflow into your strategy. In this blog post, we will outline some of the most important benefits and challenges you should consider when taking your qualitative research program from in-person approaches out onto the web.


The world is constantly evolving and adapting to new technologies. Research methods have also undergone significant changes over the years, with the emergence of online qualitative research being one of the most impactful. The advantages of conducting research this way are undeniable, both for researchers and participants. This type of research is more flexible, convenient, and cost-effective, making it an appealing alternative to traditional methods. Additionally, the anonymity of virtual research encourages everyone to be more open and honest in their questions and answers. Researchers can easily collect qualitative data from different parts of the world, leading to a wider, more diverse pool of respondents. Virtual qualitative research allows for a more comprehensive analysis of data, leading to informed decision-making and better outcomes. The benefits are numerous and will continue to drive innovation in the field of research and allow businesses to better serve their customers.


As the world becomes increasingly connected through technology, the world of research is also shifting towards online platforms. While online qualitative research can be a viable option for many market researchers and clients, it also comes with its own set of unique challenges. One of the most significant challenges is building trust and rapport with participants through a digital medium. Without face-to-face interactions, it can be difficult to establish a connection and ensure everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences. Additionally, technological issues such as connectivity and platform reliability can impact the smooth running of the research process. Ultimately, navigating these challenges requires researchers to be flexible, adaptable, and vigilant in their approach.

Taking it online

With the rise of technology and the ongoing pandemic, many qualitative researchers are now considering taking their work online. Luckily, there are a variety of traditional in-person qualitative research methods that can successfully be conducted through online platforms.

Web interviews are a popular method of conducting qualitative research online. Through platforms such as Zoom, or Google Meet, researchers can conduct interviews with respondents remotely from anywhere in the world. Web interviews are a convenient and cost-effective way of collecting data, as researchers do not need to travel and can easily record and transcribe the interviews for analysis. Web interviews also allow for nonverbal communication to be observed, which can provide additional insights into the participant's thoughts and feelings as they answer questions.

Mobile diaries and mobile ethnography are methods of collecting qualitative data through the use of mobile devices. In mobile diaries, participants record their daily experiences, thoughts, and feelings through their mobile devices, providing market researchers with an intimate look into their daily lives. Mobile ethnography involves taking photos, videos, and/or audio recordings of their experiences and surroundings, allowing researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the participant's culture and environment.

Online bulletin boards are a unique method of conducting qualitative research online. Participants engage with each other and with researchers on a discussion board, responding to prompts and engaging in conversations. These bulletin boards allow for asynchronous communication, meaning people can respond on their own time, making it a convenient method for busy participants. Researchers can also observe how people interact with each other, providing additional insights into group dynamics.

Social media tracking/listening involves tracking and analyzing social media conversations and posts related to a particular topic. Social media can provide a wealth of data, as people are often candid and open about their thoughts and feelings online. By analyzing social media conversations, market researchers can gain insights into public opinion, attitudes, and behaviors related to a particular topic.

Online chats and focus groups are similar to traditional in-person focus groups but conducted online. Participants interact with each other and with researchers in real time, sharing their thoughts and opinions on a particular topic. Online chats and focus groups can be particularly useful for those who may not be able to attend an in-person focus group or who prefer the anonymity that online communication provides.

Tools to Use

The current global climate has forced us to shift towards online research methods. Qualitative research, which is known to be heavily reliant on face-to-face interactions, is now being conducted online. To conduct an effective virtual qualitative research study, one must have the right tools at their disposal. Tools such as online focus group software, video conferencing platforms, and transcription software are essential for carrying out qualitative research online. These means enable researchers to collect data remotely, maintain confidentiality, and analyze data efficiently.

Another option that can be beneficial for online research is data visualization software. Data visualization software can help researchers analyze and present their data in a clear and concise manner. This can be especially useful when presenting findings to stakeholders or when publishing reports.

Collaboration tools such as project management software and shared document platforms can also be useful. These allow researchers to collaborate with each other and with participants in real time, making it easier to collect and analyze data.

Finally, it is important to consider the security and privacy of participant data when conducting virtual qualitative research. Tools such as password-protected platforms and encrypted communication methods can help ensure confidentiality.

Overall, utilizing the appropriate means for virtual qualitative research can help researchers conduct effective and accurate studies in a virtual environment. By choosing the right tools and ensuring the security and privacy of data, researchers can overcome the limitations posed by physical distance and continue to gather valuable insights.

Tips for Facilitating an Effective Research Session

In today's modern world, conducting online qualitative research has become a more prevalent mode of collecting insightful information. The success of these interviews, however, is highly dependent on the quality of the facilitation. A skilled facilitator can foster an environment that encourages respondents to open up, share their experiences, and ultimately provide rich data. To ensure an effective session, it is imperative to consider several factors, such as choosing the appropriate platform, using well-designed conversation guides, engaging with everyone beforehand, and continuously monitoring and adapting throughout the entire session. When done correctly, the results can uncover invaluable insights.


To conclude, online qualitative research is a great option for those wishing to gain insight into their target demographic without having to physically meet with them. By using the right types of tools to enable an effective research session, businesses and individuals can remain competitive in the market due to their ability to interact directly with their customers without sacrificing the quality of research. Additionally, despite its potential challenges such as coding data and ensuring the confidentiality of respondents, when done properly and with the right resources, this type of research provides organizations with all the necessary information they need in order to understand their customers more deeply, as well as provide services that are tailored toward their needs. The benefits that come from transitioning traditional qualitative research methods from in-person to online are endless. Choose an experienced market research company, like Driven to Succeed, LLC, to help you make that move. For help getting started, contact Driven to Succeed LLC today.


Driven to Succeed is an award-winning global market research and consulting firm that compliments data (the “what”) with empathetic research and conversations (the “why”) to uncover actionable insights so mid-market companies and Fortune 500 brands can innovate and grow. Our team has walked a mile in your shoes with over 100 years of experience in Market Research, Marketing, and P&L Management for global iconic brands and startup companies across diverse B2B and B2C industries. Learn more at

Answers to your Online Qualitative Research Questions

Q: What is qualitative research?

A: Qualitative research is a method of gathering insights and understanding of people's attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and experiences through non-numerical data such as text, images, audio, and video.

Q: What is online qualitative research?

A: Online qualitative research is a method that uses the internet and digital technologies to conduct qualitative research studies. It involves collecting data through platforms such as video conferencing, online surveys, social media, email, and messaging apps, allowing researchers to reach respondents remotely and collect data in a virtual environment.

Q: How do I conduct online qualitative research?

A: To conduct online qualitative research, researchers can use a variety of digital tools and platforms such as surveys, video conferencing, email, messaging apps, social media, and virtual focus groups. They should identify the appropriate means for their question and objectives, and take steps to ensure the security and privacy of data. Researchers should also be aware of the potential limitations of this sort of research, such as technological issues or difficulties building rapport with respondents remotely.

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