Bolt Insight | The Digitalisation of Qualitative Market Research
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What Is Shaping the Future of Qualitative Market Research?

When it comes to making informed decisions, qualitative research goes one step further than just explaining surface whens or whats.  It evaluates and uncovers the ‘uncountables’ – and enables researchers to get actionable insights through answering the underlying hows and whys of consumer behaviour, purchase decisions, and intrinsic motivations.

As digitalisation has become increasingly more prominent in recent years with the advancement of technology, qualitative research has seen its share of innovations. These transformations have in turn enabled researchers to conduct effective and large scale qualitative data research in the virtual world.

But how is digitalisation transforming qualitative market research? Why do marketers need online research tools? Are digital methods promising enough to collect and analyse people’s opinions, attitudes, and impressions? 

In this article, we’ll deep dive into the future of qualitative research and uncover the answers to these key questions.

A Broad Look at the Digitalization of Qualitative Market Research

Before examining the reasons behind the digital transformation of qual research, let’s take a closer look at what online qualitative research actually is. 

According to The Association for Qualitative Research, qualitative research refers specifically to forms of qual research conducted online instead of face-to-face or via phone. Its methods include online surveys, focus groups, chatbots, in-depth interviews, observations, bulletin boards, and social media tracking or listening. 

Despite the concept still being fairly new, online qualitative research has been around since the turn of the millennium, and has been making the research process more flexible and adaptable to the needs of specific market studies.

However, its adaptation to the digital age has only started accelerating in the last few years – largely due to emerging changes in the use of technology, data processing, and consumer behaviours. This acceleration of adoption has been primarily driven by a number of key factors:

1. Pandemic Driven Increases in Screen-Based Practices

During the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, people had to adapt the way they worked, studied, and communicated – turning to more socially distanced forms of remote working and zoom based meet-ups.

agile working and zoom meetings from home or office

In fact, screen time increased by 76% on a global scale during the pandemic, turning communication through digital channels into the new normal. Since then, online research has been filling a key gap for researchers by enabling them to contact target customers without travelling or relying on direct face-to-face communications. 

In 2020, the utilisation of online focus groups increased by 20% and online in-depth interviews increased by 12%. In addition to that, the online market research survey industry is expected to annually grow more than 16% through 2026. The data shows online methods will become increasingly more significant for companies when collecting customer feedback and guiding their marketing campaigns in the years ahead.

2. Researchers Needed to Go Beyond Geographical Barriers

Traditional qual research methods are limited to conducting research in nearby or easily accessible locations. Over time, this has generally resulted in researchers repeatedly collecting their market insights from the same places or only in urban, more easily accessible and populous areas. 

But today’s researchers need to go beyond the usual demographics and customer bases and reach fresh participants to gather more inclusive information, keep up with the competition, and uncover the opportunities when entering new target markets.

Online methods allow researchers to deploy multiple studies simultaneously and gain worldwide insights easily. This is a significant contribution to any market research study as it expands the global reach of the research and helps companies to release products or services that respond to and keep up with urgent changes or trends in multiple market segments.

3. Customers Became More Tech-Savvy

Accounting for 40% of the global consumer population overall, Gen Zers are one of the biggest groups of consumers in the global market. Despite baby boomers still holding the buying power, Gen Zers are likely to exceed them in the next two years.

Group of friends, GenZ checking their phones standing in the street

These young adults have never known a life without the internet, and they habitually use online channels to work, socialise, buy and look for the products and services they need. They’re also eager to interact with companies or brands through multiple digital channels

The Gen-Z customer base holds significant potential for marketers to reach a rich source of data through social media channels, conducting online market surveys, or concept testing research for winning innovations.

Considering these qualitative research trends, conducting an engaging online qualitative research study is crucial for marketers or brands to get the best out of qual practices.

That’s why at Bolt, we provide our partners with the revolutionary human and tech platform Bolt Chat. Our real-time digital market research platform offers a seamless, behavioural and direct connection with target customers and creates an engaging, gamified experience to keep hyper-targeted, high-quality audiences at your fingertips.

Sounds exciting, right? Let’s partner up to turn your company into a consumer engine with a holistic platform that includes all the actionable insights!

Discover Bolt Chat!

Marketing person using an online qualitative market research survey tool



The Benefits of Online Qualitative Research

Online qual research has gained worldwide acceptance as a transformative research innovation because it’s a cost-effective way to reach wider audiences and conduct more sophisticated research studies. In addition, there are numerous benefits online qual offers to brands, researchers, and marketers.

1. Deeper Emotive Responses

Online qual research offers a less invasive and engaging experience than the traditional one, with participants feeling more comfortable answering survey questions or communicating with researchers.

Additionally, today’s customers are more comfortable with sharing their experiences, intimate thoughts, and feelings through digital platforms. Therefore, online research tools are ideal for capturing instant responses seamlessly and gaining a deeper understanding of customer satisfaction, experience, or ideas through leveraging technology.

2. Time Efficiency

Simply put, online qual research can be completed in a shorter timeframe than traditional in-person methods, as participants or researchers do not need to travel to a specific location.

Online market research also enables researchers or marketers to conduct qualitative research 24/7 from virtually anywhere in the world and transfer, analyse, and store collected data quickly and easily.

3. Increased Flexibility

Online research allows mutual communication through a variety of digital methods and tools, such as video conferencing, screen sharing, chatbots, bulletin boards, and online surveys to facilitate the research process. 

As it can be conducted anytime or anywhere, it can also be perfect for reaching respondents with busy schedules. Both these factors can improve the flexibility and adaptability of a study for both participants and researchers.

4. Enhanced Data Collection

During the online research process, participants can contribute to market research questions or processes by providing additional pieces of photos or video footage, short texts, and diaries. 

At the same time, researchers can access large sample sizes and big data through social media listening, including customer reviews or social media tools – enhancing and expanding the quantity and quality of collected data and potential for gathering answers and insights.


We Are Here to Help You Get Actionable Insights!

We know that online qual research is now essential for marketers and researchers to collect high-quality data in a more convenient and cost-effective way. With our comprehensive qualitative research solution, Bolt Chat, we are going one step further and enabling our partners to get consumer-validated data directly from real people in real time.

Whether you need to conduct market research for brand awareness, concept testing, or campaign tracking, together with Bolt Chat, you can choose your participants from real consumers, start chatting with them immediately, and connect for rich, actionable insights.

Discover the Human + Tech Identity Platform to Connect with Behaviourally Targeted, Hard-to-Reach Audiences for Actionable Insights!

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