According to the U.S. Census, from 2019 to 2021, the number of people working remotely nearly tripled. By 2025, it’s estimated that 36.2 million American employees will be working completely remotely. Sixty-five percent of people surveyed (in late 2022) said that they prefer to work from home, and while many have resumed life as “normal,” concerns about COVID, particularly regarding reinfection, remain.

What does all of this mean for market research?

It means the game has changed. 

Just as the days of 2-hour daily commutes, dressing to the nines for the office, and businesses spending thousands of dollars on rent for office space are dwindling, so too are the days of coordinating the schedules of 12 individuals to come to a physical office space for a focus group discussion, participants commuting an hour each way to get there and back home, and micing up participants while client observers watch from behind the one-way mirror.

So, what has replaced many traditional, in-person focus groups or in-depth interviews? 

Online/virtual focus groups and in-depth interviews now offer many benefits to participants, clients, and market research firms alike. Read on to learn about some of these benefits.

Benefits of Conducting Online Qualitative Research 

With the shift from conducting qualitative research in-person in a controlled, physical setting to online/virtual settings, a lot has changed. Many clients want to know – what are the benefits of the new normal? What makes online qualitative research better for clients and participants?

Some of the benefits of conducting online qualitative research include:

  • It’s more convenient for everyone – In research conducted by Limelight Insights with clients, research participants, and professional moderators, we found that the number one advantage is convenience.
    • Convenient for research participants – Participants aren’t commuting to a research facility so they can more easily select a time that works with their schedule, and they do not need to factor in any additional travel time. Because of this, show rates are higher and fewer participants show up late to their research session since they simply need to hop online. 
    • Convenient for you (clients and moderators) – Not only do participants no longer need to commute to a research facility, neither do you! While you won’t get to enjoy M&M’s in the back room, you can still get a “back room experience” when conducting groups online (if you choose a market research partner with the right online platform). In fact, you can have or host more client observers in an online environment than you can squeeze into a physical back room. The Limelight Insights proprietary online qualitative platform allows hundreds of clients to have a secure place to gather and discuss what’s going on during their research sessions, all from the comfort of their own homes or offices.  
  • It’s much easier to recruit from a national sample of participants: No more geographical constraints. No more speaking only to people in your local area. No more traveling to different cities or markets to conduct your research. With a talented recruiter that offers in-house recruiting from a national database, you can rest assured that you’ll recruit a group of participants that meets your study needs and objectives. 
  • If you contract with an experienced market research consultant, the data quality of online qualitative research is equal to that of research conducted in-person: In the study we conducted with research stakeholders and participants on the value of online qualitative market research, neither group noted any significant differences in the quality of data gleaned from online versus in-person groups/interviews. More convenient and equal data quality? Win, win! 
  • Online qualitative research may reduce the cost of data collection and time to recruit: Not only is it more convenient, but it can also be more affordable to conduct online market research. Without the added costs of feeding your participants a snack or meal during an in-person session, and potentially lower incentives as participants don’t need to travel to and from a research facility, you can save on costs. It can also take less time to recruit participants as they don’t need to factor in commuting time or procuring childcare when scheduling a time that works for them. 
  • It’s a real and authentic experience: Chatting with and observing research participants in their own homes and offices provides a more natural environment in which to conduct your market research. Some even report that they feel more comfortable participating in research in an online setting, especially when it comes to discussing sensitive topics such as aging or health. 
  • Moderator tools allow for instantaneous feedback: Online moderator tools such as polls and mark-up exercises collate participant feedback in real-time to provide moderators with instantaneous feedback that can inform intelligent follow-up probes allowing a deep dive into key topic areas. 
  • You can more clearly interpret facial expressions: With webcams providing a close-up of each participant’s face, clients and moderators can observe facial expressions to get a great read of someone’s true emotions related to a particular topic. 

Plus many more!

Are There Any Drawbacks to Conducting Online Qualitative Research?

Online qualitative research from Limelight Insights

While online is the new normal and advantages abound, there are potential drawbacks to conducting online qualitative research.

Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn more about the potential drawbacks of conducting online qualitative research and how the right market research partner can help overcome them. We will also highlight a few instances when in-person qualitative research may be the preferred methodology. 

Get Help With Conducting Your Online Qualitative Market Research

Just like working from home and flex work schedules are here to stay, so too is online qualitative market research. With advantages for both you and potential participants, it’s important that you consider online qualitative market research when planning your next research project. It’s equally important that you find a market research partner that has the know-how and ability to effectively recruit for, monitor, and conduct high-quality, online qualitative market research. The full-service team at Limelight Insights can do just that. 

With a top-notch field-service team that’s able to identify and recruit the right participants for your research project and manage the online components of your groups or interviews, and a full-service team of consultants with years of experience in online research session design and moderation, Limelight Insights can help ensure your online market research project is flawlessly executed. For your next online market research initiative, look to Limelight Insights. Call (240) 380-1500 or email