Online market research – an agile method for delivering rich, relevant and actionable insights

Today there are numerous digital solutions (some more agile than others) for conducting online market research projects. However, it is not always easy to see clearly, target and choose the most appropriate providers, methods and tools able to achieve one’s objectives.

Qualitative online market research had a promising beginning… but it was soon criticized and perceived as rather impractical, not easy to implement and not necessarily cheaper than classic qual.

When the online market research platforms began to appear in the 2000s, they presented themselves as being particularly innovative, convenient and practical. The main benefits highlighted were cost reduction (for travel and logistics) and the possibility of running several simultaneous fieldworks in different countries, replacing the “classic” qualitative studies practiced previously ­– mainly focus groups and face-to-face interviews.

Companies were promised online studies with hyper-motivated consumers, willing to spend hours behind their computer screens to answer many questions and fill in several templates and diaries over a significant period of time, and whose answers contractors could read remotely.

A few years later, after the first waves of this type of projects, marketing professionals, research agencies and corporate companies measured the limits of these early tools and approaches:

– Recruitment was long and difficult because, at the time, consumers were not as comfortable with new technologies as they are today; in addition, the connection process requiring many clicks coupled with the discovery by the consumer of the too long list of questions asked were discouraging. This generated a much higher drop-out rate than recruitment for a “classic” fieldwork

– The different platforms designed for online market research were not always very intuitive nor ergonomic; it was sometimes a struggle for the consumer to log in and fill in the tasks; customer/observer follow-up was not intuitive enough; finally, the moderator needed a considerable amount of time and technical support to properly set up his project

– These first platforms could experience computer bugs that complicated the flow of the online fieldwork

– Photo and video upload was very limited (few photos, small size and average quality, almost no video)

– The length of the online fieldwork was rather long (7 to 14 days) in order to give consumers the opportunity to reflect and answer in detail all the questions, if possible by adding pictures to illustrate their thoughts

– The synthesis and analysis processes were long also because the exports of the data collected were slow. The analyst had to process dozens and hundreds of pages of verbatim that were almost not at all filtered nor organized.

As a result, interest in online market research had not really been validated.

Then, in the 2010s, there was a transition period during which a real IT work of optimization of the user experience was carried out. Online market research platforms have become more user-friendly for consumers but also for moderators, analysts and clients.

Significant improvements have been made to make it easier and faster for participants to connect from any device: computer, tablet and/or smartphone. Because the digital and mobile industry had known a considerable development.

Filtering and segmenting options for different targets have been added or optimized for a more detailed and accurate analysis for each segment.

Live follow-up of the participation rate, immediate accessibility to participants’ responses were also facilitated in order to allow clients to smoothly follow the study remotely and moderators to more easily interact with participants. While at the very beginning of online studies additional probes to the initial questionnaire were not a priority, over time, the systems and platforms dedicated to online market research have worked a lot to improve this aspect. When running a qual project, it is essential to enable moderators to probe when they encounter incomplete or inaccurate answers, to ask for additional information from less active consumers.

Data storage capacity has been increased, ergonomics and data confidentiality have been improved. So that participants can express themselves freely via text, images or videos on a single platform. Thus, the moderator-analyst could centralize all types of information (without having to use other channels for large-format photos and videos for example).

Over time, these early online crowdsourcing platforms aimed at better understanding consumer habits, uses and attitudes have offered specific add-ons such as mark-up, mapping tool, drag and drop, simultaneous translation, picture book to differentiate themselves from the competition. These new features have been added in addition to those common to most providers: blog, newspaper, forum / collective discussion space, individual questionnaire, chat. They allow corporate companies to obtain a detailed evaluation of the products and/or services ideas and concepts before or after the market launch.

In the last 3-4 years or so, a new era of online market research has begun with fundamental changes in structure, content and aesthetics.

In recent years new technologies have significantly evolved and have fully penetrated into our lives: they have impacted all activities and professions and have inexorably changed the way a large part of the population lives, communicates, buys or works. Indeed, many people no longer picture their lives without a Smartphone or an account on at least one social network. Digital transformation and innovation affect most businesses, regardless of their size. Big data, social-listening, ethnographic qual research on mobile or online platforms have become common in many sectors to collect inspiring attitudinal and behavioral insights to nourish strategic thinking, communications, product development or operational marketing.

Today, online studies are no longer perceived only as a basic alternative solution to “classic qual (with people physically present in the same room)”, as a module added out of curiosity nor as a first step towards digitalization, as it was the case 10 years ago. Also, online research is not used anymore for testing only.

Co-creating with consumers, step-by-step co-construction and design-thinking approaches (getting to deeply know your target, listening to its needs, identifying its most important problems, formulating hypotheses to meet its needs, testing them, learning, then testing again, learning and optimizing) are commonplace in most companies, research firms and marketing agencies. Immersive phases in the consumer universe during key moments, alternation between individual and collective exchanges and collection of various data from different sources (ethnographic interviews, creative labs or validation/optimization face-to-face groups, online or mobile platforms, social networks, Internet reviews, press) are being mixed and matched in order to create methodological processes that give a broader view on the research subject and objective.

Currently, when designing a research / innovation / exploration process, insight consultants and agencies no longer recommend conducting a quant phase to begin with and then a qualitative step to investigate deeper certain aspects, or vice versa (qual then quant). This era is over. Nowadays the recommendation would be similar to the following approach:

– Start with a social listening module, coupled with a blog or an online diary to understand consumer journeys, to explore trends, uses & attitudes and collect rich content,

– in a second phase, several hypotheses / concepts / prototypes will be shaped,

– then, they will be Quant tested and will be prioritized,

– and finally, the ideas with the greatest potential will be selected by the marketing teams in order to be improved and finalized with the consumers’ help.

Last but not least, the development of new technologies also enables researchers and insight consultants to shorten logistics and recruitment times. For instance, when one has difficulties in finding certain specific target profiles through the traditional approach, recruitment can be done faster and astutely via social networks. In addition, it is also possible to carry out several fieldworks simultaneously in different countries without significantly lengthening the duration of the project. Marketing automation tools, AI and chat bots have enabled this and so much more.

Extremely interesting, hybrid and agile future perspectives for online research

In the years to come, hybrid online research projects (Qual-Quant but also Qual+Social Listening+Desk Research) will be increasingly valued. The barriers between more “traditional” and innovative methods, between purely Qual and purely Quant studies, between online and face-to-face methods will gradually blur and will tend to disappear. This will happen mostly because of the agility of this type of approach, but also because of their ability to be easily integrated into more complex innovation processes.

The extent of co-development, of immersion in the universe of a certain category of the population, of conversation and connection with consumers at a deeper psychological, sociological and emotional level will be much higher. Thus the word “study” in itself will probably become too vague and obsolete. There will be more exploration and the consumer-citizens will actively participate in building a more humane, environmentally friendly and more conversational future society built on trust.

In this context, from a decision-making facilitation perspective, the online projects will become particularly agile, relevant and efficient. This will be enabled by the development of new technologies, of automation tools that facilitate the exchanges between several people, by the improvement of the targeting possibilities, the improvement of the visualization tools of the collected data, but also by the ability of the next-generation marketing consultants to juggle all these new tools and solutions to solve business challenges.

Tomorrow’s online marketing platforms will enable the emergence of new products and services increasingly more in line with the real consumer expectations. How? By co-constructing meaningful and virtuous solutions in order to diminish the sense of guilt and the current paradoxes. The economy of tomorrow will be made up of sustainable and economically viable solutions with a positive impact both on the environment and the society.

> For more information on the benefits of online qual for innovation, please read this post:

> Here you will also find the best practices to set up a successful online qualitative study:

> To be updated with LIVELY INSIGHTS news, you can follow Andreea FAUCHILLE’s LinkedIn account


Why online communities are ideal for innovation

The 4 main reasons to choose online communities when working on innovation projects

Online communities with consumers (also known as online Qual research) represent an agile solution, very rich in meaningful insights. Especially when working on marketing & innovation projects.

Below you will find the reasons why online Qual research and online communities are particularly suitable for innovation:

1/ Rich content & great modularity

> Allowing to:

– favor in-depth understanding in terms of uses / attitudes / customer journeys,

– illustrate typologies & work on personas,

– dig deep into the “why” or “why not »,

– but also find inspiration and co-create with consumers.

Indeed, the iterative “test & learn” approach, the possibility to adjust / adapt the “questioning” along the way, the possibility to have several stages of interrogation (according to the project / product / service development phase) make online Qual perfect for innovating with consumers or ensuring internally the project follow-up.

2/ Ability to easily be integrated into larger work processes

> A methodology that can take place over a longer or shorter period of time (depending on the needs).  And which can be articulated perfectly with strategic / innovation workshops and / or quantitative studies and / or in-depth interviews / group meetings.

3/ A pleasant user experience

> Whether used internally with the project members and / or externally with consumers and / or influencers (at a worldwide scale), the user experience when using online platforms is intuitive and pleasant today:

– Ergonomic & attractive design,

– Fluid navigation,

– Easy connection,

– Clear questioning structure.

4/ Possibility to choose among a variety of agile online tools

> Many attractive and easy-to-use tools (free and / or paid) can meet the different project objectives. Indeed, several independent online platforms exist and offer various features to orchestrate meaningful and fluid conversations.


>> For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us and send an email.


Key rules for a successful online qual research project

The key success factors for an online qual research project according to LIVELY INSIGHTS

Online qual research is an agile solution for running market research projects loaded with powerful meaningful insights. However, in order for the online qual research project to succeed, there are several rules that need to be respected:

1/ A modular platform, ergonomic, easy to use and available in local language

> Indeed, it is mandatory that all community members understand well  the questions and can naturally & easily answer them.

2/ The right design, structure, duration, language and questions for the online community… in line with both consumer behavior and brands objectives and expectations

> The tasks outline and questions formulation from an online qual platform are not the same as in a classic face-to-face group. Several adjustments are required.

> It is also very important to take note of the fact that even though online qual research seems to be able to answer all sorts of needs and objectives (usage, client experience, customer journey, product / service test, brand perception, communications tests, issues related to specific targets or age groups), online qual research isn’t always a good replacement for traditional qual methods.

3/ A quality recruitment with a highly motivated target able to post several thoughts, ideas and images

> Participants need to be familiar with digital tools & platforms and be available. If not, there is a great risk of project abandon.

> They also need to be a little bit creative and willing to speak up in order to avoid deceptive flat results.

4/ A moderator-analyst able to create a warm and trustworthy relationship with consumers and who interacts with each participant in order to ensure content richness and answers relevance / quality

> For a successful online qual research project, it is mandatory to have a hybrid profile moderator/analyst. This way, he/she will be able to be actively involved, read each participant answers and probe when necessary (in case of unclear / incomplete answers).

5/ A both in-depth & synthetic / operational  analysis that exploits the content richness without however losing sight of the final strategic and business objectives

> Online qual research communities can source a large amount of interesting verbatim, ideas, thoughts and pictures. But it is highly required to sort them out, organize them, analyse them and put them into perspective versus the company’s needs. An exhaustive inventory without the business contextualization may not always help the marketing teams move forward with their projects.


>> For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us and send an email.


Les caractéristiques d’une étude qualitative online réussie

Les facteurs clés de succès d’une étude qualitative online selon LIVELY INSIGHTS

Le quali online est une solution agile pour des études marketing riches en insights. Mais pour qu’une étude qualitative online soit réussie, plusieurs conditions doivent être réunies :

1/ Une plateforme modulable, ergonomique, facile d’utilisation et disponible en langue locale

> En effet, il est nécessaire que les membres de la communauté puissent bien comprendre les questions et s’exprimer facilement et naturellement.

2/ Un design du questionnement avec la bonne structure, durée, langage… en phase à la fois avec les comportements des consommateurs, mais aussi avec les objectifs et les attentes des marques

> La formulation et l’organisation des questions sur une plateforme online ne sont pas les mêmes que celles d’un groupe quali classique. De nombreux changements sont à opérer.

> Il est également important de savoir que même si les études qualitatives online semblent convenir à tout type de thème et problématique (usage, expérience client, parcours d’achat, test de produit / service, innovation, fond de marque, test de communication, problématiques liées à certaines cibles ou à un âge spécifique), en réalité le quali online ne remplace pas toujours les études qualitatives classiques en face à face.

3/ Un recrutement de qualité et une communauté motivée et « bavarde avec les mots et les images »

> Si les participants ne sont pas familiers avec les outils digitaux et/ou peu disponibles, le risque de chute/abandon est très élevé.

> Ils doivent aussi être un minimum créatifs et expansifs pour que le projet ne soit pas décevant.

4/ Un animateur-analyste capable de créer une atmosphère conviviale et de confiance , qui interagit avec chaque participant afin d’assurer la qualité et richesse des réponses

> Il est indispensable pour la réussite du projet de communauté online d’avoir un profil hybride animateur/analyste  qui est actif et relit l’ensemble des réponses postées par les participants de manière à pouvoir les relancer lorsque les réponses sont incomplètes ou pas claires.

5/ Une analyse à la fois poussée, synthétique et opérationnelle qui exploite la richesse du contenu fourni sans pour autant perdre de vue les objectifs stratégiques & enjeux business

> Les communautés online permettent de recueillir une quantité impressionnante de verbatims, idées et/ou visuels. Mais il est essentiel de les organiser, trier, analyser et contextualiser par rapport aux besoins des entreprises. Une mise à plate exhaustive ne fait pas toujours avancer les choses.


>> Pour plus d’informations, n’hésitez pas à envoyer votre demande et nous contacter.


International Online Qual

Our International & Online Qual Approach

LIVELY INSIGHTS is a company that specializes in:





In the process of creating innovating brands and products, our team of senior consultants and partners use ethnographic immersive consumer research. To uncover meaningful insights and relevant emotional unmet needs. This can be done through face-to-face methods (consumer interviews, home safaris, group reunions, shopper interviews, interviews with experts, ethnographic observation and filming). But also using versatile, agile and user-friendly online platforms and technologies.

What does LIVELY INSIGHTS stand for?

• Innovation • Brand strategy • International Qualitative Consumer Research • Online communities •

Iterative “test & learn” approach with longer deeper interactions

• Sharpness • Reactivity • Agility • Collaboration / Co-creation • Quality •

Valuable and vivid insights sourced in the real world able to nourish strategic thinking for blooming brands offering innovative and meaningful products and services.

At LIVELY INSIGHTS, we believe in online qual consumer research as it is more convenient and provides a great richness in terms of insights and visual elements.

More info about the main advantages of running online qual here:

> You can download here a short presentation of our methodology and approach: Short presentation of Lively Insights.

International Online Qual Research

If you are looking for a trustworthy partner to run your next online qual research project, you are in the right place.

> LIVELY INSIGHTS offers quality project management, moderation & analysis. And the online platform used is intuitive, very user-friendly and available in more than 30 languages.

Online qual is ideal for:
– understanding the mindset of your targets and deep-diving into their intimacy,
– exploring their habits and obtaining rich meaningful insights & illustrations regarding different customer segments,
– testing products / concepts / ideas in real conditions and doing home diaries,
– co-creating with consumers and searching for inspiration,
– map customer journeys.

Why opt for online qual (vs traditional qualitative research projects)?

1/ An immersive, personal and yet less intrusive approach providing rich emotional insights

People feel at ease and choose the best moments for them to answer the questions. Thus they deliver several real insights. Since they are comfortably installed at home, in a familiar atmosphere, they are inclined to tell us more about their lives and habits. The platform becomes their personal online intimate diary. Where they share intimate thoughts, feelings and emotions.

An online platform that lasts several days gives consumers the opportunity to add information on a day to day basis. They can also enrich the answers from the previous days for instance as they complete the different sections.

Respondents are able to use different media to answer questions: text but also pictures, videos, Internet links.

2/ Convenience & less geographical constraints

Ability to interact with a wider number of people on a short or long period of time.

People from remote areas can participate to the customizable tasks adapted to online communities.

Consumers are able to answer from their mobile or their laptop / computer / tablet at the most suitable moments for them.

Possibility to create mini-groups and have specific tasks or questions dedicated to particular targets.

Online research can also help identify high potential consumers to be contacted for deeper understanding on a specific subject.

3/ Quantified Qual

Mix of Qual & Quant > the power of numbers.

Possibility to exchange with a great number of people and briefly quantify their reactions.

4/ Client friendliness

Non-stop access to the customizable online platform during the entire project duration and no need to travel.

Live access to the data consumers provide and ability to follow on a daily basis the evolution of the project at the most convenient moment.

Clients can add specific probes and the online moderator can prompt consumers just as he/she would do in a group to have more information regarding an incomplete/unclear answer.

> You can ask for more info or a quotation here: