Using digital qualitative methods in the time of Covid-19

Jun 15, 2020 |3 min read
digital qualitative methods

While the world remains in varying states of lockdown, 2CV's experience and toolkit of digital qualitative methods have risen to the challenge of meeting the needs of our clients. 2CV has been working with digital and online methods for the last 10 years, we have over 150 digital research projects under our belt, for over 60 global clients; we have a clear sense of the benefits (and the drawbacks!) of digital approaches and how best to apply them.

Digital methods are not a 'replacement' for face to face approaches long term, for us, it is always about using the right tool for the job. And right now, when face to face qual is a challenge, digital tools provide a range of solutions we can use to engage participants around the world. 

digital qualitative methods

Whilst digital methods are certainly very popular right now, for obvious reasons - they have some clear benefits in their own right. As we all look to the future, post crisis - digital methods allow us to leverage leading edge tech to enable people to be creative in their participation, uncover hidden behavioural insights and allow clients to get up close and personal (virtually, obviously) with insights as they unfold.


Digital qualitative methods...

...provide depth at scale

Gathering large groups of people in a digital environment, (be it an online community or diary study) - can provide the depth of a face to face interview on a large scale, in a cost efficient way. Each respondent can answer at a time that works for them, so it's ideal for audiences who are time poor and hard to reach. We know from experience that respondents enjoy the digital community experience and give us a wealth of insight during the project as a result. Great for clients that need projects delivered at pace, with a geographically diverse group of people…


...give universal reach

A long-held misconception about digital methods, is that they are only appropriate for younger digital native audiences. Whilst, a few years ago this may have been true, these days digital methods help us reach pretty much anyone, anywhere with internet coverage or a smartphone. We can speak to people from every demographic across the globe; from young digital natives to old(er) silver surfers, city dwellers to country villagers, continentals and islanders, we are able to reach them all.


...are closer to real-time decision making

It is not just one off, ad hoc, or moment in time pieces that work for digital qualitative methods, they are great for longitudinal work too. Digital diaries allow us the ability to document behaviour, in real time, as behaviours are happening, removing the issue of post rationalization and memory bias in our results. We can also use digital diary entries as talk points, reminders of what respondents did and when, to probe deeper in follow up depth interviews and uncover the 'why' behind the behaviour.


...offer the ability to tackle even the most sensitive topics

Every topic and research objective is best suited to different methodologies; some are best tackled digitally, others face to face and some in combination. But one thing we have learnt over time, is that even the most delicate of topics can be explored with sensitivity and honesty digitally. In a digital space, respondents are given the privacy, time and space that ensures that they are completely at ease and comfortable when answering deeply personal questions. On several occasions our participants have thanked us for taking part in studies and for giving them the opportunity to discuss a topic with us. For some, the experience can even be quite therapeutic, having a positive impact on their lives - whoever said research can't change lives? 


...provide time to get creative

Engaging respondents digitally is key to the success of any project and we are now at a place where the range of tools we can use to ask, and answer research questions is vast. Gone are the days of just receiving text responses to our questions; useful as they were, they often lacked the context of body language and tone of voice we were used to in our face to face approaches, making analysis more complex. Now, we can show respondents audio and video clips to test products or communications, use interactive question types previously reserved for surveys and receive selfie videos as an answer to any question - just to mention a few! Flexible question and answer response types mean respondents can give us their feedback in the most natural way possible to them. Which in turn, gives us a rich amount of multimedia context to draw on for analysis and to bring our insights to life for clients.


...allow clients to get in on the action

Possibly one of the greatest benefits of digital qualitative methods for clients, is the ability for them to watch insights unfold and join in the discussion. Clients can log into digital platforms to see responses in real time, giving them a virtual window into people's lives. Not only allowing them to get closer to their customers, but also to feed into discussions as they happen in real time through moderators or direct with the respondents themselves. Our digital package offers a transparent system that enables clients to be as involved in a project as they'd like, making it easier than ever to embed insights across an entire insight team to drive action as a result.

We've highlighted a few key benefits of digital methods here, but there are many more we could have mentioned and are yet to discover on our digital journey. We look forward to seeing face to face methods return in the near future, but until then we know our clients' needs can be well looked after with our digital tools. And, we relish the boost in interest and use of digital methods in the current climate, debunking some long-held myths about digital research and opening new avenues for digital exploration.