Mini Case Studies:
How is Internet-Based Qualitative Research Being Used?

Internet-based qualitative has many applications. Here are some brief summaries of actual qualitative studies conducted by over the Internet.

Early stage concept development.

An energy bar company wants to protect its share in an increasingly competitive environment by launching a relationship marketing program. Since a high percentage of category users are known to be active on the Web, one program being considered would make use of the Internet. To explore this possibility, two chat room focus groups were conducted with users of this brand from around the country to better understand their reactions to the general concept. Findings from these groups were used to develop more detailed program concepts which were later submitted to further evaluation in traditional focus groups.

Gaining access to busy decision-makers.

A telecommunications provider wants to understand the barriers to purchasing higher speed data lines among a particular business customer segment. Since these customers typically are experienced users of the Internet, decision-makers were recruited to participate in one of two bulletin-board focus groups. This methodology was selected to minimize the disruption in participant' schedules and allow them to communicate in a format they are already comfortable with (like e-mail). Each group lasted five consecutive business days, with new postings of questions from the moderator each morning. Across both groups, 20 were recruited, and only four had "dropped out" by the fifth day; thus, attrition was low.

Identifying marketing opportunities with young adult consumers.

A national fast food restaurant chain feels that its share of requirements among college students is low in one U.S. region. To develop some preliminary hypotheses about why this is occurring and what could be done about it, two chat room discussions were conducted. Chat room groups (rather than traditional groups) were selected because: 1) college students have ready access to the Internet, 2) recruitment would be easier since transportation to a focus group facility would not be required of the student, 3) students from across the region could be included in the groups, and 4) client travel to this distant region would be unnecessary.

Evaluating online advertising concepts.

A consumer package goods company wants to evaluate the impact of different interactive banner ad concepts for the Internet. Because the ads will appear on the Internet, it makes sense to evaluate them there, in their "natural environment." Consumers of the products being advertised were recruited to participate in one of four chat room focus groups. At an appropriate point in the discussion, participants were led to web sites where the banner ads could be viewed and "played with." They would then return to the room to discuss the ads. The client was provided with clear direction about how to use banner advertising.

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