Will the Shift to Digital Make Qualitative Research More Inclusive?

March 31, 2021 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

While Latinos over-index on using certain technologies, such as smartphones and social media, broad adoption of video conferencing apps and other online platforms being used to accommodate the shift from in-person to online qualitative research is not as prevalent. Over the last few months, market researchers have been tasked with helping multicultural consumers understand these tools so they can share their thoughts and opinions in qualitative studies.

However, the technology being used to administer online qualitative research is often designed for the moderator’s comfort, not the respondents. For multicultural consumers, especially Hispanics who prefer face-to-face interactions, this presents a challenge. But the shift to online qualitative research, a trend that was accelerated not created by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, also offers opportunities to increase multicultural consumer participation in focus groups by removing barriers like travel time to focus group facilities, finding childcare, and planning around non-traditional work schedules. For moderators, shifting online means less travel time. 

In many ways, the shift to virtual focus groups has made qualitative research more inclusive. But there are drawbacks. While respondents can participate in an online focus group from anywhere, they are also subject to more distractions, which could impact the thoughtfulness of their responses. Moderators lose the ability to pick up on subtle nuances that can only be gauged in person. 

Whether or not online qualitative research is sustainable long-term is an ongoing debate, but one thing is certain – it has changed how researchers and respondents interact. Some best practices remain the same, such as selecting moderators that reflect the ethnicity of the participants, which facilitates information sharing and preserves the cultural integrity of the research. 

This week, Natalia Infante Caylor, Ph.D., President and Founder of Infante Consulting and Research, joins us on The New Mainstream podcast to discuss how the shift to online qualitative research helps foster a more diverse and inclusive environment for multicultural consumers.