Online survey applications first emerged in the mid-to-late 1990s, and they quickly became mainstream research tools.
Online qualitative applications emerged soon thereafter, but didn’t come into their own until the last few years. Although they’re still evolving, online qualitative applications now are considered to be standard research tools.
One of the obvious advantages of online research applications is their overall efficiency; they allow the client, the research supplier, and the participants to save travel time and money.
Another obvious advantage is that they allow participants to be involved from any geographic location. This means that researchers are able to include a more geographically diverse participant pool in their study. For example, rather than drawing the participant pool from, say, only 3 cities, as one would in a focus group road show, webcam focus groups allow one to draw participants from a large number of cities and geographic regions.
Yet another advantage is the asynchronous aspect of some online research tools.This makes it possible to involve demographic segments that otherwise would be hard to involve. For example, many high-level managers may decline to participate in a face-to-face focus group because it imposes on their packed schedule. However, they may agree to participate in a bulletin board focus group because it allows them the flexibility to participate at whichever time of the day or night their schedule allows.
The asynchronous quality of some online tools also facilitates greater depth of thought, as participants, moderators and clients each have more time to reflect on the questions and responses.
The online research methods that we use include online surveys, discussion board focus groups and in-depth interviews, webcam in-depth interviews and focus groups, online diaries, and online ethnography.