Webcam Interview and Online Focus Group: a digital renewal for classic depth exploration

Dirk Ziems

Digital consumers are very much at home with using new communication and chat media for personal exchanges. Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Snapchat have established themselves on a broad front, not only among young people but also among the older generations.

For psychological research, this creates the basis for achieving a psychologically challenging depth of discussion, not only in direct personal contact,face to face, but also in digital communication via webcam, audio chat or text chat.

concept m uses the following digital exploration procedures for choice.


Webcam Interview

Webcam Interviews are useful with target groups who are regionally scattered or generally difficult to reach, where F2F interviews would involve heavy costs and travel time.

Respondents are asked to go to a quiet place for the Webcam Interviews and screen out possible distractions. In contrast to phone interviews, Webcam Interviews have the advantage that the interviewer can use visual contact and eye contact to establish a more personal relationship with the respondent.

The software also supports screen sharing, making it possible to share test materials with the respondent, such as concepts ad materials etc to be tested, and to discuss these further in the interview.

In practice it has proved advisable to limit individual webcam sessions to an hour at most, to maintain a concentrated working atmosphere. The flexibility makes it easy to divide topics for an interview between two webcam sessions at different times. For example, part 1 of the interview in the first week, after which the respondent has homework, part 2 of the interview with discussion of the homework in the following week.

Benefits at a glance

+ High degree of flexibility, avoiding travel time and costs
+ Visual contact makes possible personal contact
+ Inclusion of test materials and visual materials through screen sharing
+ Possibility of increased depth through a number of shorter sessions at different times


Online Focus Group

Online Focus Groups are the counterpart of the webcam individual interviews. A small group of 4-6 people are connected by video chat and participate in a moderated discussion process, just as in a classic focus group.

A positive feature here again is that the ability to see each other creates more personal contact between people than an anonymous phone conference permits. The special focus group software also permits use of visual stimulus material, e.g. watching an ad spot together. The software also records participants separately (audio and video) so that participants can be observed individually after the group.

Other tools that can be used for Online Focus Groups include the ability to upload images, whiteboard for mappings and collages and the ability to send comments to individual group members which are not visible to the others.

An alternative to webcam-based Online Focus Groups is text-based Live Chat. Experience shows that up to 15 participants can be included in this. Live Chats do not offer the depth required for demanding psychological research with every target group and every topic. However, for many topics and target groups, e.g. gaming with male teenagers, moderated Live Chats can give rise to superior dynamic and depth of information.

Benefits of the Online Focus Group at a glance

+ Flexibility and cost benefits with target groups who are difficult to reach
+ Visual contact makes possible personal contact
+ Utilisation of group dynamic of focus group
+ Inclusion of test materials and visual materials through screen sharing
+  Interaction between participants in joint production of collages and mappings
+ Recording of individual reactions of participants in protected personal comment area.

Use case

A major bank wants to test attitudes of internal client advisers to new investment products and accurately document the different attitudes in different marketing regions. To achieve the broadest possible distribution of respondents and include client advisers in provincial and rural areas, a combination of Webcam Interviews and Online Focus Groups is carried out. The explorations use screen sharing to show stimuli for new product concepts and discuss these.

Further posts on Qual Online Tools

 Qual Online Toolbox by concept m

Morphological market research for digital daily life

Qual Online Tools (1):
Social Media Scan and Qual Social Listening:
tracking subconscious market trends

Qual Online Tools (2):
Online Diary and Qual Insight Community:
ethnographic insight research with digital media

Qual Online Tools (4):
Morphological Web UX Research
psychologically optimise surfing processes

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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