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Online Qualitative Bulletin Board vs Focus Group: Which One Works Best for Customizing Products?

online qualitative bulletin boardA growing number of companies — led by billion-dollar brands like Nike — are enabling customers to customize products as part of their buying experience. As noted by TechCrunch: “Rather than being passive, the customer is now becoming a part of the product development process.”

Of course, companies do not have to be as big (or well-heeled) as Nike to tap into this trend, which when designed and managed correctly, can lead to substantial improvements to sales, customer loyalty and brand recognition. Indeed, while some people have always enjoyed telling a story about their various purchases, the tale is even more compelling and satisfying when they are the star!

Yet with this being said, simply opening up a purchase experience so that customers can avail themselves of customization options (e.g. colors, sizes, designs, labeling, etc.) is experimental rather than strategic. It could take years and massive amounts of money for companies to find out what, exactly, their customers care about – and just importantly, what they do not. Fortunately, that’s where market research enters the picture and provides clear, practical answers.

Of course, there are multiple market research methods, tactics and techniques to generate the valuable insights that companies need to make customization work. Below, we focus on two potentially viable options — an online qualitative bulletin board and focus group — and highlight some of their relative strengths.  

Advantages of an Online Qualitative Bulletin Board

  • Enables participants to answer questions before seeing other responses (i.e. how other participants have answered the same question), which can lead to higher quality input and richer discussions.
  • Moderators can prevent participants from explicitly or tacitly controlling the discussion.
  • Since an online qualitative bulletin board typically lasts for a few days, moderators can leverage iterative, ongoing feedback to steer the discussion in certain desirable directions.
  • Participants can read/respond when it fits their schedule, and they do not incur any travel costs (even if these are covered by the company conducting the market research, there is still an opportunity cost i.e. participants could be doing something else with that time).
  • Some participants appreciate (or need) the anonymity allowed by online qualitative bulletin boards to provide candid feedback.
  • The cost can be significantly lower than focus groups and other methods, and there are no geographic barriers.

Advantages of Focus Groups  

  • The real-time, face-to-face forum is ideal for capturing raw, visceral responses that may be otherwise diminished or “cleaned-up” (e.g. participants who are shown potential products for customization and reflexively say “wow, that’s stupid!” may, and likely would, find a more diplomatic — but frankly, less honest — way to say communicate through an online qualitative bulletin board).
  • Moderators can read body language to gauge whether participants’ words and behaviors align (e.g. a participant may say that they would be interested in customizing a certain element or feature, but their body language may reveal they are not particularly interested, and may simply be trying to please the moderator or fit in with the group).
  • Participants can experience processes — e.g. they can use an iPad to go through the buyer’s journey and customize a product — and provide valuable real-time feedback along the way (note: this may still be possible through an online qualitative bulletin board, but the feedback might not be as rich and reactive; especially if participants get confused or frustrated along the way). 

Learn More 

At Communications For Research, our recommendation — which is supported by years of proven success and results — is for companies to have a mix of market research methodologies, which not only reveals a broader and richer story, but is more cost effective since resources can be allocated to high-impact strategies and tactics.

To learn more, contact the Communications For Research team today. Schedule a chat with our co-CEO Colson Steber and figure out what approaches you should be taking to market research in order to get the best information.

For more information on market research and how it can benefit marketing agencies in numerous ways, download our FREE eBook:

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Topics: qualitative research , focus group

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