Advanis often recommends using asynchronous online discussion groups when budget is a factor or the topic is of a sensitive nature, such as health topics. They are also very effective, when conducted over a span of a few days, in an iterative research approach (where topics from prior days are revisited with refined stimuli or discussion topics).
Just some of the benefits of this approach to qualitative research include:
- More cost-effective than in-person focus groups.
- Reduces social desirability bias by virtue of respondents being anonymous/not seen by other participants. As such, it provides more opportunity for participants to provide honest answers.
- Increased participation (less non-response bias), since participants can respond at their convenience, thereby increasing participation rates and representativeness.
- Reduced risk of a few participants dominating the conversation, as each participant has equal requirement to comment on each discussion topic (often before seeing the contributions of others).
- Can be conducted over the course of many days (often cost-prohibitive with in-person approaches), and the responses provided on the first day can inform any adjustments to the questions asked on subsequent days, even with the same participants (with traditional focus groups, you can modify the script for future groups, but rarely for the same participants).
- Geographic constraints are lessened, so suburban and rural participants can more readily be included.
- Participants from several locations can be present in a single group.
- Artifacts from the research can include text, images, video, screen sharing.
- Topics can be revisited after reflection or debrief.
- Observers are not constrained by geography and daily observations can be conducted asynchronously just like the discussions themselves.