Qualitative video responses

Using unmoderated qualitative video responses or interviews for your consumer research is like running focus groups—but faster, cheaper and more convenient.

You get honest, candid and comprehensive feedback from your target consumers, without having to get them all in the same room at the same time. And that’s before we get to the catering…

It’s still a super valuable way to run qualitative research—when it’s done well! 

To make sure yours is done well, follow these essentials and watch your high-quality video responses come rolling in…

Here’s a snapshot of the tips:

  1. Add framing words to encourage better responses
  2. Keep questions focused on a single topic
  3. Break questions down into questions and talking points
  4. Don’t fret over the length of answers
  5. Choose a slightly bigger sample size
  6. Use screening questions to get the respondents you need

And if you’re looking for a little refresher on the difference between unmoderated and moderated research, check this out 👇

There are two main types of qualitative research: moderated and unmoderated. 

What’s the difference? 

There’s no researcher present when people submit unmoderated qualitative research responses. This allows the respondents to give their responses in their own time and in their own comfortable environment. 

Moderated research is where a researcher ‘moderates’ the sessions. Having a researcher right there in the room where it happens allows them to probe further into specific topics, giving a deeper level of insights. 

It’s good to know the pros and cons of each type of research, so that you can make sure you set up the right research for your needs—and you get genuinely useful results.

Unmoderated vs. moderated research

Here are the pros and cons of unmoderated and moderated qualitative research.

Pros and cons of unmoderated qualitative research

  • Bias-free environment: For unmoderated research, respondents record their own answers, eliminating any risk of bias from someone else like a moderator or another participant being in the room. Respondents don’t then feel the need to say what they think the moderator might want to hear, or alter their future responses based on reactions they received in the room, giving you more truthful responses.
  • Candid responses: People often feel more able to speak their mind when they’re in a safe, comfortable environment. This helps give you more reliable feedback and insights you can really trust.
  • Time and cost effective: It’s cheaper, easier and quicker to set up and gather unmoderated qualitative research. This is because you don’t need to gather people in the same place to conduct the research. 
  • Easier to sort through responses: If people are asked to record separate video responses for each question, your research output is already sorted into easily digestible results, saving you time and effort. 

Cons of unmoderated qualitative research

  • Less control over the responses: Because you’re not in the same room as your respondents, you can’t help people through the questions as easily. And you can’t follow up with ah hoc questions based on their responses. 
  • Bigger sample size: By not being in the room with respondents, you can’t help them through the survey in the same way. This will result in some responses being slightly lower quality. To make sure you get enough useful responses, you’ll probably need to have a slightly higher sample size than you would for a fully moderated research session.

Pros of moderated qualitative research

  • Control over research’s direction: If a researcher is in the room they can ask ad hoc questions in response to topics and points raised in the discussion. This can help gather more in-depth responses.
  • Responding to body language: It’s also possible to react to respondents’ body language when you’re in the room with them. You can then adjust your approach if any respondents seem to be shy or distracted. 

Cons of moderated qualitative research

  • Expensive and time-consuming: Getting researchers and respondents in the same room at the same time will take longer to organize, and will likely result in a higher cost for the research. And you can’t always guarantee that respondents will even turn up! 
  • Bias is more likely: People are likely to behave differently around people than they would in the comfort of their own environment. This can mean that they tailor their responses to please the moderator, or based on what other participants might say. And this will give you unreliable results.
  • Harder to sort through output: Even if you record your moderated research session, you’ll then need to sort through the recording and note down the responses to different questions and topics. 

How to write questions for unmoderated research

You won’t be in the room with them to clarify any questions or point them in the right direction, so it’s worth taking the time to craft a beautiful survey.

If you’re not clear with instructions and questions, you might get responses that aren’t useful or valuable to your business.

Here are some tips on how you can make sure your research gets responses you can actually use! 

Add framing words to encourage better responses

You want respondents to give you detailed answers that get to the heart of your topic. Encouraging respondents to add detail to their answers sets their expectations from the outset on how they should approach the question. 

Don’t worry if your questions end up sounding repetitive as a result—it’s the most helpful way to guide respondents and that should be your priority.

Here are some examples of how you could add framing to questions:

  • Can you describe in detail how you…
  • Can you explain your answer by giving examples of…

It can be useful to ask people to describe their answer as a story. Using an occasion—e.g. ‘…the first time you…’, ‘tell us about when you last used…’—will help your respondents reflect more deeply on the questions.

Keep questions focused on a single topic

This goes for all survey questions—limit yourself to one topic per question. Adding additional topics will confuse respondents. They won’t know which aspect to focus on and you’ll get unfocused, unhelpful responses. 

It’ll also make your analysis a whole lot easier if you focus on one topic per question!

For the same reason, you should keep like and dislike questions separate (e.g. don’t ask: What do you like and dislike about…?).

Break questions down into questions and talking points

You want to add structure and clarity to your questions, helping respondents fully understand what you want them to think about. A good way to do this is to break them down to questions and talking points/prompts.

We’ve found that without a structure like this, the natural response for a lot of people is to give shorter answers that don’t really cover what you need.

Your talking points or prompts shouldn’t be a way for you to ask extra mini questions on different topics. You should use them to help respondents tell you a focused story in their response.

Here’s an example:

Question“The cost of living crisis is impacting the way that many people are spending. We’d like to hear more about how this is impacting you and others around you.”The most general question you could ask

Introduces the context
Sets expectations 
Talking points“Some points we’d like to hear from you about—please speak about these in detail: 

– What are your concerns about the cost of living in the coming months?
– How has it impacted your decision to spend?
– In which areas of your life have you been most affected?”
Subdivides the central question into more specific topical questions 

Limits the overall scope of topics to a manageable amount

Doesn’t conflate too many topics into one question

Don’t fret over the length of answers

Unlike more traditional qualitative methods such as in-person focus groups, or interviews, you will get a level of variation in the depth and engagement of responses.

Not everyone has done qualitative research before, but that can also mean that you get much better representation of your true target consumer as they are less self-selecting.

Some respondents will be incredibly verbose – and that’s great! They might help you get the depth on themes you’re really interested in.

Other responses will be shorter—3 or 4 sentences perhaps—but these are often great sound bites as they can be super articulate around the subject itself. This type of response can be great in helping you understanding the prevalence of certain themes.

Choose a slightly bigger sample size

Regardless of how beautifully you set up your survey, it’s unlikely that all of your respondents will record video responses that are exactly the insight you’re looking for.

By using a sample size that’s slightly bigger than the number of responses you want you should end up with a good amount of useful responses. But you also don’t want to gather too many responses, as that will add more time and effort to the analysis stage. 

For unmoderated qualitative research like this we recommend a sample size of between 20 and 30.

Use screening questions to get the respondents you need

By running qualitative research like this, you’ll be going in-depth into quite specific topics. That means you’ll need your respondents to be the right people with the right level of knowledge and experience for your research. 

Make sure that your screening questions are robust enough to only let through respondents who you know will have plenty to say on your topic.

This is an art, not a science. Although you want robust screeners, don’t make them so specific that you’ll struggle to get responses. 

With qualitative studies like this, using a nationally representative sample might not be ideal because the small sample size won’t necessarily include enough people from your target demographics.

And if you’re able to set up demographic targeting (which you can with Attest!) you can use this to help you get the right respondents. 

The Consumer Research Academy is brought to you by the Customer Research Team—our in-house research experts. Any research questions? Email or chat with the team.