Webcam Technology Enhances Customer Research

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FocusVision leverages the power of Web conference technology to engage hard-to-reach respondents recruited from anywhere in the world, at any time.

By Timothy Lynch

Many companies pride themselves on putting customers first and catering to their needs. But how do companies identify those needs?

Many use qualitative market research, including focus groups and in-depth interviews with individuals who represent target audiences. The insights gathered facilitate decision making about key business areas such as new product developments, strategic brand planning and where to invest marketing dollars.

However, the logistics of group and individual face-to-face interviews bring many challenges to brand and research teams. Often, travel costs exceed budgetary constraints, and geographically dispersed customers with busy lives make meeting at a central location at a specific time a nightmare.

Furthermore, many harder-to-recruit participants—such as senior executives, physicians, busy parents and physically challenged individuals—are nearly impossible to meet with in person. Sending researchers to multiple remote locations for extended periods of time is a costly and time-consuming alternative.

FocusVision’s clients in the qualitative market research industry, mainly Fortune 500 companies, face these obstacles repeatedly. Their needs prompted us to develop a new approach to focus groups. 

We started sending different brands of webcams to focus group participants as a potential solution to the problems our clients were facing. After several projects and a lot of testing, we decided that the Logitech HD Webcam C310 was the most affordable plug-and-play solution for us because it provides versatility, high resolution and a small form factor that works well regardless of our clients’ business.

By mailing out thousands of webcams, we’re able to reach more respondents than ever. We leverage the power of Web conference technology to engage hard-to-reach respondents recruited from anywhere in the world, at any time. While participants may be geographically dispersed, the webcam’s two-way audio and video capabilities allow them to enjoy visual contact for real-time, face-to-face dialogue.

We use the Logitech webcams with our InterVu platform, our online webcam focus group tool that lets participants join focus groups from their home or office through a group video call regardless of where they are located.

Since implementing webcam technology for online focus groups and in-depth interviews, we’ve seen an improvement in the volume of participation rates. For example, a facility may recruit 15 individuals in order to ensure that the research can be conducted with at least 10 people.

There are many reasons why someone does not show up for a focus group when he or she is scheduled to, including traffic, problems with childcare arrangements, changes in work plans and more. However, with webcam research, the no-show rates are much lower because many of the factors that keep people from arriving are eliminated.

By recognizing the busy lives respondents live, we’ve increased the quality of responses. Participants tend to be more open when being interviewed in their natural environment. In 2012 we conducted more than 2,800 days of research and are on track to conduct more than 5,600 days in 2013. (A day of research can be four two-hour focus groups or eight one-hour in-depth interviews.)

Webcam technology helped us achieve tremendous growth with international clients. We saw a 133 percent increase in webcam focus groups in 2011 and a 114 percent increase in 2012.

We now have 400 clients and are counting more by the day. Webcam research has enabled our clients to overcome key research challenges and has enhanced the way our clients conduct research.

Timothy Lynch is director of marketing at FocusVision Worldwide, which provides live video transmission, analysis and archive solutions for the market research industry.

This article was originally published on 2013-05-14
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