Maintaining Human Relationships in Online Research Spaces

5 min readFeb 29, 2024

With an increasing proportion of the global population now living online, often regardless of traditional social or global demographics, market researchers have a growing ability to tap into truly representational research avenues. By embracing mobile technology and flexibility in access to research resources, researchers also have the chance to consider how we use this to implement universally accessible tools and projects.

What tactics and tools can we use to get the best quality, most representative data from online research participants, and how does this feed into long-term consumer and brand salience?

Advantages of using online research spaces

Although much of the national and global population still faces barriers that can risk excluding them from selection for some research methods, cultivating online research spaces or projects that are accessible and consistent in research themes or brand salience can help to welcome and maintain more diverse and active panels for research potential. For example, people who might traditionally have been excluded from taking part in focus groups or in-person Q&A sessions due to time or proximity concerns, now have the potential to take part in activities from their mobile or other device, at a time and place that suits them.

The move to online research brought many opportunities to connect with more people than ever — but keeping research human has been a challenge.

Researchers with access to ongoing communities are no longer constrained by standard operating hours; something that is particularly useful for those looking to run global or multi-national research. Likewise, people who may previously have been less interested in taking part in some research tasks, as they have perceptions of long and unengaging lists of tasks, may be pleasantly surprised to find more interactive, interesting or customisable tools are making their way to the fore of online research practices.

In addition to using new models of research tools to include previously unheard voices in our future research, using online research communities allows us to engage the same panels or research pools over time, helping to provide reliable and complete information on various research concepts or questions. While ad-hoc research projects can help to focus and direct feedback to relevant topics, engaging the same panel over time will also help researchers draw an analysis of longer-term patterns in consumer or market behaviour.

The human touch in research tasks

The expanding horizons of online research opportunities do not have to mean moving away from a personal and personalised research experience, for researchers, stakeholders, or research panellists. Online research communities bring the opportunity for projects with brand or theme salience at the forefront, as well as the option then re-engage the same panellists over time, making sure that consumers or stakeholders feel centred as part of the decision-making process.

Long-term loyalty in research candidates, with complete and meaningful data about them, can allow researchers to personalise the experience of respondents, helping drive assurances of higher and better-quality topic or activity engagement. Moreover, many researchers embracing online research spaces are finding increasingly innovative ways to bring dialogue and transparency around business or research aims, by introducing their research team, and research aims, and even including introductory material about other stakeholders, to their research panellists. By expanding ideas around online research tools and methodology, we can also expand our capacity for the volume and quality of research we can carry out, without sacrificing the more intimate aspects of gathering market feedback.

For researchers who choose to run ongoing research projects or communities, using online communication solutions is a quick and convenient way to update, inform or share research aims and findings with research candidates and stakeholders. Either by regularly scheduled communications or by topic-specific mailings, researchers can reassure and inform their panel or project members about how their feedback and opinions are being used to shape decision-making, helping illustrate the real-world evidence of research findings being put to use.

Engaging the right research tools and methods

While the key principles of many core research tools and methods may not have changed, using them in an online space presents additional questions and considerations that can be used to streamline aims and efficiency. Embracing online spaces, particularly mobile technology, not only increases accessibility and availability to more diverse and active panels, but it also helps to refresh ideas of what taking part in research tasks can mean for participants.

The human touch is the key to increasing connection in online research spaces — through tools, methods and more.

Quantitative tools, such as surveys and polls, are effective for both ad-hoc and long-term research projects and are also familiar to most potential research respondents, but adding branding and other stimulus, as well as making use of more interactive question designs, can immediately personalise the respondent’s experience. Moreover, in long-term research communities, extra consideration given to the theme and stimulus of quantitative tasks can help with continued engagement from panel members. Using the additional features online spaces offer for themes, tone and aesthetics will help ensure that tasks remain relevant and interesting to potential respondents, helping to increase engagement and quality of engagement.

Qualitative research methods also have space to evolve well in online research. In addition to sharing all the previously mentioned staging benefits of operating in online research spaces, the availability of AI technology embedded within qualitative tools such as FlexMR’s TextMR can allow researchers to quickly parse detailed feedback, to look for consistent themes in feedback or openings for new research avenues.

Building consumer confidence in business

Improving consumer experience during research is a great way to encourage ongoing engagement with the same themes, communities or projects. Agility and flexibility in market research tools and strategies can help increase the yield and depth of information gathered, which can be embedded to inform real-time decision-making. Making use of online research portals also allows users to gather global or multi-national feedback for research concepts or questions over shortened time frames, helping stakeholders make decisions that are closer in line with consumer needs and expectations.

From a consumer perspective, stakeholders taking rapid action to enact feedback from their research findings may see increased and maintained levels of brand salience amongst their consumers. Their consumers may be more likely to see a responsive business as receptive, and proactive at meeting their consumers’ needs.

This blog was originally published on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.




FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.