You probably already know about the benefits of online qual research: it’s a fast and cost-effective way for researchers to easily uncover in-depth insights - and because respondents can take part remotely, it isn’t limited by geographical considerations, which results in higher response rates. However, in order to make sure your online qual is a success, it’s important to ensure your onboarding process is watertight. A smooth onboarding process will make sure your respondents are fully engaged and excited to take part, so you can reduce the risk of dropouts, make sure your research goes off without a hitch and unlock the in-depth insights you need. Here’s how:
Make sure you keep in touch
This might sound a bit obvious - but trust us, it’s important! Not only can clear communication ensure your onboarding runs smoothly, but it can also help you to build up that all-important rapport with your participants right from the very beginning. Make sure you keep in touch after the initial confirmation has been sent: reminder emails in the weeks leading up to the research, a call the day before and a text message the day your project launches is a good way to keep communication open and make sure everything runs smoothly. Don’t be afraid to chase your participants to respond - of course you don’t want to be a nuisance, but you also don’t want to leave any dropouts to chance. Be careful not to seem too overbearing though - if you come on too strong they might begin to ignore your messages which will increase the chance of them dropping out. It’s all about achieving a healthy balance!
Make sure you don’t ask them for too much
Always be realistic about what you are asking of your participants. Your respondents are busy people with busy lives, so if they are taking the time to be part of your qualitative fieldwork and share their opinions, remember that you have to respect their time. If your respondents begin to get the feeling that they are being asked to commit a lot of time and effort for very little reward, they might not want to take part, so it’s important to not act too fussy or demanding during your early communications with them. This includes when you are taking them through the screener and verification questions: try and keep things to a maximum of five minutes so they don’t lose interest and become disengaged. It’s all about finding that balance again and making sure you get all the info you need whilst letting them know that you value their time.
Make sure they have all the info they need
It’s not just about the information you need though. The golden rule to successful online qual research is to make sure that your participants have all the information they need right at their fingertips. From what the research is about to what is expected of them and why, your participants shouldn’t have to chase you for any information. Instead, make sure they’ve got everything they need so they are completely comfortable with what’s expected of them and why. Going into a situation with the wrong expectations can greatly affect the way people behave in it, often for the worse - but by fully briefing your participants on their role, you can help ensure they enjoy the experience and get the most out of it. Basically, the more your participants know about the study and its objectives, the more interested and invested they will be. We’d recommend putting together clear instructions in the form of an information sheet or welcome pack to get all of this info across.
Make sure they know how important they are
It’s not just about the logistics of your online qual though. You also need to make sure your respondents know how important they are. People want to know they’re needed, and it’s human nature to want to make a difference and get opinions heard. From influencing a new product to improving the customer journey, your respondents will want to know their input is useful and that they are being listened to. If they know how the results will be used and how it will benefit others, they will much more likely want to take part and as a result remain excited and engaged from recruitment to kick-off. Basically, by clearly communicating how integral they are to the success of your study, you can make sure they know the value of the research and what they bring to the table so they feel appreciated, keen to take part and remain excited, focused and engaged from start to finish.
Make sure you offer an incentive
The ultimate fail-safe way to show your participants that you value their time and make sure the onboarding process goes as smoothly as possible is to offer them an incentive. Not only will doing so make potential participants more enthusiastic about taking part, but with online qual that can to take place over a long period of time, knowing they will receive the incentive on completion of the study is a great way to keep them engaged. Just make sure the value of the incentive matches the amount of time and work that you’re asking of your respondents. After all, if the incentive doesn’t seem worth it, they could still decide to drop out at the last minute. Be smart about tailoring your incentives to the respondent demographic that you are targeting too. For instance, for a retail study, you might want to offer a shopping voucher (just remember that it can’t be for the sponsoring client!)
Bonus tip - make sure you over recruit!
This might seem a bit of an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many online sessions we see with no backup plans in place in case anything goes wrong. We can’t stress enough how important it is to over-recruit so you are fully prepared for any eventualities. After all, no matter how watertight your onboarding, your participants are only human, and there are a number of reasons why they could drop out, from technical issues to no longer being able to commit the time. Find out more about over-recruits here.
To sum up, in order to make sure you get the most from your online qual it’s really important to have a strong onboarding strategy so that your participants are fully engaged and excited to take part. Want to find out more about how to recruit awesome participants for your online qual? The don’t miss our guide to recruiting the right respondents.