Why is Zoom Not Enough for Your Online Qualitative Research Needs?

Jun 08, 2023, Maniish Karve

Qualitative research traditionally is an offline, in person activity and while online qualitative research was attempted in the past, online qualitative research never gained a wider level acceptance, at least in Southeast Asia. 

Things changed during the pandemic, of course. It suddenly became mainstream, and now is often the method of choice for FGD’s, IDI’s and other qualitative interactions. (64% of all Qual research done is online as per a Survey done by Insight Platforms) 

In the early days of this shift, video collaboration heavyweights like Zoom and Teams filled the need for a reliable way for solving the problem of reaching participants for qualitative research. As early as 2020, many research centers were already testing Zoom as a possible virtual solution for qualitative research.  

The use of Zoom and Teams (and others) for qualitative research solved the problem of reaching participants in far distances and testing participants from diverse backgrounds. It opened a channel for research which was thought to be impossible.

Collecting data through online interactions was a breakthrough for qualitative research, and it will not slow down anytime soon. 

Ease of recruiting participants globally was one essential factor that made Zoom (for instance) a convenient platform for researchers. One of the privileges virtual meetings provided for researchers also include exclusion of traveling costs due to distance, thereby reducing some of the cost of conducting qualitative research in person, at a central location. Simply put, Zoom, and its competition, was the beacon of hope and possibility for researchers and business owners. 

This shift also fostered quick development and deployment of platforms focused on UI/UX and other forms of user research, which in turn extended their reach to the qualitative research world as well. 


But are Zoom, or other generic video conferencing platforms, good enough to handle qualitative research? 

These platforms are mainly collaboration platforms, and while over time they have added features that can be used in qualitative research, they were never designed to conduct qualitative research per se. So, what are some key missing elements? 

  • Participant consent management and privacy 

  • Backroom for observers (this can be accomplished in a round-about manner) 

  • Automatic transcription only for English (lower accuracy than specialized platforms) 

  • No live interpretation stream (A few of them have added now but available only with higher end plans) 

  • No document management, or integrated email/chat communication 

  • No bookmarking, clipping or note taking capabilities 

  • No downstream integration for analysis, or incentive management 

Apart from this, typically platforms are often limited by the number of users. While there can be any number of people (with plan-based limits) on the interaction itself, there are no roles available for different entities involved in research. 

Of course, over time, organizations and research agencies have built processes that can overcome these shortcomings by deploying third party tools in their workflow. However this often involves complex set-ups, different support teams and related coordination, tech requirements – in short, a lot of overheads to manage operationally and financially. 

This is where platforms designed for user research, such as flowres.io, discuss.io, forsta.io and others come in. Some, or all of them offer features such as 

  • Consent management 

  • Robust and secure backroom 

  • Interpretation in multiple languages 

  • Automated transcription in multiple languages  

  • Integration with legacy upstream processes 

  • Powerful clipping and book marking 

  • Generative AI driven summaries and analysis 

  • Diary study and other user research capabilities 

In addition, when these tools have qual research professionals involved in the development, you can be sure that the features are designed specifically to address the needs and quirks of qualitative market research. 

Let’s do a deeper dive into features offered by our end-to-end platform - flowres.io