Qualitative online market research methods and examples for successful application

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Qualitative market research is among the most effective methods for understanding the living environments, attitudes and decision-making mechanisms of consumers. Especially in the sports industry, which is heavily driven by trends such as digitalization, qualitative market research frequently finds its use in rapidly detecting current trends and in developing an understanding of consumers. We state examples for successful application.

What does my target audience want and how do they react to my product? Qualitative online market research shows the way.
What does my target audience want and how do they react to my product? Qualitative online market research shows the way.

What information do athletes want to obtain from fitness apps? How do they use the Internet of Things? How are attitudes towards sports and sporting equipment changing?

Classic online surveys are only partially helpful. Qualitative market research yields findings that go far beyond what is discovered through answering online questionnaires.


Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer is a management consultant of an international corporation and a keynote speaker.
Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer is a management consultant of an international corporation and a keynote speaker.
Image credit:

Methods of qualitative market research:

The methods of qualitative market research were highly limited before digitalization. Usually, market research institutes carried out so-called focus groups, meaning group interviews in special studios. Alternatively, consumers were given journals with which to document, for example, training behavior or the use of products.

A further possibility was participatory observation: Employees of a market research institute observed consumers and assessed behavior. The downside of these methods: Without special internet platforms, they are complex, expensive and time-consuming. The number of samples is small.

Platforms such as ISPO OPEN INNOVATION offer new possibilities through qualitative online market research: Consumers are involved directly in the development process of products and supplies. They upload photos and videos to their comments, they discuss themes and introduce their own ideas.

In what follows I shall take a deeper look at three methods of qualitative market research – community discussion, co-creation and product testing.



1. Market research through community discussion

For example: On behalf of a large German sport insurer, the needs of users who received treatment after a sports accident were analyzed. The round 35,000 users of ISPO OPEN INNOVATION were invited to outline their accident reports online.

Other users discussed the participants’ reports and moderators asked questions. In addition, an online questionnaire was developed and made live. From the nearly 500 responses and more than 50 accident reports, the company could clearly see which needs are paramount to consumers after an accident.

The qualitative market research helped the insurer to adjust their products to clearly discernible customers needs.

2. Co-creation as a driving force

Another example: The sport buggy manufacturer Thule was looking for applications for innovative online technology. The sport buggy was integrated into the Internet of Things with the help of sensors.


On the move: Ingalena Schömburg-Heuck running with her niece, Matilda, in a stroller.
On the move: Ingalena Schömburg-Heuck running with her niece, Matilda, in a stroller.
Image credit:
Oliver Farys für Thule

More than 50 users gave tips and advice over ISPO OPEN INNOVATION about which applications can be realized with the help of technology. A great asset for the company: The qualitative market research helped Thule to identify the important applications for the company and at the same time, called attention to their product.

3. Product testing with a prototype

A third example: The company Clim8 developed prototypes for a sports shirt which is connected to an app via sensors. More than 100 users received the T-shirt and app through ISPO OPEN INNOVATION. They could test it during their training. Climb8 also received valuable advice about the first impression the T-shirt made among athletes and how it proved itself in practice.

This example of qualitative market research in the sports industry shows how companies can use the innovative possibilities of platforms such as ISPO OPEN INNOVATION.

Whether in the phase of idea development, prototyping or market launch – consumer feedback through qualitative market research helps companies to make targeted decisions.



Qualitative online market research Advantages

Qualitative online market research fundamentally offers three major advantages:

Advantage 1: Quality advantage

Consultations do not take place in sterile market research studios, but directly in training. Photos, videos and comments can be uploaded directly from a smartphone to the platform.

There they are discussed and market researchers index them behind the scenes. To motivate athletes, there there is a living image to the issues.

Advantage 2: Swiftness

The internet is quicker than other communication channels. Questions can be posed and discussed, and experience reports uploaded and supplemented. Companies no longer wait weeks or months for results, but only a few days.

The speed advantage through online qualitative market research shows its value when manufacturers have to make fast decisions in the development of innovative products and offers. Through swiftness, the company gains valuable competitive advantages.



Advantage 3: Price

Focus groups, consumer diaries and accompanying observations are costly. So costly, that almost only large corporations can afford this form of market research. Project costs for online qualitative market research are considerably lower.

  • Acquisition costs for the panel decrease because communities like ISPO OPEN INNOVATION have a vibrant user base, which is quickly activated.
  • Implementation costs decrease because no additional market research employees must be made available for the survey and user contributions.
  • The exploitation costs also decrease, because market researchers’ software is supported by data analysis and its reconditioning.

Conclusion: Higher quality, quicker and cheaper – online qualitative market research offers companies in the sports industry great opportunities to adjust their developments more closely to the needs of consumers. 



About the author:

Dr. Jens-Uwe Meyer is among the most innovative economic thinkers in the German-speaking world. He is a software architect and internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker and top management consultant.

He is the author of ten books (amongst others “Digitale Disruption” (digital disruption), “Erfolgsfaktor Innovationskultur” (key to success, culture of innovation), “Genial ist kein Zufall!” (genius is no accident)) and more than 200 specialist articles in this area. He wrote his thesis at the Leipzig Graduate School of Management (HHL) about the innovation capabilities of companies and is part of the exclusive band of opinion formers at ‘manager magazin’.

With his company Innolytics Dr. Meyer is one of the drivers of digitalization: He develops cloud based innovation and community software for companies.

Jens-Uwe Meyer Author: Jens-Uwe Meyer