Editor's note: Sarah Faulkner is owner of Faulkner Insights. She can be reached at sarah@faulknerinsights.com.

As we’ve adapted to the many changes in market research wrought by the pandemic, virtual qualitative research has become even more of a staple in the insights professional’s toolbox. But while these online approaches provide many benefits, they can also come with significant pitfalls. Here we’ll review the advantages of virtual qualitative research as well as common challenges, along with tips to mitigate them.

Eliminates location constraints. Conducting qualitative research virtually means connecting with people without having to travel to their locations, saving considerable time and money. It also allows recruiting across cities and regions to boost geographic diversity or compare key locations.

Recruiting benefits. Because consumers can be recruited from multiple cities, recruiting low-incidence or hard-to-find participants becomes easier, given the larger potential pool of prospects. Virtual interviews can also increase the likelihood of recruiting busy executives, physicians or high-net-worth individuals who might not be willing to come to a facility (or have researchers in their homes or workplaces).

Allows more client team members to engage. Many more client team members can view the research in real time without the limitations of travel budgets, time out of the office and back room/in-home space. Team members can also join as their schedule allows or quickly access digital recordings.

A range of digital tools. Thanks to virtual interview platforms, moderators have unique tools to enhance the experience for participants and more easily capture some types of responses. There are virtual whiteboards, on-screen mark-up tools for concepts and ads, polling questions and more. Plus, client viewers can send probes/follow-up questions to the moderator via private chat to...