Everything’s Different In Japan! A Few Quick Tips For Effective Online Qual Research


Ok we get it, you’re sick of hearing about how unique Japan is. But hey it is and online research is no different in that regard! We simply wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t have some good ol’ fashioned advice for you on how to run effective online studies for qualitative and ethnographic methodologies. This is becoming a bigger piece of the research pie here these days and it’s important to know those little quirks and peccadillos about Japanese internet behavior that can make or break a study and give way to successful insights:

  1. You don’t need a monster-sized sample to do it right. Even if you have a number of segment targets, this is still the case. Japanese respondents are known for giving great output. There also isn’t a lot of cultural or geographic variance (with a few small exceptions) as the country is known for its sense of cultural ‘wa’ or harmony. This dichotomy tends to keep online forums and bulletin boards on point with a small or medium sized sample. When they get too big, well, as the old adage goes, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth!”
  2. Think in terms of days, not weeks. As we mentioned above, respondents here give great output, but on the flip side they tend to wear out easy. Three to five days is ideal for almost any kind of online forum, bulletin board or online ethnographic ‘deep dive’. Any more than that and productivity starts to wane and the diligent work ethic of the Japanese respondent who otherwise is worthy of so much praise, starts to fall off the radar!
  3. Ask for less and you’ll get more! Sounds counterintuitive and counterproductive right? With work and school demands being what they are in this busy country, there’s a good bit of pushback when we ask respondents to give us 60+ minutes of participation time on a weekday. Ask for 20-30 minutes and respondents will feel less pressured and are likely to give you more… and better output with quality photos, media uploads and the like to go along with it.
  4. You’re output probably got lost in translation. There are a ton of platforms out there these days and most of them work great. But we’re yet to see any of them that translate Japanese-to-English effectively. Try running your respondent output through Google Translate and it will come out something between Klingon and Pig Latin! That’s what we’re here for. We can translate a full script of the output for starters. That can be time consuming and expensive however so another option is a daily Summary with key Verbatims to help you gain those key insights along the way.
  5. If something feels like it’s missing, it probably is. So you’ve done all this intense online qual research and have all this output and even data. Do you still feel like you still aren’t getting the insight your brand/campaign/concept test needs? There’s probably a reason for that and you can generally chalk it up to not feeling like you’re there inside the respondents’ world. Of course that’s a universal given with online qual but this can only be magnified in a country that prides itself on its “uniqueness of being Japanese”. Some solutions would be adding in-home ethnos or focus groups to get that face time needed to put your quali insight into perspective. If time and budget constraints don’t allow for that, at the very least set up an in-depth debrief with the Moderator & Project Manager to help you make sense of it all. That’s a far sight better than sifting through mountains of material and pulling your hair out trying to figure out up from down!

These are just a few tricks of the trade that help make online qual run smoothly in Japan. Over the last two or three years, it’s really become a useful tool in the qualitative researcher’s arsenal here. It can be executed in almost any sector, FMCG, luxury, health & beauty, gaming & tech, food & beverage, you name it. If done right, you can rest assured that the results of your efforts will lead to insight breakthroughs beyond your expectations.

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