Digital what? 

Think of the word “salon” and what comes to mind? A period piece? Lively discussion of topics and trends? Now consider the word “digital”, and ask the same question. A different set of associations pop up: evolving, fast, hi tech. Well, at BRS we have blended these ideas to develop a cutting edge research tool. We call them Digital Salons.

A Digital Salon is an online research discussion with a select group of people that functions as a real-time, thoughtful and rich focus group, conducted in cyberspace using a bulletin board platform. The approach is simple. We recruit participants to a set of criteria that match the client’s needs. Participants can be almost anywhere in the world. We invite them to participate in an asynchronous discussion over a 3-5 day period, where they can respond to questions, post their own thoughts, upload visuals and reply directly to comments from other participants.

Just like the salons of old, the conversation can be either deep or broad, and people leave their marks in the form of their ideas, insights, and constructive suggestions.

Digital Salons have some powerful advantages over traditional in-person focus groups:

First, they’re online and while they’re great for consumer samples, they’re even better for some forms of B2B work where target individuals are geographically distributed and it would be impossible to bring them together in a single room. Online also provides the advantage of anonymity, so participants can engage with more freedom and perhaps with more candor than if they were face-to-face.

Second, they’re easy to set up and they’re easy to participate in. For busy people who find it difficult to get away from the home or office, Digital Salons offer a realistic alternative – and we may never have gotten their opinion otherwise. People participate in their own time, not in a stipulated 2-hour focus group. The pace of a Digital Salon gives people time to think and give us considered responses, unlike in traditional focus groups where the nosiest or fastest person can short circuit the dialog process.

Third, there is no need to travel. The Digital Salon can be managed from our office, and clients can attend in real time or dip into the discussion at their convenience. “Backroom” communication with the moderator in this slow-roll format affords endless opportunities for course correction without hasty decisions.

Digital Salons can stand on their own as a research methodology, or they can be successfully mixed into more integrated solutions. Digital Salons are not necessarily the right tool for every topic or target, but we feel this is a growing area that can add real value and reach to the qualitative research process.