Asynchronous online focus groups: qualitative research on reduced-risk nicotine products with underserved or hard-to-reach populations
Objectives: New technologies provide alternatives to traditional in-person focus groups for Tobacco Product Perception and Intention (TPPI) studies, allowing inclusion of a diverse range of population subgroups and reducing logistical challenges. We present two nicotine product studies that used an online data collection platform to conduct asynchronous online focus groups.
Methods: We used the QualBoard platform to collect data for two projects in situations where in-person focus groups would be difficult or impossible: One conducted during the COVID-19 epidemic, the other involving retirement-age adults ordering online.
Results: In Study 1 (pouched product), important information emerged on how women perceive smokeless tobacco products and their users, and on ways to package and inform about a novel smokeless product to overcome strong negative preconceptions and to encourage trial.
Study 2 (e-cigarette), on older adult use of a cigarette-like vaping product, revealed key drivers of use (including a sensorimotor experience similar to a cigarette, and a zero-nicotine option).
Implications: Online focus groups are a flexible tool that affordably and safely enables greater participant diversity in qualitative research. This approach rapidly provides a wealth of in-depth information on language, images and situations that can promote or discourage trial and switching from cigarettes to reduced-risk nicotine alternatives, especially those sold primarily online. It also enables the development of valid survey questions.