VideoStreaming: What to Look for in a VideoStreaming Supplier
by FocusVision Worldwide
Video streaming is becoming more common in market research as software developments are designed with the researcher in mind. Here are some top concerns and tips for using videostreaming, and critical questions to help you find the right supplier.
Definition of VideoStreaming
Video streaming is the delivery method used to transmit video and audio via the Internet from one location to another. Although this technology has existed for decades, video streaming has evolved over the past 20 years, and most significantly during the past few years. Most recently video streaming became “popularized” with the conception and rapid growth of YouTube. Launched in 2005 and later acquired by Google, YouTube has quickly become the video transmission leader within the public domain.
Video streaming has also become popular on the Internet for watching “on-demand” television programming or movies either from the TV or cable network channels themselves, or from third party providers such as Hulu.com or Netflix.com. Video streaming is also becoming more common for twoway video sharing purposes such as for conducting long distance telephone calls (ex: Skype) or for conducting conference calls or webinars (ex: WebEx or GoToMeeting.com).
As it relates to market research (MR), video streaming is similar to the above mentioned applications, but is generally more secure and provides many functional tools designed specifically for the unique needs of market researchers. We’ll talk more about those tools later in this paper, but perhaps one of the most important elements of video streaming for marketing research is the concept of data security and integrity.
Data security has become a major concern for market researchers. Without the proper measures to securely transmit and archive live video, content that is being streamed over the Internet can be intercepted, distributed and watched by just about anyone. Imagine the consequences if one of your focus groups ever ended up on YouTube. The good news for researchers is that there are secure methods available for streaming video and audio over the Internet to maintain absolute privacy and control over access to their proprietary and confidential research.
How VideoStreaming for Market Research Works
In the case of MR, video streaming begins with a camera and microphone at one location and ends with a computer connected to the Internet using an Internet software application or browser on the other end. The video and audio are captured using a computer that is hard-wired to the camera and microphone. Before a signal is transmitted over the Internet it must be digitized by a computer that compresses the signal and divides it into many small packets. The digitized packets are then sent over the Internet and received by another computer that is looking for the address of those specific packets. The receiving computer then reassembles those packets into a signal that can be viewed in its original format on that computer.
Video signals that are sent over the Internet are generally very difficult to capture and view by the average user, but a trained “hacker” can obtain these video signals over the Internet if they are not securely encrypted. A secured video streaming transmission will encrypt the video signal at the transmission point, which can then be decoded on the other end by a computer that uses that same encryption code. Additional measures for security are also available, including the use of user passwords and other secure access methods, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or Digital Rights Management (DRM).
Live Video Stream Viewing
One method is to receive a “live” video stream where the viewer can watch live video as it is actually happening, often referred to as “in real-time”. For market researchers this is the most common method because they can begin their research analysis immediately as it happens and speed is often a high priority for researchers. It is also preferred because multiple researchers can watch the live research simultaneously from multiple locations and can collaborate using additional tools like a “live chat” feature.
On-Demand Video Stream Viewing
The other viewing method is “on demand” viewing when researchers can watch a recorded video of the research at their convenience from any web browser. This is particularly useful when the original research was transmitted from another time zone or at a time when they were not available to view the live transmission. On-Demand viewing also gives researchers the ability to review what they had seen previously and refresh their memories. The On-Demand method also provides additional functions such as video clip editing to include video in research presentations.
Types of VideoStreaming in Market Research
It used to be that most focus groups were recorded either on VHS tape or DVD so the researchers could take a copy home with the intention of reviewing the research or sharing it with other people who were not present at the research facility. This was never practical for most researchers as the process of sharing and reviewing was slow and cumbersome. Some researchers still do this today, but it is usually for archival purposes only.
Today, live video streaming has become very common and many marketing departments have cut back on the number of people they send to travel to the facilities to watch their focus groups. Even those who still travel benefit because they can invite much larger audiences to watch their live research, and they can also take advantage of the many software tools that are available to them.
There are primarily three streaming methods that are available today.
“House AV” Video Streaming
The first type of service is usually offered as a low-cost solution by research facilities using the same “House AV” system that was originally designed for recording on VHS tape or DVD. This method is generally is not secure and uses low quality “house” cameras and ceiling mounted omni-directional microphones. These systems are often connected to a common “house” computer at the facility that is then connected to the Internet. This method is usually transmitted using a low 90k bandwidth stream, which is only capable of transmitting a low quality video signal. This is the most cost-effective option, but lacks in quality, reliability and data security, all factors that are increasingly important to market researchers. This option often provides a live video and audio feed without any added software tools.
Proprietary (Provider Supplied Equipment) Video Streaming
The second method is to use a proprietary service provider that uses their own high quality cameras and table-top conference room microphones that are connected to a secured encoder that is accessed remotely and exclusively by the service provider. This service option is becoming more and more common because their facility networks are growing rapidly. The benefit of this method is that it offers bullet-proof protection of your research data and offers much better video and audio quality for a more comfortable viewing experience. This is important if you’re watching for long periods of time from your computer. It also provides a significantly more reliable video and audio transmission.
The video signal is transmitted using a 211K bandwidth stream as compared to a 90K stream. This option also provides other research tools such as a chat feature, electronic notepads, video marking tools, document sharing, keyword searching, clip editing and audio podcasts.
Proprietary Moving Camera (with Onsite Operator) Video Streaming
The third method is similar to the previous method, but also offers a moving camera option. The camera is controlled by an on-site operator and has the ability to zoom in on respondents to get close up facial expressions, as well as to pan around the room and zoom in on stimulus that is being shared with the respondents by the moderator. The camera is typically located in the room and the camera operator controls the camera from behind the mirror in the backroom. There is usually a premium for this service, but this option can provide the remote viewers with an even better view than those who are watching from the backroom.
Benefits of VideoStreaming in Market Research
Avoiding the Hassles and Costs of Travel
Some market researchers still prefer to travel to the focus group facility, but this usually comes at a great cost. Of course there is the actual cost for travelling from market to market, especially for international research, but for many researchers the greatest cost comes from the time they spend away from the office, even when research is being conducted locally within just a few miles of their corporate office. And when research is being conducted at odd hours - during evening hours or across multiple time zones – viewers have more flexibility as to when they view their research.
Increasing Key Stakeholder Participation
Perhaps the greatest benefit for many marketing departments today is that video streaming enables far more people to be involved in their research than has ever been practical before. It used to be that marketers relied entirely on the insights of two to five people who travelled to the facility to watch in person. Today, entire departments and cross departments can be involved with and have influence on research; and third parties can be invited to view their research.
Accelerating the Analysis Process and Enhancing your Presentations
Involving more people not only improves the quality of your insights, but can also dramatically accelerate the research process as well. Collaboration is facilitated with larger audiences, which leads to better and faster decision making within your organization. Video streaming also provides the ability to enhance your summary presentations. Because computer software is used to log into a live or on-demand research project, additional tools are often available as well. This usually includes viewer chat tools, electronic note taking tools, document sharing, time-synced transcripts, video clip making and editing tools allowing researchers to easily create video clips that can be downloaded and shared with others.
Things to Watch Out for with VideoStreaming
Video streaming has become so common and easy that just about anyone with a camera, a microphone and a computer can capture video and easily share the results with others. We do it every day on Facebook, My Space, and YouTube. But there are dangers where the content being transmitted can easily get into the hands of the wrong people.
Your research is usually highly sensitive and even people at high levels within an organization don’t know about the specific topics that are being discussed within focus groups. It’s critical that when you transmit video you know who has access to it and that you have controls in place to protect this data. Even VHS tapes and DVDs can be dangerous to have around. The business landscape is very competitive today and people will do just about anything to gain a competitive edge. When making the decision to use video streaming for your market research, be sure to hire a streaming provider that has security built-in to its service so you never have to worry about your sensitive data getting into the wrong hands.
What to Look For in a VideoStreaming Supplier
There are five critical questions you should ask of your video streaming provider for your qualitative research. They are described in detail below:
How good is the quality of the video and audio that you provide?
The video and audio quality depends largely on the placement of the equipment at the facility. This can dramatically impact your viewing experience. Ideally you want a camera designed for high quality streaming and that is located in the front room with the respondents rather than a behind the glass where image distortion can be compromised. The audio quality is at least as important as the video quality, so be sure your provider provides high-quality table-mounted microphones that only pick up the voices of the respondents and the moderator and nothing outside the room. The streaming rate can also impact the quality of the transmission. Be sure to ask your video streaming provider if they offer a streaming rate of at least 200k.
Can I rely on my video transmission being successfully delivered and received since most of my team will be watching remotely?
You want to insist on knowing that the equipment will not malfunction and that Internet at the facility will not break down during your live groups. Ask your provider what measures they take to test and back up your transmission and whether they provide 24/7 tech support before, during and after your live transmission.
Is my research content secure from unauthorized viewers or hackers?
As was discussed earlier in this paper, security is becoming more of an issue for most marketing departments and market researchers. Ask your video streaming provider what measures are taken to ensure the privacy and security of your data. Ask if anyone at the facility has access to your data and what is done to monitor and protect your data once it is transmitted and archived on the service provider’s network servers.
What other software tools are available to enhance your viewing experience?
Your primary interest may simply be to provide access to a larger group of people outside the research facility, or to provide access to someone who couldn’t travel, but there is no reason you shouldn’t also have access to a number of other tools since computer software is what provides your viewers with access. At the very least you should expect viewer chat tool, note taking tools, document sharing and video clip making tools. You should also ask about the access and tools you will have after your live research is transmitted.
Do I get a DVD or have access to my research once it has been transmitted live?
Content management is a buzz term being used more and more in the market research industry. Building a library of historical data helps marketing and research departments to become more efficient and more “intelligent” about their products or services. You should ask your service provider what capabilities you will have with accessing past research projects. Ask how your research is organized and whether you have the ability to filter or perform keyword searches for quick retrieval of past insights from your qualitative research.
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