Archive for the ‘Ethnographic Research’ Category



The Importance of Conversational Intimacy for Qualitative Insight

Posted on: November 29th, 2017 by doyle


From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Observations and insights are not the same thing. Observations provide us with behavioral thematic “buckets” of potentially meaningful fodder. Observations can be visual, auditory, tactile, and even latent in form, e.g., witnessing compensating behaviors.  Envision multiple customers each unconsciously biting open a package and spilling the contents because they didn’t understand they were holding the packaging upside down.

Genuine insights, on the other hand, don’t roll off the customer’s tongue. Insights emerge from thoughtful review, deep analysis, creativity, and persistence.  We love supporting brand teams by discovering those underlying, emotion- and value-driven motivations and barriers, those personal, deep-seated beliefs that consciously—or, more often, subconsciously–influence customers’ decision-making. Where do her confused beliefs about hygiene come from? Why is he so focused on fuel economy? What makes the association with “professional” so compelling in this category? Why doesn’t she trust our brand like she does our competitor’s?

Just like the developing romance of a couple, you can’t get a full sense of either partner’s underlying motives from simply observing them or reading texts. Insights are realized by creating an environment conducive to intimate conversation with the customer–whether at home, in the car, or on the worksite. Then, the participant has to be nurtured, sensitively guided using active listening and precise, skilled probing. This tango of comfort and trust is essential for a rich and revealing exchange.

So, how do you achieve conversational intimacy in qualitative research?

Champion the value of quality time with your customer. Latent beliefs, perceptions, and values do not surface in 20 minutes, nor on a mobile survey. The “why’s” that exist below-the-surface require hours with each participant to explore for underlying emotions and covert beliefs. Yes, it’s labor intensive, but there is good news: all of that time doesn’t have to come in the form of a single long interview.

  • Best practice: Implement a series of three touchpoints with each participant, to encourage a speedier development of a moderator-participant partnership. Three touchpoints can provide a surprising level of comfort to the participant because of the accumulated familiarity and trust with the moderator, leading to evocative dialogue.
    1. Conduct a 10 to15 minute pre-call for introductions, Q&A, establishing legitimacy, setting expectations, and calming fears
    2. Assign the participant a brief but relevant activity, then discuss it together by phone before the home interview
    3. Conduct the main interview at home (whether online or in person) at the easiest time of day for the participant (often mid evening), which further makes the conversation feel like old friends reconnecting.

Avoid the fishbowl. Just because research participants may permit a 4-5 person research team to come inside and chat doesn’t mean we should. Could you share your cleaning idiosyncrasies, the struggles in your family relationships, or bare your honest financial picture for buying a new car–with 4 to 5 faces staring at you? Social anxiety may not always be visible to the research team excited to see “real customers,” but we certainly can tell when it blocks intimacy and inhibits emotionally charged conversation.

  • Best practice: Research has shown that respondents feel most accepted, flaws and all, when engaged in one-on-one conversations. We suggest including only those members of the research team who are truly vested in the customer’s experience. We also suggest that you limit viewers at each interview–to one team member. Simply rotate team members across interviews. We’ll optimize that team member’s role so they’ll blend into the background enabling intimacy to bloom. As the only viewer, your team member will be fully engrossed as the sole interview witness, keener to identifying insight territories as they surface.

Surrender to the quiet. Closeness is the ability to let down the inner barriers that allow the moderator and viewer to see the customer as s/he truly is. When you feel close to another person, you don’t mind if that person sees you without your normal defenses—psychological and otherwise. This is where meaningful insights are born. According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, “even the most autonomous of individuals needs the kind of human contact that intimacy can bring.” This intimacy sometimes calls for patience and silent, contemplative moments that lead to participants exposing important emotional vulnerabilities. These silences feel unfamiliar and even uncomfortable to some team observers, who tend to fill these audible vacuums with the impediment of small talk.

  • Best practice: We are trained to communicate positively in an intimate relationship by being both active and empathic in probing our participants’ experiences. But we also practice being comfortable with silence. This is important for in depth exploration. For example, we may encourage a participant to wander into another room as s/he thinks about a particular query before answering. We find that many times, that momentary “silence” causes a participant to return to the discussion “dance” with an even richer, more revealing story to tell!

Strategize the seating. We request in our pre-talk conversations with participants that our chats and meetings occur from the most physically-comfortable hang-out spots at home, leveraging what already makes our participant feel relaxed and naturally contributory.

  • Best practice: Encourage participants to sit where they typically do. Create an “intimacy triangle” by sitting 90-degrees from the participant, with the observer at the far end of the triangle, observing from afar. This encourages one-on-one dialogue with the moderator, allowing the team observer to discreetly take notes or photos.

As your moderator, it is my job to carefully guide conversation with skilled, active listening and gentle probing. Your commitment to an environment of intimacy will optimize the participant’s psychological comfort and trust, making the qualitative exchange ever more productive and valuable, money well spent.

Three Reasons Why Mobile Qualitative Should Be Part of Your Research Arsenal

Posted on: October 19th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy Doyle

Mobile qualitative has been a viable method for over 10 years.  But as the technology has improved so have the possibilities.   If you haven’t considered mobile research—or considered it recently — I’d like to give you three reasons why you should:

The Ubiquity of Smartphones

According to a Pew Research study, 77% of Americans now own a smartphone, and among Millennials that number climbs to 92%.   People consider their phone a natural extension of themselves, and rarely if ever leave home without it.   Mobile methods capitalize on the fact that we are not asking respondents to do anything unnatural or unfamiliar.   It’s become a selfie culture, and many smartphone users already obsessively record every moment of their lives.  So why not consider harnessing this behavior to better understand your customer?    Short of moving in with them, you can’t get better access!

Behaviors In-the-Moment and On-the-Go

Mobile research provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe and capture behaviors when they are naturally occurring– in-home, in-store, in-car, or anywhere else.   Not because we asked them to do something and report back to us, but because they were authentically doing it in their own time for their own reasons.

For one of our clients, we intercepted potential respondents as they entered a geo-fenced location–in this case, a car dealership– and invited them to participate in a phone interview immediately following their visit with the goal of understanding and enhancing the consumer experience.   As you can imagine, the level of detail and emotion as they reported on their experiences was far greater by talking to them in-the-moment than it would’ve been had we asked them the same questions six weeks later.

Behaviors Over Time

With in-person ethnography we usually observe behaviors at a single point in time, primarily for practical reasons.   While there is no substitute for spending time with your customer, and seeing their lives in context, mobile ethnography gives researchers the ability to capture behaviors as they occur over time.   This allows us to pinpoint patterns and triggers that often do not surface in a single visit.    A good compromise is to conduct a hybrid study:  an initial visit with the respondent in-person, followed by a mobile assignment over time.

Imagine asking a respondent to keep a week long mobile journal to “show and tell” each moment related to making daily dinner decisions:  the planning (what triggers a dinner decision), shopping (use a list?  make an impulse purchase?  shop a sale?); preparing (challenges); serving (what “makes” the meal); and even daily self-reflections (wouldn’t it be great if…).    How much richer the insights would be than asking a respondent to recall this information in a traditional research setting.

If these are not reasons enough to consider incorporating mobile into your research plans, here are three more.   When participating via mobile, respondents:

  • Are less apt to censor or filter their opinions and actions because of a sense of anonymity
  • Can be less self-conscious than when a moderator is present
  • Can complete assignments anywhere, at any time of day (and can receive text alerts to remind them to do so)

Want to learn more?    Download our free eBook on mobile research.

And if you’d like to discuss whether your research objectives could be addressed utilizing a mobile method, email me at kdoyle@doyleresearch.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Intersection of Improv and Ethnography: Revealing Richer Insights

Posted on: September 15th, 2017 by doyle


From the desk of Laura Duguid

One of BlogPhoto1the most amazing things I learned as an improv performer is the prolific power of in-the-moment mindfulness. Improv is not about being quick witted on the fly. Rather it’s all about concentrating on the moment at hand and working together to move a conversation forward. The ensuing repartee is the miraculous by-product of being 100 percent present and engaged in the here and now, rather than mentally mired in the past or future.

By experimenting with this technique in the context of qualitative research, I’ve discovered in-the-moment mindfulness paired with ethnography to be a winning combination. Ethnography by design is grounded in real-world interaction, and therefore a step closer to a consumer’s actual, experiential state of being. But you can inspire an even deeper, truer level of revelation about consumer motivations, needs, and emotions by incorporating some in-the-moment moderation techniques:

  • Count Relay Icebreaker: Loosen up your respondents and get them grounded in the here and now with this quick, fun icebreaker. After introductions and sharing of typical upfront information, tell the respondent you two are going to play a quick game to help loosen each other up and set the stage for a great conversation. Then, count to 15 aloud in alternating sequence, as fast as you can, i.e. the moderator starts with “1” then respondent says “2” and so on, back and forth quickly until reaching 15. Then, repeat the exercise counting down backwards from 15. When it’s all said and done, you’ll both be energized, more relaxed due to certain mistakes and ensuing laughter, and fully present and engaged with each other.
  • Maintain Moderator Mental Presence: Whether it’s keeping track of time, thinking about previous or forthcoming questions, or managing stimulus, distraction is an ever-present obstacle for moderators. One way to keep your mind in-the-now – and project that same state of focus on your respondent – is to physically orient yourself once you arrive at the interview. An easy way to do so is once you sit down, be aware of and feel how a specific part of your body is interacting with the environment, e.g. feel your feet on the floor, or your hands on the table, or your upper legs making contact with the chair. If at some point during the interview you are feeling distracted, simply re-orient using the aforementioned technique to get back in-the-moment.
  • Present Tense Talk: When you want a respondent to tell you about something they did in the past, or engage in an activity you want to observe, ask them to talk you through it speaking in the present tense. Doing so literally puts the respondent in-the-moment mentally, thereby aiding recall and greater depth of insight.

These tools work well in traditional focus groups, too. In-the-moment techniques can help bridge the gap between real life and the group room, enhancing respondent recall and articulation. In fact, once respondents are made aware the techniques make it easier for them to express all of their thoughts and opinions, I’ve discovered they participate without hesitation.

Kicking the Tires: The Automotive Path to Purchase

Posted on: May 14th, 2015 by doyle

From the desk of Alice Morgan

What We Did

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In the Summer of 2014, Doyle Research and DrivingSales, an automotive dealership consulting and training company, conducted a comprehensive research program to diagnose the automotive path to purchase and enhance the dealership experience.   We used cutting-edge GPS technology to intercept auto shoppers, at the dealership, to get authentic in the moment insights.   In addition, video diaries, ethnographies, dealership shopalongs and webcam interviews were all utilized to uncover the pivotal dealership communication touchpoints at each stage of the buying process.   An online quantitative survey was then conducted with 1,300 new vehicle purchasers.

What We Found

Many new vehicle shoppers find the car-purchasing experience stressful and unpleasant. Over half indicated they would buy new cars more frequently if it weren’t such a difficult, intimidating and unpleasant process.

Game Changers

Dealerships have gotten slightly better over the years. The problem is, other verticals have gotten substantially better. Other categories provide unfiltered reviews, pricing transparency and a low-pressure retail environment. Car dealerships don’t.

Poor Dealership Websites

They’re cluttered, confusing, hard to navigate, and shoppers don’t trust the information provided. Over half of new car shoppers don’t visit dealership websites at all. Shoppers rely on third party sites instead.

Outdated Communication Practices

Nowadays people don’t want to talk to their nearest and dearest, let alone to a car salesperson. Dealership contact forms requiring phone numbers and sales strategies emphasizing personal contact backfire, particularly among Millennials.

Too Little, Too Late

The result of all these barriers is that car shoppers avoid interacting with the dealership until very late in the process. When they do visit they often have a poor experience with a salesperson they just met and don’t trust.

Ripe for Disruption

The system is broken due to lack of trust and changed expectations. Car dealerships need to rethink engagement, provide greater transparency, and forge connections with new car shoppers earlier in the process. Old school car dealerships are ripe for disruption. If they don’t change to meet the needs of today’s car shoppers, they will be replaced.

Want to learn more? Doyle is presenting this research next month at IIeX in Atlanta. Hope to see you there!

 

Fire the Moderator!

Posted on: November 5th, 2014 by doyle

Why You Don’t “have to be there”. Tech-Driven Self-Ethnography

From the desk of Alice Morganalice and hugh car shopping

The dirty little secret of ethnographic qualitative research is that the moderator’s presence in any kind of in-home, onsite or shopalong situation causes bias. Think about it: if you were shopping with a moderator, would you really put all those Pop-Tarts in the shopping cart? Would you buy cigarettes – or feminine hygiene purchases, for that matter? As much as moderators try to downplay their presence, sometimes just being there gums up the works.

Enter the smartphone. Or any other kind of video-enabled technology, for that matter.   We at Doyle Research are all about asking respondents to, well, respond. Using technology. Away from us. By using their smartphone to tell us how a new product looks on the shelf at the grocery store. By recording a webcam video at home when they embark on a home improvement project using a new caulk. By taking a picture of the car they are considering on the dealership lot.

After these experiences have occurred, then we moderate. We follow-up and ask respondents all about the experience, their reactions, the whole shebang. But only after the initial moment of experience has been captured. In a far more authentic manner than if we had been there.

You don’t have to be there. You just have to capture what happens. And then figure out what it all means.

If you’d like to know more about this topic, Doyle Research will be presenting at The Quirk’s Event on February 23-24, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.  We hope to see you there!