Archive for the ‘Insights’ Category

Research Methods: A Deeper Dive Into Online Qualitative

Posted on: July 9th, 2018 by doyle No Comments

From the desk of Kathy Doyle

Over the past few years, the qualitative toolkit has vastly increased with the addition of online and mobile methods.  These additions have brought significant benefits and the ability to conduct research that was simply not possible before.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a closer look at some of our favorite online methodologies – webcam interviews, online communities and digital chats.

Webcam Interviews

Webcam interviews are online interviews in which the participant and moderator can see each other as well as any stimuli (storyboard, video, website, etc.) utilizing webcams and a split screen.

Webcam interviews take geography out of the equation, allowing you to conduct interviews across the country in a single day. You get a close-up of participants’ facial expressions as they view the stimulus, something that is difficult to achieve in a focus group facility. This makes them ideal for web usability studies and advertising communication checks.

Online Communities

Online communities take place over time (short term or long term, ranging from two days to two weeks or longer) with respondents answering questions or reacting to stimulus posted by the moderator. They allow for anonymity, unlimited response time, and iterative or longitudinal learning. Respondents also have the ability to upload photos and video and complete homework assignments before or during the session.

Online communities are ideal for exploratory research when rich, nuanced feedback is needed. They also work well for message development or evaluation, and whenever a topic is sensitive.

One-on-One Chats

One-on-one chats function much like an instant message or text chat, but one that is led by a moderator who engages with the individual participant in real time. A great way to get beneath surface-level insights, with this technique the moderator can also share stimuli for respondent feedback.

One-on-one chats are ideal for creative and message testing and allow anonymity that also makes it well suited for discussion of sensitive topics. Furthermore, this approach can be used as a stand-alone qualitative exploration or added seamlessly to a quantitative survey, routing qualified participants from the survey instrument to a moderated chat to provide greater depth and context.

If you’d like to explore whether, or how, these methods could be used to answer your business questions, feel free to contact me at


Revolutionary Developments in Research Best Practices: Insights from IIeX 2018

Posted on: June 25th, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt 

Well, all y’all, IIEX-NA in Atlanta last week made me happy as a pig in mud!

 This was no southern drawl of a conference. IIEX, held recently in Atlanta, was packed with revolutionary developments in research best practices, scores of technological advancements in quant and qual tools, and a buzzing hornets’ nest of collaborative energy.

 Here are my thoughts on five hot topics that emerged over the course of the event.

What the heck is blockchain, the “right to be forgotten,” and the advanced-thinking new Vermont law? And why should I care? As technologies advance, consumers are increasingly able to lock up their personal data warehouse and throw away (or more specifically, encode) the key. The future of market research lies in consumer control: “I decide what to share, when to share, and how much to share.” Facilitating the transfer and decentralization of control is blockchain. What’s great about this? As researchers, we will soon gain a 360-degree view of the consumer—via a channel by which we can directly access the consumer’s knowledge warehouse. 

Brokers and panel companies who collect and sell consumer data for advertisers are facing a particularly stringent new set of regulations in Vermont. The new law is aimed at cracking down on those who make a living tracking users’ personal information. Data brokers must report information about their data collection activities publicly and have opt-out policies for consumers. They must also disclose security breaches that happened in the prior year—including the total known number of consumers affected. Vermont acted over concerns about online privacy. Brokers are usually invisible because they don’t directly interact with consumers who share data, knowingly or not, on platforms like Facebook, airline booking reservation sites and other sites. From my perspective as a consumer, cheers to the people out there protecting me when I might not know fully how to protect my data myself. 

Improving the respondent experience starts with “We need to stop asking questions that consumers can’t answer!”  It’s time to uncomplicate the survey, the journal assignments, the discussion guide.  Let’s get critical of HOW we ask questions! Are we using casual, human language? Are we keeping our questions simple? Are we editing to ensure we’re only asking what we really need to know to minimize the time commitment on the respondents’ part?

 How else can we engage respondents more effectively?  More productively?  Use videos to welcome, inform and instruct respondents on surveys and assignments.  Embrace the use of avatars, colors, icons, and/or code names for respondents to encourage more candor from online participants. Use photos/images, or emoticons for responses instead of always relying on numeric scales. A memorable point from Misty Flantroy at J. M. Smucker Company: “Turn to the person to your right. Start a conversation and have them respond only with a number from 1 to 5!” Point taken.

 Get creative and utilize digital and product bonuses (tied to deadlines) to instill the urgency to complete surveys; e.g., “the first 50 to complete this survey or assignment are automatically entered to win an iPad!” Yes, these efforts lead to richer insights, and ultimately, smarter business decisions.

 “When people feel they’re being heard, they’ll tell you anything.” One-on-one, face-to-face conversations were cited by many presenters as being ever more essential for savvy marketers in this behind-the-screen, digital age.  Though described by a few as “old school,” face-to-face research is anything but, because customers and consumers are hungry for human-to-human connection. 80% of communication is non-verbal. Follow up large-scale surveys with a select number of webcam interviews or small group discussions. Visit your customer on site, or your consumer in home, wherever consideration and purchase decisions are being made. Walk in their shoes and listen. Querying the behaviors, exploring the attitudes, influences, influencers, and drivers behind those behaviors gets us on the other side of the screens, where real decisions are made. 

 Force “quiet reflection” into research practices. Say what? Up-end how we observe and ingest the research we do, to get more bang for the buck. More than one roundtable discussion at IIEX-NA revolved around getting teams to put away the laptops, the phones, and the often self-important, “I’ve gotta step out to take this call” behaviors. You’re spending good money and allocating time to listen to the voice of the customer, so listen, damnit! Get out of the office and meet your customer where they work and live. Take notes in notebooks—gasp!—by hand, with a pen! Draw pictures, ask questions, challenge each other, build in work sessions—and never put the project fully to bed until everyone on the product or brand team has played an active part of the research. As one client mentioned, “we bring research to the executive table as a valued voice of the team.”

 Deliverables should inspire stakeholders to feel somethingShift our report writing approach and see ourselves as “Insight Journalists.” What’s the storyline? What’s real news? What’s important and relevant? Explore the “opening argument” approach, like that of a trial. Research learning should strive to create movement within the organization.  Consider using other media formats to deliver or reinforce insights and action: wall posters, composites/personas, podcasts, documentaries. Incorporate “points of reflection” or “challenge the learning” or “how do we take action” slides as dividers in our insights decks—that is, make time to stop along the way and talk about: What have we learned? What do we do about what we learned? 




Posted on: March 26th, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

One of the coolest things about being a qualitative practitioner and strategist is to observe humans in all their idiosyncratic quirks (often unbeknownst to the respondent) and to carefully listen to the unique and impactful stories that led to those behaviors.  One of the coolest things about being part of Doyle is our unparalleled commitment to doing what is needed to surface those latent, below-the-surface motivations and beliefs. We are willing to get our feet wet–and literally have done just that—to develop the critical empathy for our customers that leads to impactful insight.

Sometimes these “deep dive” experiences are amusing.

In one case, we all removed our shoes as was the norm in our consumer’s home. Our ethnographic teams crammed into the tiniest bathroom to observe and listen to consumers show their cosmetic stockpiles and to tell their stories. Did you know that most women who wear makeup have three levels of cosmetic sets? “What I’m wearing now” (10-15 products), “what I was wearing that I’m bored with” (often 30-40 products), and “what-I-used-to-wear-but-don’t-like-anymore-but-can’t-bear-to-part-with-just-in-case” (dozens to hundreds of products). Interestingly, the inventory of that revealed that consumers heavily favored only three brands. Why so many products? Insights! Self-blame: “I must have chosen wrong.” And, Familiar + Foreign = Hope. Smart brands constantly promote twists on versions of the same products, leveraging that exact belief and behavior into strong sales. It wasn’t until we returned to the car that someone mentioned our collective soaking wet socks; our consumer had just showered and her bathroom floor was still puddled.

Sometimes our commitment to rich behavioral understanding takes us to heavy, emotional places.

The one-on-one intimacy of online interviews can be extraordinarily revealing.  One late evening we listened as a consumer described her painful feelings of romantic rejection, these deep-seated emotions driving her consideration of –but not action for–dermatologic procedures and skin care products. We had designed time and daypart into projects like this to create a productive environment for sensitive discussions. Yes, it’s hard working the guide topics through the tears and emotional tensions. Exhausting, yes, but through our fastidious listening, emerge patterns. Insight! A take-charge, self-worth positioning that motivates action.

Sometimes our commitment to discovering those rich insights has meant some outrageous experiences along the way!

On a lighter note, we have taped off rooms to observe consumers’ roach-killing solutions, chased down elusive car dealers for 4 weeks to complete 9 interviews, performed 24 interviews about the nuances of successful global currency exchange, followed the granular paper trail in engineers’ workflows, and noted specific consumer needs behind what we’ll call the results of “poor knife skills.”

We know that real insight comes from immersion into the experiences we seek to understand. So, even when it is discussing cat litter cleaning preferences, ahem, in the moment, we will go the extra mile to observe and probe the emotions and influences affecting customer decision making. Because we truly love what we do–yes, even getting our feet wet–to help YOU make smarter business decisions.


The Quirks Event Brooklyn: An Esprit de Corps Experience

Posted on: March 2nd, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Laura Duguid

This week I attended my first Quirks Event. Having submitted an application and been accepted to speak at the event in Brooklyn, NY, my emotions prior were a mix of nervousness and excitement. Of course, as we all know, work doesn’t stop when we decide to attend these gatherings. And, if your job is anything like mine, project work has a tendency to multiply the closer the conference date – and the planned time away from the office – gets. To this end, I began to ask myself, “Should I still go?” “What to do?!” (Everyone has those moments, right?)

Well, of course I didn’t bail. I was proud to have been invited to speak, and certainly wanted to fulfill my commitment. So off I went, from Chicago to New York for two days – and it was wonderful! The exhibitors and session speakers were all abuzz about innovative tools, platforms and approaches – mostly digital – that raise the results bar in the research game. I felt immersed in the future and it looked fantastic!

But the thing that stands out most about my experience at the Quirks Event Brooklyn was the sense of camaraderie I felt that transcended industry relationships. Exhibitors, marketing researchers, insights directors and managers, academics, and ad execs – just to name a few – had all gathered for a common goal: exploring how to achieve new heights in top quality research. Refreshingly, I found the tone of the event to be more like a great big information share instead of all about networking. It was an inspiring experience that served to remind me we’re all on the same team and have the same goal: to produce insightful, actionable information at the highest level.

And speaking of the highest level, what conference would be complete without a swag bag? The Quirks Event Brooklyn did not disappoint. Here’s a closing story that reveals some of the goody bag highlights:

Sitting at one of the high-top tables in the exhibit hall, I use my jar opener to uncap a fresh bottle of water. I slip the bottle into my new coozie to keep it chilled and scan the speaker schedule with a magnifying glass so as not to miss any important details. I circle several options with my puzzle pen. I have a bit of time before the first speaker, so I indulge in some levity and read a book of witticisms. Time’s up so I pack my notebook and head to the conference room. The speaker is wonderful – informative and engaging. But wait! My turn to speak is just around the corner! I pop a piece of gum into my mouth and grab the stress ball to tame my nerves as I dash to Conference Room One. Up at the podium I use the lens cloth to wipe down the laptop screen. With two minutes to go I apply a swipe of lip balm to assure the words come out smoothly. And three…two…one…show time: Emotional Engagement Through Customer Empathy—Tapping the Power of Live Streaming Mobile Interviewing.




Where Do You Do Your Heavy Lifting?  More Muscle Up Front Means More Insightful Research on the Back End

Posted on: January 22nd, 2018 by doyle


From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Pop quiz! Think about the last research project you did. What proportion of your time was assigned to design, logistics/set-up, execution, analysis, and reporting?

If you’re putting anything less than 30% of your project muscle into the design stage, securing the foundation of the project, I contend that you’re likely wasting your valuable time and research dollars.

What fills that 30% proportion of time? Planning for success. We like to call this “The Wonder Session.”  This is not a project “kick-off.” This is what happens in the most successful research projects well before the kick-off.

Another meeting. We hear the groans. However, I’ve never left one of these sessions where the team didn’t have greater cohesion and increased precision about what we really wanted to accomplish in the research.  Including your research partners to hear it all makes The Wonder Session even better. The result? Thoughtful design, richer insights, and smarter business decisions.

Five essential elements comprise “The Wonder Session.” Yes, in this order:

  1. State the research objectives: What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? What is the business decision that needs to be made? What has led to this research need? Are you really seeking, e.g., appeal, perceived competition, or product distinction? Putting in time to define the problems fully and in depth makes them easier to solve, which means saving time, money and resources.
  2. Present existing research: What do we already know related to this challenge? What don’t we know enough about? What do we believe is still true? Meta-analysis of primary and secondary research saves money by utilizing existing knowledge, and clarifies research gaps. And examining previous research further defines who exactly we need to speak with, and most importantly, illustrates why their voices matter to your business in this research effort.
  3. Probe the stakeholder voice: Who are the stakeholders that matter most? What are stakeholders’ needs vs. wants? What investment, resources, and capabilities are available? There’s nothing worse than retrofitting stakeholders’ concerns after research is in the field. Allocate time to surface stakeholder agendas, note (and share!) the political watch-outs, consider the what-if’s well before the project is a “go.”
  4. Capture team members’ hypotheses: There’s no better way to refine objectives than by listening to team members’ expected results. How do they think the customer will respond? Press further–what are the optimal responses, the language and commentary that they’d love to hear? In what ways do they expect (or hope) participantswill express their needs? Make a list of hypotheses, guard it, and bring it back for the post-field analysis.
  5. Refine the research objectives and “criteria for success”: After completing the above steps, revisit the initially stated objectives with a red pen. Now, who is really the target? What do we expect to learn from those key participants? What is “need to know” vs. “nice to have?” And end The Wonder Session by defining the 3-5 elements of a successful project; what will a successful project deliver?

 Consider The Wonder Session the “breakfast” of your project–as we all know, the most important meal of the day!  Putting more muscle into the up-front, pre-field planning serves as the “protein” of the research project—it’s filling, satisfying, and provides lasting energy.  The reward? Efficient and insightful research learning that will ultimately help move your business forward.

NOW it’s time for the formal research kick-off meeting with your core team and your qualitative strategists. Go forth and prosper!