Archive for the ‘Qualitative General’ Category

Change is the New Normal: Insights from the 2018 QRCA Conference

Posted on: February 2nd, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy Doyle

IF you are a qualitative researcher and have not attended a QRCA Conference, you owe it to yourself to add it to your list.  QRCA members are hands down the most generous, forward-thinking and collegial people you will ever meet, and the conference itself is unlike any other.

As usual, this year’s conference was full of educational and inspirational sessions, great exhibitors, and some excellent and thought-provoking roundtable discussions.

Here is a recap of my key takeaways:

  1. Social media and AI technology are rapidly becoming the next generation tool for qualitative recruiting and data collection. Shapiro & Raj discussed their social adaptive recruiting, which accesses forums, online communities, and public social networks to “find the hard-to-find”; and Tory Gentes discussed some decidedly non-traditional techniques for using tools in our socially connected world (some sites this Boomer had never heard of before!) as a means to find quality recruits.
  2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are poised to explode as a qualitative tool. David Bauer, of Hemisphere Insights, led a great session on this topic.  As home VR equipment becomes ubiquitous, and programming costs are reduced, the ability to create more engaging experiences will become a reality.    Use VR/AR to test concepts in-home; to simulate an in-store shopping experience; to create truly engaging virtual ethnography; to facilitate co-creation; and to allow stakeholders to understand the customer experience in a way not possible before.
  3. The traditional qualitative report is slowly but surely going the way of the dinosaur. The momentum continues to grow for shorter, more visual,  non-traditional reports that tell a story that can persuade and influence decision making.  While PPT is still most common, reports may also take the form of podcasts, photo books, full video reports, magazine reports, talk shows, or any number of other creative deliverables.
  4. The line between qualitative and quantitative is continuing to blur. Any survey can now be combined with qualitative feedback via video open-ends or qualitative “pull outs” –where a select number of respondents (based on their survey responses) are asked to participate in follow up qualitative interviews, to expand upon the learning from the survey and address the “why’s” behind their responses.  Where once qualitative and quantitative were distinctly different beasts, hybrid projects are becoming increasingly common.

It’s an exciting time to be in the market research industry.   Hold on, and enjoy the ride!

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” 
― Taylor Swift

“The pace of change and the threat of disruption creates tremendous opportunities…” 
Steve Case

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!



(Qualitative) Research Resolutions

Posted on: December 28th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Natanya Rubin

With 2017 nearly over, the team at DRA has been taking stock of the past year in qualitative research.  The start of a new year is a perfect time to dream about our hopes, examine our successes, and learn from the things that challenged us. In 2018, we resolve to:

…OBSERVE consumers, as they talk about the products and services that make a difference in their lives. In the new year we’ll watch consumers sample new food products and puzzle their way through drafts of marketing materials. We’ll draw them out–in focus group rooms, in homes, and in stores–and engage with their passions, understand their needs, and encourage them to express their ideas.

…EXPLORE new trends in qualitative research. This year, advances in mobile research have opened doors to us in exciting ways. Hearing what consumers have to say outside of the confines of a formal research set-up can be of tremendous benefit, and our tools for connecting have never been more sophisticated. This year, respondents shared struggles and discoveries with us in real time through streaming mobile interviews, which resulted in learning that ultimately guided product development. We’ve been dreaming of these in-the-moment tools for years, but now we can put those dreams into action!

…CONNECT our tools in new ways. This year has also seen us exploring ways to join the statistical breadth of quantitative data with the rich depth of qualitative interviews, using online tools to marry the two methodologies.  It’s a great replacement for the kind of research that used to be accomplished in person with dial-pads and a lot of logistical heavy lifting.  Now, thanks to our ability to link various online tools together, we can expand the possibilities of a hybrid approach that provides quantitative input and qualitative insights.

It’s an exciting time to be qualitative researchers, and we can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for us, for our clients, and for market research itself. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, and happy research in 2018!


Five Key Factors That Impact Qualitative Costs

Posted on: December 18th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy Doyle

When you ask your qualitative partners to provide a cost estimate for your research project, do you know what the key factors are that impact the price they provide? Knowing that information could help you save money, avoid surprises, and provide you with a better idea of how to evaluate competing bids.

In any qualitative bid, there are five key factors that impact price:

1. Screening criteria: The more difficult the screening criteria, and the more questions that need to be asked of respondents during the screening process (which impacts cooperation rates) the greater the cost. For that reason, focus on the “need to know” questions, such as key demographics/psychographics, and category/brand usage. “Nice to know” information can be covered in the research.

2. Size of the recruit: The more participants you recruit, the greater the cost. Because qualitative is designed to provide direction rather than to be projectable to a larger population, be conservative with your sample size. Tip: don’t forget to account for last minute cancellations, no shows and respondents who don’t pass a re-screen. We recommend over-recruiting by 20% to ensure that you end up with the number of respondents requested. When comparing bids, make sure to ask whether the cost estimate includes the cost for over-recruits.

3. Incentives: There are three things that influence how much respondents are paid: the difficulty of the recruit, the location of the research, and the amount of work a respondent is being asked to do. The difficulty of the recruit goes without saying: the harder it is to find respondents (very low incidence, consumers vs. professionals), the more you need to pay to make sure they agree to participate. And if your research is being conducted digitally vs. in-person, incentives will most likely be lower because respondents are able to participate from the convenience of their home or office. Finally, the more you ask respondents to do, the greater the incentive. Do you need them for 30-minutes, 2 hours, 2 weeks? Be realistic about how much time you need to accomplish your research objectives, so that you are not paying more in incentives than is necessary.

4. Facility Rental or Platform License Fees: Time is king. The more time you spend in a facility, or licensing a technology platform, the greater the cost. Know how much time you’ll need to accomplish your goals, and set the length of the research sessions accordingly. Padding, because you haven’t adequately scoped out the research, can cost you. And conversely, not allowing enough time can shortchange results.

5. Deliverables: The type of deliverable required can dramatically impact your costs, easily increasing professional fees by 50% or more. Do you need a detailed report, an executive summary, or just a post-research debriefing session? A multi-media PPT presentation, or a professionally edited video report? Be realistic: contract only for what you know your team will use.

Armed with this information, you can be confident that you have designed your research to maximize results and minimize costs.

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.