Posts Tagged ‘ethnography’

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.

Kicking the Tires: The Automotive Path to Purchase

Posted on: May 14th, 2015 by doyle

From the desk of Alice Morgan

What We Did


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!

Make Your Qualitative Market Research New Year Resolutions!

Posted on: December 2nd, 2013 by doyle

From the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan

As 2013 is nearing an end, and 2014 is just around the corner, it’s not too early to make your qualitative market research resolutions for next year.  Doyle Research can assist you with setting priorities and getting the most bang for your buck.  And maybe in the New Year, it’s time to try some new methods.  Here are some options to consider:

Online Qualitative Research

If you want to explore a category; discuss a concept, product, or communications; surface associated issues; and/or bring people of different geographies together, online qualitative research is a great option.  Depending on your objectives and audience, we would recommend a real-time method (e.g., online focus groups, mini-groups, dyads, triads, decision pairs, individual depth interviews) or an asynchronous method (bulletin boards, online immersion, video diaries).

Mobile Qualitative Research

If you’d like to capture your customer’s stream of consciousness “in the moment” perceptions or reactions during a relevant behavior (e.g., making a purchase decision at a store, choosing a meal at a restaurant, etc.), then mobile qualitative may fit the bill.  We can have customers call in or text their reactions as well as snap some photos or create brief videos.

Ethnographic Qualitative Research

If you’d like to capture the customer experience in the “natural” environment during or after s/he’s making decisions (e.g., and have a researcher observe and probe on the experience in real time), ethnographic/observational research can provide invaluable insights.  Such research could take place in-home (e.g., applying cosmetics, doing laundry, cooking meals), in-store (e.g., observe decision making and/or to gain feedback on categories, products, displays, packaging, bundling, retailer service), or on-site (e.g., organizing a desk at the office, cleaning the car).

QuickQual: Online Qualitative Research

This method is a quick and affordable text-based online tool that can provide you with early/directional inputs for the concept development and refinement process (e.g., for products, packaging, communications, etc.), and to ensure language accurately reflects the concept.  This method offers a same-day study kick-off, immediate recruitment of high-incidence respondents and 48 hours to results.

MineSights: Qualitative Meta Analysis

Take another look at market research that’s been conducted throughout your organization in 2013 or before — with a new perspective or purpose.  If you don’t have the time or you want a fresh projective, then consider Doyle’s MineSights.  We not only will provide new insights but also identify gaps of knowledge for future research initiatives.

We can make it happen

Doyle Research can help you to keep your research resolutions!  We have 17 proven qualitative market research methods and counting that will enable us to effectively address any research needs that you have.

The Possible Dream … Who Says You Can’t Conduct In-Home Rural Ethnographies with Teenage Boys?

Posted on: September 16th, 2013 by doyle

From the desk of Alice Morgan

Bug spray.  When conducting rural ethnographies with teenage boys in the end of August, bring it.  Plus a sense of humor.   And an open mind.  And sit back and enjoy the ride.  Because you will be spending hours in the car.

Method to the Madness

For a recent public health campaign targeting rural teenage boys, I traveled around rural Iowa and Kentucky conducting in-home ethnographies.  For those of you who say rural ethnographies can’t be done, I beg to differ.  Although there is a lot to be said for online work with teenagers (anonymity yields candor) and focus groups (a convenient venue for researchers and clients alike) there simply is no substitute for being in-home.  Want to understand the lives of rural teenagers?  Meet them on their terms.  Meet them, well, at home.

As Usual, It’s All About the Recruit

Recruiting for in-homes is hard.  Recruiting teenage boys even more so.  Add to the mix recruiting teenage boys, in-home, in sparsely populated rural areas several hours from the nearest focus group facility, and you have the ingredients of an impossible recruit.  Select your recruiter(s) carefully.  Find out how they plan to identify and recruit people who live in remote areas.  Give them extra time.  Call frequently to check in.  Send flowers.  Pray.  Our recruiters were able to pull rabbits out of hats but it was a nail biter of a recruit.  In the end it was all good.  Great, in fact.

Up Close?  Get Personal

With all due respect to moderator training about the evils of interviewer bias, an interview creates an innate power imbalance.  When a moderator deflects all personal questions in the interest of avoiding any bias, the power imbalance worsens.  Add the potential privacy invasion of an in-home interview, plus a couple of client observers, and a sticky situation can arise.  My goal is to interview the teenagers away from their parents.  To achieve this goal, I speak Truth To Power (power = the parents).  I say, truthfully, “I have 2 teenage boys, and I know for a fact that they watch what they say when I am around.  So is there any way you can hang out in a different part of the house so I can interview Johnny privately?”  Works like a charm.

Teens May Not Know Who They Are, But They Know Who They Aren’t

Some of the most penetrating insights about rural life were obtained not by asking about living in the country, but by asking kids to describe life in big cities.  Kids in rural regions have a distinct sense of what it’s like to live in a city, and how they are different from “city kids.”  (Personal tip:  I employed a similar strategy with my daughter’s college selection process.  She may not know what college she wants to attend, but she absolutely knows what colleges shedoes NOT want to attend.  By identifying the schools she doesn’t want, we backed into the schools she is now considering.)

Lastly, Enjoy

These far-from-a-cell-signal ethnographies were among the most interesting interviews I have conducted in the 20+ years I have been in the biz.  I was fortunate to travel with fun, interesting clients, which was a godsend given how much time we spent driving around together.  Best of all was the work itself, getting to know some remarkable teenage boys who live in remote regions and discovering their stories.

beattyville train