Why in-situ research? Because that’s where the insights are.

The famous criminal Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks. His response? “Because that’s where the money is.” We tend to turn to in-situ research – whether in-person or via a digital platform – for a similar reason. It’s where the insights are!

Place-based, in-situ, or “–along” studies allow the researcher to observe, understand and probe on a consumer’s in-the-moment behaviors. Think about the benefits of debriefing with a consumer immediately after they exit a roller coaster vs. hearing their opinions of the ride weeks or months after it took place. Over time, the passion and emotion fade, as does one’s memory of all the details of the experience (e.g., excitement vs. fear from a coaster’s batwings and corkscrews).

Capturing in-the-moment attitudes and behaviors is more important and easier than ever before. To address this need, our qualitative toolbox has expanded beyond in-person/on-site interviews to include:

Mobile: In today’s world of video selfies, mobile immersions allow for guided, unobtrusive, uninhibited digital immersions. They are particularly effective when exploring sensitive subjects like breastfeeding or medication usage, or when exploring steps in a journey such as home improvement projects or car shopping.

Streaming: Streaming allows us to be a fly on the wall, observing actual vs. reported behaviors, from how consumers prepare a recipe using a specific ingredient to the process of doing laundry, or even afterschool snack time. This approach also allows consumers to share their screens and show us how they shop or research new products online.

Geolocation research: Using GPS location tracking, we can survey consumers as they enter a specific retail location and then follow up with an in-depth interview to explore post-purchase satisfaction, the influence of in-store promotions or satisfaction with the drive-thru experience at a quick-serve restaurant or bank.

Whether in-situ, placed-based or a type of “–along” research, qualitative methods can now uncover more of the in-the-moment insights – both the rational and emotional drivers of behavior – than ever before, helping teams make smarter business decisions.