It’s 18 months since I came across this article in Greenbook heralding a renaissance in qualitative market research. And, having just returned from the QRCA’s (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) annual conference in Phoenix last week, I can tell you that the renaissance continues. If you’re thinking about
how leading-edge qualitative can be baked into your 2018 research plan, here are 5 things you might explore:
Social media recruiting has come of age, with exciting implications for qualitative market research. In the past, it was very difficult or expensive to find low-incidence segments. Now, recruiters can use web and social platforms to target those low-incidence respondents you may wish to speak with. Facebook – with its extraordinary targeting filters and millions of special interest groups – makes it possible to find respondents that just would have been unfindable in past. Recruiters still need to do the “live on the phone” part of recruiting to make sure people are appropriate respondents and avoid “cheaters” and “repeaters”, but if you’ve been told in that past that recruiting a segment is impossible, that may no longer be true.
While there is no AI that truly replaces a moderator, there are now tools, like Remesh, that use AI to support “Qual at scale”.
AI Tools, under a moderator’s supervision, can now be deployed to allow for qualitative research with sample sizes that are much larger, with the AI seamlessly taking on some of the moderation and the machine learning delivering analysis on the fly, so that the moderator can assess new questions to be added. It’s an approach that delivers the depth of qualitative and the projectability and verification quantitative. And – it can be done with a relatively modest budget.
In part, the renaissance in qualitative research is a function of the rise of UX as a
discipline. For the UX community,qualitative research is an essential part of the process, with research being desirable “early and often”. At first, because of the “behavioral” orientation of web analytics, UX research was focused on observational modalities, with some of the typical qualitative tools (such as focus groups) being shunned. But now, as UX Research matures as a discipline, qualitative researchers are developing approaches that combine “exploratory” modalities (focus groups, in-depth interviews) with observational modalities (usability testing, ethnography) and the result is study designs that combine traditional qualitative and User Research approaches that add depth, nuance, and value to findings.
Behavioral economics is not new. But while we’ve had books like Predictably Irrational, Nudge, and Freakonomics, what we didn’t have were easily applicable frameworks for translating behavioral economics principles into research instruments like discussion guides. That’s changed now. Now, frameworks like the Behavior Change Wheel and Cialdini’s Factors of Influence offer good structures for the practical application of Behavioral Economics principles in research design. The end result is that qualitative researchers are now fully equipped to pinpoint critical behavior change levers – whether they’re related to motivations, beliefs, or abilities, and to suggest which marketing “triggers” are most likely required.
As Virtual Reality technology has come of age, qualitative research applications have followed. VR is emerging as THE future technology for shopper experience research, because we can test the “at-shelf” experience in a lab. But that’s really just the beginning. VR can also be used to help evaluate competing design concepts for stores, vehicles and more. In traditional research, design concepts can be difficult to convey. But with a VR headset, we can expose consumers to a design concept in a realistic and tangible way. We can allow them to engage and even manipulate the experience. VR is also being used as a co-creation tool, with clients and teams working together in virtual environments, exploring alternative designs and even altering the designs in real-time.
If you’re interested in exploring how one of these methods might fit into your research plan, drop us a line!