Are Qualitative Market Researchers Cutting Edge? Actually, Yes.

San Diego!So, it’s been a little over a week since we got back from a most inspiring trip to the Annual QRCA conference, a week which has allowed some of the most thought-provoking ideas to sink in. We heard MANY great presentations at this event – one of the best things about this conference is the fact that all the material appears to be written expressly for it, and for the audience attending. No canned presentations – it’s all news you can use. Overall a few themes really rose to the surface.

First, the Qualitative industry is firmly ensconced in the 21st century. Across the board, innovative techniques are being embraced. The days when qualitative researchers were limited to moderating focus groups in board room-like viewing facilities are long over. We heard about active use of Behavioural Economics, Online and Mobile Ethnography, Social Media Analysis and Big Data. Increasingly researchers are using a combination of methods to uncover insights from multiple angles, which means that many new skills – most importantly, data synthesis and analysis, have moved into the foreground.

Second, as Qualitative researchers practice these new approaches, their expertise has evolved from “talking to consumers” to “understanding human behaviour”. This allows them to provide a much richer point of view to clients. They are up on all the latest thinking from consumer psychology and social science, thinking which can help companies connect with consumers more deeply and find more powerful ways of influencing their behaviour.

Third, Qualitative researchers are also upping their strategic prowess and business acumen. A number of presentations discussed topics like how to think like an Agency Planner or a Business Consultant, and providing “analysis” rather than “findings”. Equipped with the latest thinking around consumer psychology and the latest tools to uncover relevant insights, researchers are truly earning the right to a seat at the client’s table as strategic partners.

Embracing innovative approaches with an overall view to deeper brand understanding has always been at the heart of our practice at Athena Brand Wisdom, so we’re delighted to see the industry moving so strongly in this direction.

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