Qual 360 Conference Highlights: Part I – ‘fast and easy’ research

Two weeks ago I’ve participated as a presenter in the European Qualitative 360 Conference in Berlin. The topic of my presentation was related with the neuromarketing research where I primary shared my experience with eye-tracking studies and provided some insights on how to make them really actionable.

The Conference in general was a big inspiration for me and I was happy to discuss many important and challenging questions related with consumer research. As the content of the conference was very deep and diverse, I would share my Conference highlights in three parts. Here I would focus on online research methods and ‘fast and easy’ research approaches.

Digitalization of consumer research is already quite an old trend, but it’s still interesting how exactly this trend continues to develop. So, the most discussed topics in this area were:

  • online diaries, both moderated and partly structured;
  • webcam interviews;
  • real time data gathering;
  • communities, both organized by a research company and own brand communities;
  • social listening.

Digitalization of consumer research allows to step change the overall approach to consumer studies and make them very  fast and easy. The first type of ‘fast and easy’ research includes use of smartphone. The reason for it is very clear, we should use the same communication tools that our consumers do. Thus, according to Yahoo research that was presented in the Conference, 67% of consumers think that they will be smartphone dominant in 5 years. It means that consumers will use smartphone more than other Internet connected devices.

Few more important facts, that can be used for understanding of the potential of smartphone research. The Yahoo study also shows that 89% of 12-19 y.o. people in Germany own a smartphone and they consider smartphone more entertaining than a TV. So, consumer research with the use of smartphone should be really entertaining and interesting for respondents, it’s no longer about boring and long questionnaires.

Another fact from Yahoo research, 66% of 12-19 y.o. respondents in Germany watch online videos on a daily basis, that means that we can differently approach commercials testing and use smartphones for instance to ask for screen shorts with interesting or annoying advertising.

A big trend in smartphone based research now is mobile crowdsourcing research platforms that can be used for very diverse business questions. It can be in a form of store checks, shop alongs and even in-home visits. For in-homes we can ask for a 30 sec video that will show a product in use. In addition, smartphone based studies can include some group discussions, e.g. via WhatsApp.

Some important watch outs on videos that respondents share with us: lower quality, privacy and authenticity (some materials might be very strange).

Other types of ‘fast and easy’ research include webcam interviews/focus groups and communities. The main idea here is to connect directly business stakeholders with consumers.

Such communities might have very diverse functionality that will allow to gather as much holistic insights as possible. Communities might include quantitative surveys, regular polls, continuous contact diaries, life charts, bulletin board groups, smartboards, scrapbooks, word polls, brainstorming, journals, forum discussions, blogs and pop ups. Their analysis can be done both life and retrospective.

The biggest question that discussed in regards to this topic was definitely related with the role of Consumer Insights team in this process.

The core conclusion is that Consumer Insights should be involved in:

  • defining a target;
  • providing a holistic training on how to do consumer interviews/ discussions;
  • technical set up like video conferencing;
  • frequency of interviews/focus groups;
  • business stakeholders to be involved;
  • how findings are to be shared widely within the organization.

During the Conference companies from very different industries shared very positive experience on how they empowered their standard research approaches with this agile ‘fast and easy’ studies. Thus, the team from Unilever managed to engage 60% of a category team including Marketing and R&D.

One important watch out for Consumer Insights Managers, such approaches should have very strong involvement and commitment of business partners.

Digitalization of research rises some questions related with the research quality. Respondents from on-line panels are very experienced in the survey taking. One of the possibility how to address it might be use of some extra unusual activities to understand more in-depth their real consumption behavior, e.g. via interviews.

Smartphone research might also have some professional respondents. Here more creative types of tasks and diverse questions might enhance the quality of insights.

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