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Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Posted By Kelsey Segaloff, HubSpot, Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Two years ago, I made the move from working at a market research (MRX) agency to a client-side user experience (UX) team at a software company. Starting my job in UX, I had the perception that UX research and market research were two completely different worlds. The more I have learned, the more I’ve found we really aren’t that different after all. 

We are focused on related goals:

Let’s take a look at the definitions of market and UX research. 

Market Research Definition 
“The process of gathering, 
analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present, and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location, and needs of your business's target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face” 

UX Research Definition 
“UX (user experience) research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements, to add realistic contexts and insights to design pro

It helps us identify and prove or disprove our assumptions, find commonalities across our target audience members, and recognize their needs, goals, and mental models. Overall, research informs our work, improves our understanding, and makes our work better.” 

Notice any similarities?

Market research and UX research are closely related. The foundation of both kinds of research is a focus on understanding target users/customers. Importantly, UX research and market research are types of research one can conduct. Just because you identify as a market researcher does not mean you haven’t been conducting UX research, and vice versa. 

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As UX researchers, we use market research to better understand customers, the market, and the ways the products we work on can be best positioned. As market researchers, we use UX research to make the experience of interacting with a product or service better. You may already have been conducting UX or market research without realizing it! 

Imagine the goal of your study is to understand uncover the pain points of a gym membership in order to try and increase the number of membership signups. Would that be a UX research study or a market research study?

I would argue it’s both. If UX is focused on the user experience, the member’s experience would fall under the UX umbrella. However, if we’re looking to increase the number of membership sign-ups, we would need to conduct market research (e.g., what are the gym competitors doing, what external factors beyond the experience at this gym impact membership?) to understand the full picture.

Market and UX research are two pieces of the same research puzzle. 

We are doing the same kinds of research but in a different language 

One of the biggest challenges to bridging the gap between market and UX research is, what I like to call, “research gatekeeping.” 

Gatekeeping is when someone or something arbitrarily decides who does or does not have access or rights to a community. Within the research community, we’ve become gatekeepers of research. We consciously create UX-specific or market research-specific jargon that results in artificial boundaries between what are or aren’t certain types of research. 

Here are just a few examples of UX and MRX-specific lingo that means the same thing:

Market Research Term  UX Term 
Co-Creation  Co-Design 
IDI/TDI  One-on-one interview 
Ethnography  Contextual Inquiry 


Research gatekeeping makes bridging the gap between research types incredibly challenging. When we consciously create jargon, we’re siloing ourselves from the greater research community. If we continue drawing superficial lines, a market researcher may never realize they have been conducting UX all along, nor will the UXer realize they have been exploring the world of market research. 

So how do we bridge the gap? 

I no longer consider myself just a market researcher or just a UX researcher, instead, I’m a researcher. I can use market research, UX research, or any other kind of research to help my stakeholders achieve their goals. The more we as a research community can break down these arbitrary barriers, the more we can learn from one another. The more communication and sharing we have across the research community, the more we can grow together. And in turn, we can bridge the research gap. 

About the author:

Kelsey Segaloff is a professional question asker and loves looking at the why behind everything we do. 


Tags:  comparing MRX and UX  QRCA Digest  UX research 

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Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

Posted By Batukhan Taluy, Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

The term “agile” (with its roots in software development methodologies) has been misused in the business world for quite some time. Like its counterparts, the term agile has become a substitute for “quick and dirty” work, which has nothing to do with what agile actually is. 

Then what is agile? 

As explained in a previous article, agile is all about testing hypotheses, using forms of effective stakeholder/team communication, and most importantly, using iteration. 

In a nutshell, as is depicted in the image below, the value proposition is fairly simple. Instead of executing the whole project in one go (as in a waterfall process), agile methodology utilizes sprints whereby every sprint takes the product one step closer to the ultimate outcome. During these sprints, the intermediary outputs are validated by stakeholders (customers, team members, etc.) and this iterative process continues until the project is complete. As it is much easier to change intermediary outcomes than the whole body of a project, catching errors early drastically reduces project delivery time and improves quality.



How can one use agile to achieve exponentially better results?

I was fascinated when I first heard about the Grounded Theory as a qualitative data analysis methodology. What most caught my attention was that it allowed grounding data into several sources of truth instead of only one.   

For example, we were conducting research for a bank to find innovation opportunities revolving around fraud, and how to help customers to decrease fraud in their daily lives. During the in-depth interviews, we found that fraud is very common during second-hand car sales processes. Now, here comes the interesting part. This is just one hypothesis that we found among a dozen, but it was a powerful and widespread one. To gather more data on this topic, we turned to the internet as another source of truth. 

We found a YouTube channel in the automotive category with several thousand subscribers. There was a single video on fraud during car sales that had been watched more than 2.4 million times! These behavioral consumer data indicated that we were tracking something valuable. Analyzing and clustering the comments and feedback with our anthropologist, we theorized which consumer segments would be more likely to use such a product. This is ethnography done on the internet; there is a name for this process, netnography. For the sake of this post, I will not take a deep dive into netnography, but according to Wikipedia, we can summarize it as a specific set of research practices related to data collection, analysis, research ethics, and representation, rooted in participant observation. 

Utilizing the aforementioned data, we amended our questions. At the end of the research process, we even changed the research methodology! This is just an example of how research sprints can add value to qualitative research. We start as a tabula rasa, an empty slate, and fill ourselves slowly with the information that is provided by consumers. We don’t just shape the report, but also shape our methodology, ourselves, research participants and research questions according to the data that we capture, hence we slowly dive deeper into behavioral or psychographic consumer segments. 

So how should I conduct my next research project? 

Agile is not about strict rules or utilizing strict methodologies like netnography. Sometimes we just leverage in-depth interviews in our sprints or mix and match methods, such as metaphor elicitation, UX research, or diary studies. 

The key takeaways for your next research project: 

  1. You may want to divide research into sprints and iteratively try to optimize the questions, methodology, participant choice, etc., 
  2. use several data sources to validate assumptions, not simply rely on interview data, 
  3. get creative to capture the most relevant insights and don’t be afraid to try new methods, mix and match. 

About the author:

Batukhan Taluy is a born hustler, strategist, and an insights professional. Through his company Uservision, he consulted more than 40 Fortune 500 brands globally to make them more user centric, leveraging agile qualitative insights. He has created new generation market research methodologies and approaches, which have been published and elaborated in seminars & workshops which are organized by leading institutions and universities. He is also an avid technology, music, film enthusiast and a lifelong learner. 

Tags:  Agile Research  Humanizing Research  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies 

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Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

Posted By Kayte Hamilton, Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

This is a follow-up to the QRCA Flash Webinar designed as an introduction to social media research (what it is and how to get started). (Presented with my industry colleague Frank Gregory from NorthStar Solutions Group.)

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this that the coronavirus pandemic is now the most talked about topic in the history of social media. A perfect storm for social media conversation volume growth has emerged: Consumers across the globe are stuck at home (initially under strict government orders, now in the interest of community safety), wanting to express how they feel about the situation, how their views of everyday topics have changed because of the situation, or simply to virtually connect with others and laugh to take their mind off the situation. The obvious way to do this is from the comfort of their couch—by posting on social media. 

As consumers’ behavior has been forced to change, the landscape for researchers has changed as well, with some in-person methodologies being impossible to execute for the near future. Therefore, researchers should consider a pivot to new execution strategies, including social media intelligence, as a new tool in your toolkit…myself included!

Years ago I attempted to dabble in social media listening. Pain points included having to learn new skills like query writing, on top of navigating multiple social listening platforms which were all different and all limiting. Functionally, this resource hadn’t been ripened for basic qualitative interpretation. So I admit, I checked out. I figured, “if a client wanted social listening they either (1) are doing it internally or (2) would have asked.” I couldn’t have been more wrong, and Frank quickly schooled me on the renewed power of social mining.

Definition Clarification:

Social media listening is an older view on this research tool. At the time, listening made sense; for the most part, we were simply observing the incoming data and trying to make our own interpretations and connections. Most of the time this told you a percentage of conversation share the brand has and some light ideas revolving sentiment analysis (is there a positive, negative, or neutral perception?).

Social intelligence, the more modern way to describe this sector, is much more advanced. It can capture consumer conversations across any digital entity (from actual social media to product reviews) and add demographic and psychographic layers allowing you to “segment” the digital population (lightly compared to formal screening, of course). Today’s tool landscape helps us analyze in ways past platforms dreamed of, such as audience affinity, influencer evaluation, or platform performance benchmarking. In short, it’s adding more context to the conversations.

Regardless of the type of social media analytics tool, to me the biggest appeal to jumping into social media intelligence more fully is the reminder that it’s really never too late to get started. Unlike other “in-the-moment” approaches qualitative researches might implement, we can go backward in time and analyze social media conversation in time chunks.

As opposed to trying to ask a consumer how they felt about X topic 2 years ago vs. 1 year ago vs. 6 months ago vs. today; social media intelligence allows you to find the millions of consumer comments discussing that topic over that time period. The posts consumers made 2 years ago are still there waiting to be analyzed. So, using the coronavirus pandemic as an example, kicking off a social media intelligence analysis today doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the last few months of social conversation trends—including how the coronavirus has changed the way consumers think about certain brands, industries, and behaviors.

Every single company has been impacted by our current events. Consumer perceptions around the globe have been impacted in almost every way imaginable, often related to the brand or company you are supporting in your research project. There are many ways to tap into these conversations and use the information to your advantage, from proposals to report writing.



  • Use the data as part of a pre-search phase, getting up to speed on a topic.
  • Consider if this tool is something you want to execute or find a partner on. Similar to online boards, ask if you are an expert programmer or if you pay extra for the setup service.
  • Ask your clients how they currently engage with social media analytics. Can you help layer your qualitative expertise with this “big data”? Analysts approach the information much differently than a consumer insights professional.
  • Assume the client’s internal department is sharing social media data with the insights team.
  • Mistake social intelligence as only the “major” social media channels. Data collected includes public forums, news sites, blogs, product reviews, etc., in addition to the main social media sites (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, parts of Facebook).
  • Block yourself; just because it’s not “screened” or “recruited” information, doesn’t mean it can’t add value to your insight generation process.

Like all new skills, integrating social intelligence into your process takes time. To me, it’s the same type of learning curve as:

  • Online boards/communities
  • Video reports
  • Automated interviews

I think people shy away from learning new skills because they are unsure of how to translate their current qualitative skillsets. Quallies are not just moderators; we bring more to the table than simply asking questions. Therefore, we should have a dynamic set of resources to help us interpret and uncover insight beyond interviewing

Let’s start a discussion. What’s holding you back from integrating social intelligence to your qualitative practice? 

About the author:

Kayte Hamilton specializes in research design at InsightsNow among a large variety of clients from pharma to CPG. As a hybrid researcher, she’s always looking for ways to mix methods. Currently she’s the chair for the QRCA Annual Qually Award, where she advocates for innovative research solutions and shares these findings with the greater QRCA community. 

Tags:  listening  online listening  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  Research Methodologies  social mediaCustomer Journey Maps 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Winning the Future of Qualitative

Posted By Ilka Kuhagen, IKM GmbH, Thursday, August 20, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Winning the Future of Qualitative

Presenter: Holly O’Neill, Talking Business, LLC

Summary of Conference Session

Holly O'Neill summarized her take-aways from various marketing research conferences over the past three years. As we have entered a new era in MR with changing needs, increased speed of turnaround and new tools, we not only need to be aware, but embrace the future of Qualitative Research!

Key Session Takeaways

It is not the market that is changing. Rather, all players in this market face challenges that have changed their behavior. Smaller budgets, shorter research cycles, innovation sprints, interactive learning needs, and more strategic thinking clients—all scream for different research approaches and open new opportunities for researchers.

Consumers are looking for experiences and relationships with brands and develop their social selves rather than just individual selves. Family landscapes have changed. Populations are increasingly diverse, and internet and mobile are ubiquitous. Technology (including AI and VR) offers new ways to do data collection, segmentation, tracking and even summaries. But we still need the human to learn, interpret, and define insights.

How I Will Use this Information in My Practice

We must find new ways to deliver insights faster and in ways that are quicker to digest; we need to embrace new technology and dare to be creative with study designs! Let us use technology and the Qual Researcher’s expertise to design projects according to the culture of the respondents. We can twist our tools to new technology and create new methods like storytelling sessions and online shadowing.

Aha Moment

Holly says: Let go of the old in favor of new paradigms. This was a great summary of changes the industry is facing and needs to embrace!

           QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Ilka Kuhagen, IKM GmbH

Tags:  new research paradigms  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  the future of qualitative research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Wandering or Wondering about the Future of Qual: Forging New Paths to Deliver Value in Uncertain Times

Posted By Roben Allong, Lightbeam Communications Corp., Thursday, August 13, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Wandering or Wondering about the Future of Qual: Forging New Paths to Deliver Value in Uncertain Times

Presenters: Randi Stillman, Bottom Line Market Research & Consulting, and Rick Weitzer, Prell Organization

Summary of Conference Session

Examination of key challenges identified through a round of IDIs with various stakeholders that they consider impactful to the future of qual:

  1. New competitors
  2. Client-side bias
  3. New competitors with full range of services
  4. Technology

Key Session Takeaways

The competitive landscape is changing—but qual is not going away. The session identified perceived challenges from various stakeholders including client-side research buyers and non-QRCA quallies, and outlined three key areas of opportunity for quallies to investigate to help them stay abreast of the market, attract new clients, and maintain their practice. These key opportunity areas are:

  1. Sharpen business problem-solving skills—focus more on business objectives and how research insights impact business outcomes.
  2. Lean into agile solutions by creating and experimenting more with mix-and-match hybrid methods to get the best insights efficiently.
  3. Engage in continuing education and elevate ability to demonstrate the value of qualitative research.

How I Will Use this Information in My Practice

Quallies have already begun instituting deliverable practices that report insights more as potential business strategies rather than just “research insights.” We are also engaging clients by advising them on the potential business applications of insights as they come to the surface during debriefs. Researchers are becoming faster, increasingly nimble, and we are always on the lookout for technology that can speed up the data collection and analysis process.

Aha Moment

Clients are under the gun to produce results, beyond insights, especially given the current economic climate. Quallies can help them achieve business goals and remain relevant by evaluating their individual research toolboxes. Looking with new eyes and learning how to optimize existing skillsets and technology can be instrumental to achieving successful outcomes, for both client and qually.

        QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Roben Allong, Lightbeam Communications Corp.

Tags:  business strategies  insights  market research  online research  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  research deliverables  technology 

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California’s “Gig Worker” Bill

Posted By Monica Zinchiak, Z. Research Services, Tuesday, August 11, 2020

California’s “Gig Worker” Bill

The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel on your situation.

For those of us working in California, the “Gig Worker Bill”—California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)—may have an impact on businesses that regularly use independent contractors like many QRCA members. If you are not in California, legislation like this may be on the horizon in your home state. Here is some background and my take on the types of business relationships we maintain and how to be prepared.

1989 California Supreme Court's decision in Borello vs. Dept. of Industrial Relations ( was the original pivot point in determining whether or not “gig workers” are considered independent contractors. This established the first guideline for who is considered an independent contractor and who is not in the state of California, growing around agricultural seasonal workers in the state. Under this test, the most significant factor was whether the hiring firm has the right to control the contractor, both the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed.

If you work on an ad hoc basis, manage yourself without oversight and maintain your own hours, buy your own materials and equipment, and are performing work not regularly done in-house by your client’s firm, then you pass the first test. Personally, I would also argue my services to be distinct from my client’s business, although I do work for other research firms, due to my special focus on qualitative, my specialized training (great note for QRCA Advance Program) and unique skill set. This is likely the same situation for you.

Furthermore, in a business-to-business relationship, AB5 also considers business service providers independent contractors if (1) they pass the Borello test (sometimes referred to as the ABC test) and (2) satisfy the following long list of criteria. (The sections in italics are my thoughts and suggestions.)

  1. Free from the hiring firm's control and direction while performing the work; I might advise you to set forth language that covers this concept in all your contracts. I have added this to my contracts that specifically states I am an independent contractor contracting with XYZ company.
  2. Provides services directly to the contracting business rather than to customers of the contracting business.
  3. Provides a signed written contract before services begin; If you have a handshake relationship, I suggest you create an extended term contract to cover you for a one-year period or start executing contracts for every project “gig” starting now.
  4. Has all required business licenses or business tax registration; Even if you are a DBA, make sure your business name is added to your 2020 tax forms. If you haven’t applied for an assumed business name, do so immediately; the cost is less than $100.
  5. Maintains a business location separate from the business or work location of the hiring firm; Think about working from home 51% of the time (at least as far as the state of California is concerned).
  6. Customarily engaged in an independently established business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed; If you work for just one company exclusively, this puts you and your client at risk for being labeled an employee.
  7. Contracts with other businesses to provide the same or similar services and maintains a clientele without restrictions from client’s firm.
  8. Advertises and holds itself out to the public as available to provide the same or similar services; The previous three bullets are very similar but all three must be met—so if you are working for just one client all year, do at least one other, not pro-bono, project in case you are queried by the state tax board.
  9. Provides its own tools, vehicles, and equipment to perform the services.
  10. Negotiate your own rates.
  11. Is consistent with the nature of the work, can set your own hours and location of work.
  12. Is not performing the type of work for which a license from the State of California is required; General business management consultants, SIC code 8742, are not required to have special licenses like CPAs or construction contractors, but everyone who consults should have a business license in the state of California.

Now there is much controversy surrounding AB5 over who is really an independent contractor and how the legislation was written, some say in haste. The definitions of exempt workers in AB5 were not well thought-out and horribly incomplete. The list of exemptions does not call out research consultants like it does for some other types of consultants like lawyers (legal consultants) or content designers.

Just after the law was passed, another state assembly bill was quickly introduced to expand the exempt categories and clarify some of the language. A quick glance leaves me feeling this is still insufficient. At least two more bills are currently being written to repeal and/or revise AB5.

If you would like to read one of the most recent proposed bills that could be relevant to your independent contractor status, here’s the new name to remember: California State Assembly Bill 806

I found this article by NOLO Press to be very informative.  NOLO is a fabulous resource for small business owners.

Monica Zinchiak has been a California Girl her entire life and has been an independent consultant for the last 25 years, DBA Z. Research Services. She helps her clients get in touch with the real lives, experiences, and needs of their customers. An early adopter of online qualitative methods, she has a special focus in Online Qual, conducting primary market research studies for Fortune 500 companies, top-tier market research firms, advertising agencies, and remarkable start-ups. An active member of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), she is a past president for the organization.


Tags:  California AB5  Gig Worker Law  Independent contractors  QRCA Digest  Qualitative 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Torch Is Yours: Agile from the Hands of Engineers to the Researcher

Posted By Nancy Hardwick, Hardwick Research, Thursday, August 6, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Torch Is Yours: Agile from the Hands of Engineers to the Researcher

Presenter: David W. Tuffy

credit:thanks to You X Ventures for sharing their work on Unsplash

Summary of Conference Session

David Tuffy started his presentation by sharing the history of agile. The concept of being agile initially started in the software industry. Developers learned that they could be much more effective if they built a basic version of the software program and then tested it with customers. This allowed them to make sure the program met the needs of customers before developing all the features. If successful, the programmers would then go back, make the necessary changes (based on customer feedback), and then release an updated version. This ongoing, iterative process is very popular as programmers do not waste time on something that has no appeal to customers.

Key Session Takeaways

As you apply agile in the qualitative research world, keep in mind:

  • Agile does not mean doing more, faster. It’s about starting with a working product (minimal viable product) and testing it with consumers. Based on their feedback, you can add more features then go back to test it again.
  • Agile is iterative. The idea is to build on your knowledge and improve the product each time.
  • Qualitative researchers are naturally experts at being agile. We are able to probe and shift direction on the fly. This same principle, quick course correction, is the backbone of being Agile.
  • Being agile will likely mean you cannot gather the depth of information you would normally. Due to the quick turnaround, you will likely need to test fewer things or use a narrower focus on the type of information gathered. Research used during the agile process is meant to be a check-in for course correction purposes.
  • Consumers cannot tell organizations what they need. However, agile allows you to test an actual product with consumers. The information garnered will help to make changes before the next release. And of course, qualitative research is ideal for testing an idea with a small group of people before launching the next version into the world.
  • Agile is collaborative. Being agile is all about collaboration. Daily check-ins and working closely with all stakeholders are critical. At the end of each cycle, the process must be reviewed critically for improvement, as this process will be repeated over and over again.
  • Good, qualitative research is the foundation of successful innovations.

Using this in Practice

As an independent qualitative researcher, you may run into some obstacles implementing the agile process. Unless you are embedded in a company, being involved in daily updates may be challenging. Clients are not always good about sharing information and keeping you in the loop. You will need to insist on being included or the process will not be successful. You also need to think “scrappy.” Propose a study that includes a small group of participants. Design it to be an iterative check-in rather than an in-depth research study. Consider providing a bullet list of takeaways rather than a full report. It will save time and money—and because the client team is so highly involved, they will likely not feel the need to have a detailed report.

Aha Moment

Agile is a process, not a technology. You do not need to be technologically savvy to implement agile in your research approach.

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Nancy Hardwick, Hardwick Research

Tags:  agile in qualitative research  agile process  iterative process  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Posted By Janet Standen, Thursday, July 30, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Presenter: Cynthia Harris, 8:28 Consulting

cynthia harris

Summary of Conference Session
Cynthia took us on a thought-provoking journey, drawing synergies between rap music and qualitative research. She provided helpful tips that can help us identify our own implicit bias, and specifically referenced tools we could turn to, to help us overcome the impact that our inherent and unavoidable biases may have on our qualitative research practices.

Key Session Takeaways

  • In the same way rap music gives a voice to historically marginalized people, our work can give consumers a voice within the companies we serve.
  • Insights, when delivered well, should have a “stickiness” to them, just like a catchy beat in rap music.
  • An activity reminded us that outside of family, the people we trust most in our life (i.e., those we choose to know), are often “just like us.” They reflect our own bias, defined as “an inclination of temperament or outlook.” They are part of our in-group.
  • We also tend to have greater positive regard, cooperation, and empathy to in-group members over out-group members—dangerous if you are a qualitative researcher.
  • Bias can be a good thing, and we are biologically wired for bias decision-making (such as knowing the difference between a cute, cuddly dog and a wild dog). But it also has the potential to be harmful if it narrows our thinking based on non-factual data points (i.e., based on our perceptions and biases that are in us).
  • We must be careful not to bias our research learning by accidentally asking leading questions that can unintentionally influence the responses we receive. Cynthia provided the example of the Loftus & Palmer Study in 1974, when eyewitness testimony of the estimated speed a car was traveling just before a car accident varied from 40.8mph to 34 mph, depending whether the word “smashed” or “hit” was used when witnesses were asked about what they saw.
  • The language used to deliver our learning to stakeholders can bias our delivery and therefore our audience take-outs.
  • We must analyze recorded data from our research, not use our memory of what we learned, to ensure we better reflect the true content, not our memory of the content (that will likely be influenced by our own biases.)
  • Do not be racist or ageist—by 2050 the majority of the U.S. population will be non-white, and people over 65 will outnumber those younger than 18!

Aha Moment
Stay open-minded and remember to not judge a book by its cover. Our biases are hidden, often even from ourselves, so we must take steps to be more aware of them. One tool is the free Implicit Association Test, which can be found at:

Never forget we have bias, so plan for it and account for it. As qualitative researchers, we have a huge responsibility not to let our bias impact the validity of our research findings. Our minds are “automatic association-making machines,” so we have to work at not being automated, but must manage our humanity!

janet standenReporter on the Scene: Janet Standen, Scoot Insights

Tags:  avoiding bias in qualitative research  implicit bias  unconscious bias 

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Five Lessons I Learned While Designing My First Customer Journey Map 

Posted By Breyda Ortega, Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 27, 2020

Five Lessons I Learned While Designing My First Customer Journey Map

As a marketing researcher, I help brands develop strategies to attract and retain customers. To that end, I have conducted countless brand positioning studies and concept tests, as well as your typical what-does-this-mean-to-you-personally? qualitative interview, yet never had I ever designed a journey map… until this year. A journey map is the visual representation of the sequence of steps customers take to interact with products or services—from discovering the brand to switching and returning and beyond (Tincher & Newton, 2019). Earlier this year, I leveraged the technique to guide customer communications.   

Now, you may be thinking, “Why would you need a journey map to craft communications?". Here is my answer in the form of another question—have you ever seen different ads from the same company that seem to contradict or compete with each other? When this happens, it is a clear sign that teams, often working in silos, have lost sight of the big picture. However, customers never experience messages as one-offs, but as part of one big interconnected narrative that shapes their perceptions of a brand. Mapping the customer journey is the best way to fully grasp how a brand, as a whole, shows up to the world. 

At its core, journey mapping helps companies identify critical points of friction that cause customers to leave a brand. Effective maps guide efforts toward optimizing high impact moments, thereby unlocking significant revenue potential. As an example, journey mapping allowed T-Mobile to learn that frustration around contracts and data overage fees was pushing customers to switch providers at an alarming rate. By eliminating these frustrations, the company went from losing a million customers a year to adding a million customers per quarter.  

The secret to a successful journey map is simple: show everything from the customer’s vantage point. That is, visualize the journey the way the customer experiences it, not the way you think they experience it. For instance, the start of a journey is definitely not at the moment someone subscribes to a service but way earlier, perhaps while enjoying brunch and suddenly their friend cannot stop raving about the new app they downloaded. 

Here are the five most valuable lessons I learned while designing my first journey map:  

Not a one-size-fits-all  
You should plan on designing multiple maps to represent different types of customers. If your company has a segmentation model, definitely reference it and design one map for each of your high opportunity segments. In the absence of segmentation, you can always use some basic profiling such as first time vs. repeat, regular vs. occasional, or early vs. late adopters.   

Having several maps will reveal key differences across groups. In an era of information overload, people expect solutions that are personalized to their specific needs. Understanding differences in customer preferences will enable your organization to design more targeted approaches to drive retention.  

Get the journey phases right, then add layers 
Journey phases are the building blocks of the maps. They chart the path the customer follows; if these are off, the rest of the components will fall apart. Most categories include research, consideration, purchase, trial, post-trial, etc. Be sure to adapt these to the category you are researching. Then start layering some information, such as:   

  • What problem is this customer trying to solve for?  

  • How and where do they interact with the product or service?  

  • How do they feel before, during, and after each interaction? 

When layering, use diagrams and colors to visually represent the peaks and valleys in customer sentiment. This will make for a more nuanced map that will inspire organizational alignment.  

Credit: Mari Carmen Díaz Pixabay

Ditch the notion of an end 
While on paper you may represent a journey as a linear path, in real life, journeys are in fact loops. The Semisonic song I used to listen to as a teen that goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end” rings true in journey mapping. Efforts at later stages should prevent customers from switching, becoming latent, or worse, exiting completely.

Big data has made it possible for companies to expertly curate information, making discovery and trial more effortless than ever before. With the widespread availability of behavioral data and predictive analytics, customer journeys have become much more fluid, continually teetering between active and passive engagement. This gives brands the upper hand to nudge customers into the journey rather than waiting for them to make the first move.  

Design for efficiency and speed  
The simpler the process is for a customer to learn about, select, order, and generally experience a product, the better the company’s chances are at minimizing churn. While a brilliant copywriter may take pride in a quirky and well-articulated, yet long list of instructions, no one will want to fit that type of reading into their weekend plans.  

Today almost everything is digitized, however there are still many occasions when customers carry the onus of initiating contact when they need help. Automating actions to the point of making them invisible (think single sign-ups, syncing information from existing accounts, providing recommendations based on past behavior, resolving issues before they become complaints, etc.) is critical to building the long-lasting habits that drive customer loyalty.  

Challenge the status quo  
The business decisions that stem from journey mapping are just as important as the map itself. Once you have rallied the troops to begin the important work that follows, it is very easy to overcomplicate things by focusing on individual projects rather than the single integrated strategy that will create customer delight. 

Push back on busywork that deviates and distracts from the overall goal of driving retention and keep advocating for holistic solutions that fully enhance the customer experience, not band-aids.

I have always been a big picture kind of thinker; maybe that is why I find journey mapping so alluring. There is something deeply satisfying about placing seemingly disparate pieces of data on a board, taking a step back, and then noticing the patterns that form. 

Tincher, Jim, Newton, Nicole (2019). How Hard Is It to Be Your Customer? Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.  

About the Author: Breyda Ortega

A mixed-methods corporate researcher, Breyda Ortega oversees marketing research at Cruise, a self-driving car company in San Francisco. She combines her background in statistics, psychology, and neuroscience along with a natural ability to “read” people to guide strategic business decisions. She currently serves as QRCA’s Qually Award Vice Chair.

Tags:  Customer Journey  Customer Journey Maps  QRCA Digest  Research Methodologies  Research Methodology 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Digital and Human — Not Mutually Exclusive

Posted By Michaela Mora, Relevant Insights, LLC, Thursday, July 16, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Digital and Human — Not Mutually Exclusive

Presenter: Jennifer Cuthill, Clearworks

Summary of Conference Session

Digital ethnography is observational research that's done through self-reported events or responses by people in your study that they then upload to a digital platform. Engaging exercises, experienced recruiters and a platform with features that support the research objectives are needed to successfully conduct digital ethnography.

Key Session Takeaways

Digital ethnography allows us to capture behaviors at times when in-person observation may not be possible (e.g. odd hours into the night, very private spaces such as a bathroom or bedroom, or sensitive topics). Instead of a discussion guide, digital ethnography is driven by a set of exercises with specific objectives in mind.

If you have used online bulletin boards, you will find similarities with this approach. However, there are some differences, mainly about when we give access to the exercises to participants and the absence of activity dependencies.

In digital ethnography, all exercises are made available to participants at once. They are not scheduled on certain days as is standard in online bulletin boards. Participants do the exercises at their own pace. The goal is to capture certain occasions when we don’t know what they are and when they will happen. Exercises are independent activities that don't need to be completed in any particular order.

To be successful in digital ethnography, Cuthill recommends:

  1. Carefully design exercises that elicit the right insights: Create engaging exercises but limit their number (3 to 5) and the questions associated with them. Too many can overwhelm participants and increase mid-study drop rates.
  2. Work with recruiters who can support the project to ensure compliance: Recruiters need to go beyond recruiting participants and provide follow-up services to make sure participants complete the assigned exercises and answer the questions.
  3. Start the analysis and gathering of reporting artifacts when the fieldwork starts: Don't wait until the end to start looking at the data for analysis and reporting. Streamline the process by monitoring results from the beginning and gathering artifacts to support reporting.
  4. Combine this approach with other qualitative research methods, such as IDIs and focus groups, if the limited number of exercises and questions don't allow you to cover all the research objectives.
  5. Choose a platform with the right features for your research objectives.

When choosing a platform for digital ethnography we should consider:

  • Types of exercises and questions the platform supports (e.g. diary/journal, ad/concept testing, community ideation, surveys/polls, live chats, discussion boards) for the research objectives.
  • Types of responses it captures (e.g. text, video, pictures, screen capture).
  • Level of support offered.
  • User experience/design.
  • Devices supported.
  • Pricing and what’s included.

Digital ethnography can be a more cost-effective option than in-person observation, assuming you work with experienced recruiters and streamline the reporting process. Cost also depends on the number of participants and the platform used. Incentives are comparable with in-person observation studies. However, you may need to add more to ensure compliance.

This approach can be used to gather insights needed in the exploratory phase that often precedes many of the quantitative research projects we do related to new product development, pricing research, and market segmentation.

Aha Moment

A big aha moment was realizing we need to find engaged and experienced recruiters to ensure participant compliance. This can really lighten the burden of the research team and give them time to focus on the observation work.

Final Comments

Digital ethnography is an interesting and viable alternative to in-person observation when the latter is not feasible due to the research topic nature, cost, and timing concerns.

A person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera Description automatically generated

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Michaela Mora, Relevant Insights, LLC

Tags:  Digital Ethnography  Ethnography  Observational research  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Research Methodologies 

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