Posted By Kendall Nash,
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Practical and thoughtful, but a walking contradiction. She made it clear that every decision she made had a purpose, and every item she bought met well-defined criteria. As she described her grocery store trips, she recalled the price associated with each and every item. In order to even make it into her cart, the items on her shopping list had to fall within an acceptable and narrow margin. And yet, her eyes lit up and you could see her lost in her memories as she described the unique metal bracelet on her wrist that she had bought on a whim for 250 euro during a trip to Barcelona. She smiled again and told me about how it was made.
Scratching Our Heads
That moment when the consumer tells you something totally incongruent with the story you’ve crafted in your mind of who they are and how they live…
Those comments that seem to contradict each other within a span of minutes…
We formulate clear pictures in our own minds of who a person is and what matters to them, only for them to turn around and tell us something that leaves us scratching our heads.
In my early years as a Qualitative Researcher, I’d find myself frustrated. Seeking patterns and convergence of themes, I was always challenged when things didn’t line up. Sure, I understood things would vary from person to person, but I was caught off guard and perplexed by the number of things that didn’t add up within the perspective of one individual.
Humans Are Messy
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize what many before me had contemplated – that humans are, in fact, messy. We don’t follow a logical path down the road. There’s not always a reason – or at least not a consistent, or “good”, one. We don’t always make linear decisions. Sometimes we struggle with opposing internal forces that shape our mindsets and behaviors.
But then something beautiful happened.
When I looked more closely at those incongruencies within a single person, there were valuable opportunities for my client to step in and meet the consumer in the midst of the messiness. We identified opportunities for innovative products and delivery, discovered more meaningful ways to connect with those not yet using their brand, and found unique ways to give someone a great customer experience worth talking about. It was actually in those messy places we were finding our most disruptive learning – you know, the insights that make your team say “whoa, yes.” It’s exhilarating to experience those moments when you are onto something that you know will significantly and positively impact your business.
Unveiling the Mess with Qualitative Research
As a fan of both quantitative and qualitative research, I respect the ways both serve in delivering the information we need to make good decisions. Yes, enough people will tell you that quantitative tells you the what and qualitative tells you the why, but it’s so much more for me. Quantitative offers us sound decisions, confidence in direction before we set sail, and a big, delicious slice of the world. The beauty of qualitative is our ability to get in the nooks and crannies. To discover the mess and bring things into the light that just might unlock something truly magical for the brand. The rapport we build with consumers allows us a richer glimpse into what matters to them, so we can become brands that matter to them.
Embrace the Mess
Knowing that the messiness of the human heart and mind can be where the greatest potential lies for brands, we can see those moments through an entirely different lens. The next time in research you find yourself with a consumer who doesn’t seem to fit into a perfectly shaped box in your mind, celebrate! When things don’t add up exactly the way you expect them to, celebrate! You are probably onto something really good. And we go after good things.
What about you? Where have you found gold in the messiness of incongruent, inconsistent, yet beautiful human beings?
Kendall Nash is a Vice President at Burke, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an instructor for the Burke Institute and a past president of QRCA. Kendall’s curiosity drives her closer to consumers and their experiences. Her thrills come from uncovering what people truly want and need, and translating that so brands can win.
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Posted By Michelle Finzel,
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Using AI for Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Data
Shamaa Ahmed and Cal Zemelman from Customer Value Partners, gave us a snapshot of the process of using machine learning Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate large amounts of qualitative data at the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference. Cal went through using AI to summarize the data and assess the emotional state of the respondent through natural language processing. He also gave all of us an opportunity to analyze the data provided from AI into tables and graphs to discover themes.
Through experiencing this process, I discovered that I was able to rapidly classify responses into sentiment buckets and identify outliers easily for more focused review and analysis. I really like that you can create cool charts for the clients (who always want graphics) and you can continuously train the computer model to improve. I was shocked at how easy some of these platforms are to learn and use, most of them are inexpensive or even free, and that it only takes about 100 responses to train a model.
Putting it into practice:
I was really excited to learn about using AI in my practice, especially since it seems like this is the direction our industry is heading! Now that I know that platforms and models are relatively inexpensive, I plan to learn how to program a model for my own research.
I always thought, like many of those in our industry do, that AI was something that would be beyond my comfort zone, but I am thrilled to have found out how accessible and easy to learn the platforms and models are and can’t wait to put them into practice. This is the beginning of something and I am intrigued to follow the process of its development!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Maryland Marketing Source, Inc.
Artificial Intelligencen QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Vidhika Bansal,
Monday, February 25, 2019
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2019
Vidhika Bansal is a 2019 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant helps advance promising young qualitative researchers’ careers by providing access to networking and educational sessions via a free pass to the QRCA’s Annual Conference plus a one-year membership. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.
What often makes quallies like us different from the rest of the world is our collective curiosity, empathy, and ability to transform our knowledge of people’s needs and experiences into strategic direction. Given that the QRCA’s Annual Conference is run and attended by quallies, it’s no surprise then that it’s not your average conference.
My week in Savannah at the 2019 Conference, Charting Your Best Course, was jam-packed and enriching in so many ways. As if the delicious Southern food and relaxing river views weren’t enough, here are three reasons why the QRCA Conference stands out in my mind:
Dessert following a scrumptious meal at a local Savannah restaurant, seconds before I devoured it
Networking Made Palatable
As consultants, networking is not just an add-on marketing strategy; it’s practically a necessity. Quite unfortunately though, for many—myself included—networking has almost become a dirty word. It tends to conjure up flashbacks of awkward interactions with strangers, insincere exchanges of pleasantries, and general anxiety and dread. Thankfully, the QRCA conference helps change that.
High friendliness quotient: One thing I learned in almost no time is that QRCA folks are among the friendliest you’ll meet. Perhaps it’s because most of us talk and listen to people for a living, but striking up conversations with fellow conference-goers was refreshingly easy and felt far more authentic than I had expected. The various ribbons added to everyone’s name tags made finding common ground and making connections even easier (especially as a first-timer and YPG recipient). And if you’re shy, have no fear—it’ll just be a matter of time before someone approaches you and breaks the ice!
Stress-free socializing: The organizers orchestrated events that further facilitated pain-free networking, especially if you’re a “first-timer” who has never attended before. First-timers are paired with “ambassadors”, who are QRCA conference veterans that can serve as familiar faces and guides throughout (shout out to my wonderful ambassador, Regina!). There was also a “speed dating” event for first-timers where we got to meet with other ambassadors, and as YPG recipients we were able to connect with fellow early/mid-career quallies at the fun, laidback, young-professionals-only breakfast and dinner events.
(Pro-tip: Remember to bring stacks and stacks of business cards with you—you’ll need them to give to all the new people you’ll meet in quick succession as well as for the vendor raffles!)
My conference badge, adorned with a couple of colorful ribbons that helped break the ice
Stellar, Actionable Content
One of the main goals of attending any conference is usually to leave with takeaways that you can apply to your work immediately—and the sessions at this one definitely did not disappoint.
Insights about insights: There were so many fantastic talks that it’s not practical for me to list them all right now, but these were some of my favorites.
- Carmen Simon’s very memorable keynote on using learnings from neuroscience to craft content that sticks, especially by relying on familiar mental models
- Lisa Lipkin’s engaging anecdotes depicting how to best elicit honest stories from others to learn about them, and how to find “magic in the mundane”
- Allison Rak’s uber-practical hacks for boosting research and reporting efficiency
- Liz George’s window into using role-play to glean rich insights when ethnographic methods are not an option due to ethical and logistical constraints
- Laurie Tema-Lyn’s entertaining workshop on improv exercises as a research tool
FOMO no mo’: With so many intriguing sessions going on in parallel (and without a Time-Turner allowing us to be in multiple places at the same time, a la Hermione Granger), it can sometimes be a challenge to choose which presentation to attend. Luckily, starting this year, all presentations were recorded so attendees could go back and watch them even after the conference was over. On top of that, there were “Reporters on the Scene” taking notes during each session, and those curated notes will be published for those who would prefer reading summaries of sessions they missed over watching full videos. Knowing that I would be able to watch the talks I couldn’t attend in-person saved me a ton of indecision.
(Pro-tip that a few kind members shared with me: If you’re struggling to decide between talks, check out the downloadable presentation decks in advance to give you a sense of which one of the alternatives might be most up your alley.)
Something for everyone: There were talks on a vast variety of topics, including proposal writing, storytelling, recruiting methods, journey mapping, projective techniques, usability testing, and even behavioral science. In addition to the breadth of subject matter, I appreciated the mix of formats in which content was shared, ranging from informal roundtable discussions to vendor exhibits to structured presentations of tools and frameworks.
Being silly at the Young Professionals Dine-Around (Thank you to Shannon Danzy for the photo!)
Finding Your Tribe
Last, but certainly not least, if I had to sum up what makes the QRCA Conference unique, it would be the unmatched sense of community. Cheesy at it sounds, attending the conference felt more like joining a big, happy family than just congregating with a group of like-minded professionals.
Come for the learnings, stay for the people: Valuable content is no doubt important, but the people you meet at the QRCA Conference are just as important, if not more so. Even though technically attendees could view each other as competitors, I noticed that the environment was overwhelmingly collaborative, with knowledge-sharing and camaraderie aplenty. There are even special interest groups (SIGs) to further hone in on people who share your specific interests (for me, it was the Ethnography, Creativity + Ideation, and UX SIGs). With the QRCA, one thing seems to be true: you get as much as you give.
Hugs, not handshakes: “We’re huggers,” I heard someone say on my first day at the conference. I looked around and—lo and behold—it was true. Not only did people greet each other with a genuine excitement to reconnect, but the good vibes weren’t confined to conference hours. Pre-conference mornings began with “healthy connections”, where passionate QRCA volunteers led dance and meditation sessions to get us started for the day. How cool is that?! Similarly, conference evenings ended with group “dine-arounds”, where we got to reclaim the calories worked off in the morning by indulging at local restaurants—a great way to continue conversations, meet new people, and ensure you always had company for dinner. This personal touch is what makes the QRCA such a special organization.
Needless to say, I’m truly grateful and honored to have been a recipient of the QRCA Young Professionals Grant. Without it, I likely would not have attended this year’s conference, and in turn would have missed out on all of these amazing benefits.
Thanks to the generosity of the grant sponsors and dedication of the event organizers, I left Savannah with fresh insights, a renewed view on networking, and even some new friends. Looking forward to next year’s conference in Austin and hope to see you there!
Vidhika Bansal is a UX strategist with a background in behavioral science, brand marketing, and human-centered design. She’s passionate about using the power of words and people’s stories to make product and service experiences the best that they can be. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Young Professional Grant
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Posted By Melanie Brewer,
Friday, February 22, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Catch and Release
Do you want to save time and money on recruiting? So do I. That’s why I was really excited for the presentation “Catch & Release: Applying My Experience Learning to Fly Fish to Using New Recruiting Tools and Services” by Ted Kendall of TripleScoop Premium Market Research. New platforms for recruiting respondents are disrupting the marketplace, similar to the ways that Uber and Airbnb disrupted the car services and hotel marketplaces. These platforms put the power into our hands, but as Ted put it, how do you decide whether these new platforms fit your recruiting needs and if they do, how do you adapt all your recruiting skills to the new medium?
While acknowledging that no system is perfect, Ted extolled some of the advantages (big) and challenges (modest) based on his several years of experience with Respondent.io and Userinterviews.com, two platforms that are making it possible to easily recruit for qual studies – sometimes filling a study within just a few short hours and at a significantly lower cost. Benefits include the ability to authenticate users via LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, 80% or higher show rates, easy screening, and access to diverse groups, professions and geographic locations. While there can be a learning curve, Ted argues it's well worth it for the benefits. In addition, the platforms are rapidly evolving and are likely to just keep getting better. Each offers unique features, so they're both worth trying. One twist is the need to "market" or "pitch" your study to participants, so be prepared to make your project sound awesome and exciting to motivate them to respond – but ideally without totally giving away your screening criteria.
Putting it into practice:
I plan on exploring the tools Ted presented, along with the new features that are being rolled out on a regular basis, after the conference.
The observation that these platforms are disintermediating the marketplace similar to other software tools like Uber and Airbnb, and – just like those tools – are likely to become an increasingly important part of the landscape going forward – meaning we should all learn to use them so we don’t get left behind.
I will leave you with this final pro-tip courtesy of Ted: you can use the tipping feature in Respondent to pay for extra tasks you may wish the participants to complete, like homework or pre- or post-tasks!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene:
Santa Barbara Human Factors, Inc.
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Sonya Shen,
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2019
Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
Sonya Shen is a 2019 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant helps advance promising young qualitative researchers’ careers by providing access to networking and educational sessions via a free pass to the QRCA’s Annual Conference plus a one-year QRCA membership. Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more.
Selected Conference Swag
I won a QRCA Young Professionals Grant to the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference, “Charting Your Best Course.” I just returned from spending three packed days in Savannah, Georgia learning from and connecting with other qualitative researchers.
Young Professionals Grant (YPG) Winners Received VIP Service
In October 2018, I learned that I had been awarded a YPG. I had been wanting to focus my career more on qualitative research, and winning the grant was the impetus that I needed to start making my ideas a reality. I immediately felt taken care of: YPG winners received communications leading up to the conference about events geared towards First Time Attendees and Young Professionals. I was also paired up with my own conference ambassador, Susan Sweet of Sweet Insight Group, who helped me prepare for and navigate the conference by sharing tips and introducing me to other attendees. I felt welcomed and prepared even before setting foot in Savannah.
The Conference Schedule Was Packed with Events and Sessions
I recommend planning out which sessions to attend before heading to the conference. The conference app was also helpful in the moment in figuring out where to go next (always a challenge at conferences!). A nice bonus I appreciated is that all sessions are available for viewing after the conference so attendees have less angst about missing a presentation. My FOMO turned to JOMO when I realized I could take a guilt-free break outside to recharge. I treated myself to a walk to Chippewa Square, made famous by the movie Forrest Gump (spoiler alert: there is no bench in the square, it was just there for the movie).
Qually Award Finalist Presentations
The three finalists for the Qually Award presented their proposals and took questions in front of a live and discerning audience. It was clear that a lot of preparation went into the proposals. I was impressed by the amount of camaraderie and openness to sharing that I saw.
Dr. Carmen Simon of Memzy delivered a keynote presentation on “The Neuroscience of Memorable Messages”. We learned about memory and the fact that people only remember 90% of what was shared with them after two days. Dr. Simon discussed how to make messages more memorable and how to get people to act on a message (such as if you offer a slight twist, it will bring the brain back to the present).
Laurie Tema-Lyn’s session on the topic of “Using Theater Games in Research” demonstrated how to use different techniques to meet a variety of research objectives. I learned how to set the stage so that researchers, respondents, and clients are all comfortable using more out-of-the-box methods such as World Salad, Improv/Role-play, and Theater of Exaggeration. The session allowed me to think creatively, practice my active listening skills, and give myself permission to try new things.
Lisa Lipkin presented on the topic of “Go from Facts to Truth with Neuroscience and Storytelling,” where she encouraged us to “make magic out of the mundane” when we are eliciting stories from respondents. Her tips included seeing the story in everything because what we store in our memories is most meaningful, and everything and everyone has a story. Lisa also encouraged us to dig deeper and be an “emotion detective,” as fact is not truth. Start with the emotion, then hang the facts on it.
Zebra Strategies’ Denene Rodney and Sharon Arthur’s session on “Ensuring Real Diversity in Qualitative Research” examined the role of the researcher as clients’ stewards to educate, guide, and safeguard them, and to better customize marketing messaging that consider cultural nuance. It shared actionable tips of how to ensure personal and collective accountability, accounting for bias, and ethical considerations. I walked away with strategies on how to exemplify this topic by being honest about what I do and don’t know, figuring out how to get answers if I don’t know something, expanding my network, developing empathy and curiosity, and to not run and to not hide.
“Opening Closed Doors with Role-Play” by Elizabeth George of Market Strategies was a deep dive into how to use role-play in research. While ethnography is the gold standard, barriers abound, such as in doctor/patient interactions. Liz walked us through the logistics of a particular type of role-play in which doctors are the respondents, actors are hired to play the patients who interact with the doctors, and the researchers are the facilitators. There was a great deal of information, and I felt like I was equipped to implement this strategy if I wanted to.
Networking Was Plentiful
I highly recommend attending a conference where most attendees are great at asking questions and where organizers are skilled at facilitating experiences. This conference checked both boxes. There were plenty of opportunities to meet other attendees and connect over shared interests. Highlights Include:
- The First Timers Event: This was set up like a speed dating event where First Timers meet non-First Timer attendees. All the fun with none of the awkward rejection!
- The Young Professionals Dine-Around Dinner: I connected with other Young Professionals at a restaurant in downtown Savannah. Topics of discussion were varied – from career to food, to kangaroos (friend or foe?).
- Thursday Night Event at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub: A giant get-together for everyone at the conference which included First Timers Bingo (Tip: maximize your time in the food line by asking passers-by if they can help you cross off a bingo square).
- The Young Professional Exchange: Career and Life Hacks to Supercharge Your Growth (Roundtable): Young Professionals convened to discuss solutions to problems they commonly face. One of the many takeaways I left with was to lean into what sets me apart as a researcher.
- Optional Chapter Meetings: I got the opportunity to meet other qualitative researchers in my area over breakfast.
As a First Timer, I felt completely at ease while networking. The conference size was manageable, and it felt heartening to see that so many other attendees knew each other and were catching up.
There are Many Opportunities to Stay Involved After the Conference
As a winner of the YPG, I was also awarded a one-year QRCA membership. I am already signed up to attend the next SF QRCA Chapter Meeting and plan on volunteering in some capacity. There are many opportunities to stay plugged in through the QRCA forum, through a SIG (Special Interest Group), or with a committee.
Bonus “Wow” Moment: Doing chair yoga with a view overlooking the Savannah River.
The 2019 QRCA Conference was a wonderful learning and networking experience. Thank You to the QRCA and Young Professionals organization for organizing the conference and awarding me a YPG. Hope to see you next year in Austin!
Sonya Shen, Independent Research Consultant
Sonya is a Researcher, Storyteller, and Yoga Teacher located in the San Francisco Bay Area.