Posted By Cheryl Halpern,
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Online Chat Focus Groups: A First-Timer’s Perspective
First-time experiences are both exhilarating and intimidating. COVID-19 has presented us with the opportunity to add to our toolboxes, either because we recognize the seismic shift to online methodologies, or we simply have more time on our hands.
After attending a QRCA webinar about online chat focus groups, I volunteered to conduct a mock session with other professionals who were interested in seeing the platform in action.
Online chat is similar to in-person focus groups in that targeted respondents are recruited to participate in a moderated discussion at a specific point in time for a set duration (typically 60 – 90 minutes), but different in that engagement is entirely text based.
Online chats typically involve eight to 20 respondents. The moderator can use a whiteboard to display visuals, and backroom observers can communicate with each other directly and with the moderator through an administrator. The administrator also takes care of technical issues and helps prod participants, if needed.
Objectives and Target Audience
For this mock chat, my objectives were to let interested researchers experience the platform firsthand and to provide a fun break in these challenging times. I came up with a list of questions to help us explore “The Lighter Side of Quarantine.”
All who had expressed an interest in the webinar chat room were invited to attend and could opt to be either a participant or an observer. Participants were given screen names based on the adjective they said best described their current emotional state and what they had eaten most recently. Anxious Turkey, Optimistic Beans and Weary Apple were among the favorites.
I was advised to allow five minutes for every three questions and planned the guide accordingly, with timed sections and detailed questions under each section.
Once loaded, the discussion guide appears in sequential blocks on the lower righthand side of the moderator’s screen. Six to eight of these blocks can be seen at one time, and all can be seen by scrolling up and down.
Screen shots to be used on the whiteboard are labeled and appear in a different scroll on the upper righthand side of the moderator’s screen.
The platform I used had a practice room that I could enter whenever I wanted. It was pre-programmed with fourteen participants submitting random responses at what has been determined to be the typical pace, which is essentially a bell curve over about 90 seconds after a new question is introduced.
As with any group discussion, the moderator’s task is to guide the discussion, introduce materials, and probe to elicit deeper insight. With synchronous chat discussions, that translates into three distinct but coordinated tasks:
- Sending questions, either from the pre-loaded discussion guide or by typing freehand.
- Sending visual stimuli to the whiteboard.
- Reading the scrolling discussion and immediately probing responses as needed.
During practice, I learned that I had the flexibility to send pre-loaded questions in any order or skip them altogether if desired.
I logged in about fifteen minutes before the session started and watched as fourteen participants and thirteen observers entered.
At the appointed time, I sent instructions to the group chat one sentence at a time, pacing myself by reading the words aloud – just as participants are reading them for the first time.
I submitted my first screen shot and question and the frantic fun began! After just a few seconds, answers started popping up, each identified by the screen names that had been assigned.
While I am accustomed to multi‐tasking in live focus groups, I found it rather challenging to type probes while the chat continued to scroll on the screen during the live discussion. Also, because comments were coming in quickly, any probe on a specific comment requires including the screen name of the individual being addressed. While the participant screen names I derived for this exercise were fun, I realized quickly that shorter user names would have been expedient.
Another interesting aspect of the chat platform is that responses to one question may keep coming in after a new question has been presented. Each respondent is reading, processing, typing and submitting at a different pace. This has implications for both analysis of the transcript and construction of the discussion guide. The resulting output is not a threaded transcript, but a chronological record.
We had a Zoom meeting immediately following the chat so that anyone who was interested could participate in a debrief. Virtually all felt the pace was incredibly fast and wished they had more time to read and process each of the responses individually. Nevertheless, the observers agreed that that although the content was generated quickly, it was surprisingly rich and abundant.
From my experience moderating an online chat discussion for the first time, I would offer the following tips for others who want to utilize this tool:
- Engage participants from the outset. Without face-to-face interaction, it is especially important to make the respondents feel welcomed and eager to participate.
- Familiarize yourself with all toggles/options available. I did not realize that I could have done more to optimize the respondents’ screens.
- Use the whiteboard judiciously. Juggling the whiteboard and the discussion guide at the same time probably complicates things unnecessarily for a novice.
- Review your discussion guide with an understanding that responses from one question may spill over into the next on the transcript and arrange questions accordingly.
- To facilitate deep dives on key topics, plan multiple, closely related questions and allow respondents 90 seconds to read and respond to each.
- Include time allocations and screen shot reminders in your programmed discussion guide so that all the cues you’ll need are in one place.
- Partner with a trusted administrator, whether that is a colleague or someone from the platform’s staff. They can run interference in the “backroom” so that you can focus on the respondents.
- Practice! Even a skilled moderator needs to take the time to learn the nuances of a new tool.
About the Author: Cheryl Halpern
Cheryl has 25+ years of executive level marketing professional experience and is the current President of Halpern Research; formerly VP with Dallas Marketing Group and VP of Global Product Marketing with Mary Kay, Inc.
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Posted By Susanna Franek,
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
QRCA Works to Know Better and Do Better
Much has transpired since George Floyd was murdered by police on May 25. Protests across America and beyond are committed to fighting racism and inequality against Blacks. In support of the Black community, the Black Lives Matter movement and other offshoot organizations have evolved into a global, collective cross-cultural movement that’s gaining momentum. And no less, the U.S. is experiencing a resurgence in coronavirus across the nation; a pre-COVID world seems light years ago.
The QRCA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force
Many of you have asked about QRCA’s stand on what’s happening. Here’s a quick recap: the DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity) Task Force was formed at the end of 2019 and, with approval from the board, was formally launched at the January 2020 QRCA Annual Conference in Austin, objectives were outlined, and co-chairs (Shannon Danzy, Principal of danzy consults. and me) put in place.
COVID-19 initially slowed our progress, and then the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis flipped America on its head. In response, on June 3, on behalf of QRCA, President Kelly Heatly released a statement committing to anti-racism and condemning the violence and continued discrimination against Blacks. As an added objective, the Task Force since has been busy discussing, planning, and putting together programming to provide members and the industry with opportunities to learn and engage in community discussions on race, racism against Blacks, and white privilege while building needed cultural sensitivity and empathy skills. We will also soon announce several initiatives that we hope will contribute to bringing Black students into the field as well as advance Blacks already well into their careers.
Series on Race & Racism Against Blacks
The DE&I Task Force hosted its first Listening Circle on June 8 among members, facilitating breakout rooms that allowed everyone to voice their angst, concerns, frustrations, challenges, fears, and opportunities in a safe space in small groups. It was cathartic and healing; everyone agreed that more such sessions are needed. Take-aways from the Listening Circle and informal conversations with members informed how the QRCA could move forward with training and learning opportunities.
On June 24, a listening circle for Black researchers (called #BlackMRX Chat) was held in recognition that Black researchers could use their own private, safe space to talk, support, and uplift each other. It was such a success that additional sessions are currently being scheduled and an online community will be launched.
Education on Black History
DE&I Task Force: PART I: A Primer on Race and Blackness in America on June 29
This two-part series, presented by history professor Dr. Carmen Harris from the University of South Carolina Upstate, will provide an historical overview of the construction of race in the United States and how it has shaped our understanding of both blackness and non-blackness and their continuous deployments across the chronology of U.S. History.
Part II – Friday, July 24,, 12–1:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)
DE&I Task Force: The Problem with Privilege on Monday, July 13, 12–1:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco will lead a lecture/discussion on privilege that is designed to be relevant to individuals from all cultural backgrounds, but especially to a white audience. She will apply her career experience in the advertising industry, and how she served as a bridge between corporate America and consumers of color. She will illuminate the role of the white ally and how self and societal knowledge can lead to perspective shifting—an essential element in cultural and racial conversations.
DE&I Task Force: Listening Circle: White Privilege, Monday, July 13, 1:45–3 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)
Immediately following the discussion on privilege by Rochelle, we will join other QRCA members to continue the conversation to discuss what we learned and the impact of privilege on our personal and professional lives. The Listening Circles will be a safe space for people to explore their thoughts and feelings. In a smaller group setting, people are nudged to step out of their comfort zones in turns while others listen. It’s a “no judgment” zone.
…And More to Come
Stay tuned for sessions on marketing to and conducting market research with Blacks with the award-winning speaker, Black American expert, and author Pepper Miller of The Hunter-Miller Group as well as a training session on important qualitative research skills such as empathy.
Ongoing Educational Sessions
On a parallel path, driven by our original objectives, we are building learning opportunities to educate members broadly on diversity and inclusion as well as encouraging other QRCA Committees and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) to schedule their own events. Upcoming sessions include:
We’re Here for You
The task force is here to support our members—all of our members. We encourage engagement from everyone, domestic and international. The welcome mat is out for volunteers to come join us! This is not a time to take a back seat. We need to brave some tough conversations. It’s new terrain and it’ll be messy and raw, but necessary. Let’s be patient with each other!
Here’s a comprehensive list of resources so we can start self-educating. If we all commit to reading an article a day, watching a documentary a week, reading a book a month to inform ourselves on the historical backdrop of racism in America, that’s a great start to not only changing the narrative, but creating a saner, more just world. In the meantime, Maya Angelou’s words couldn’t be more appropriate to our purpose:
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
CONTACT US – LET’S TALK!
About the Author: Susanna Franek
Cultural Anthropologist, Ethnologix
Co-Chair, Diversity, Equality & Inclusivity Task Force,
Chair of Multicultural SIG
BIO: A bilingual cultural anthropologist, Susanna’s work is grounded in social justice qualitative research methods. Studies include among Latinx, South Asian, Middle Eastern, youth and general market communities within the U.S. and internationally. Susanna is passionate about changing the narrative on race, gender, and immigration to help birth a new inclusion of the underdog.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash (BLM signs)
Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash ("I understand that I will never understand")
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Posted By Aliza Pollack,
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Journey Mapping: Big Picture Thinking
I sit here writing, waiting for inspiration to hit: Where is that pithy line that usually finds its way to my brain? The one that sets up the essay/article/slide so well? This is what I do: I take big ideas and craft them into compelling packages to showcase their meaning. But times are intense. And inspiration isn’t so light and sparkly right now. My mind shifts to the bigger issues at play. As I ponder the pandemic, and the stark lifestyle changes it has brought on—civic uprisings, Black Lives Matter, pain, unemployment—it’s hard to deny how interconnected we are, and how vital it is to consider the context when trying to understand a problem.
This attitude translates to work. Often, before COVID-19, a business problem would reveal itself and one team would own it and the solution-finding process. Collaboration across teams can easily be stymied by the rush of business life, with looming KPIs, clogged calendars, quarterly reports, changing leadership and multiple hashtag and mottoes like, “move fast and break things.” The world, and the people in it, are complex. Thinking and working contextually is fundamental. It encourages collaborative work and holistic solutions. Enter journey mapping: a framework that sheds light on the full customer experience. The behaviors, attitudes, delight, and pain points that the customer encounters on the way to your product/category/service/experience. When executed well, journey mapping can coalesce often siloed consumer-facing teams and inspire a more nuanced marketing and product development road map.
Here are my four steps that might help you make this fit within your organization:
Benchmark: Root the team
As with all fact-finding missions, before starting consumer fieldwork, gather your major stakeholders in any way possible (e.g., individual interviews – face to face, phone, short workshop, Google doc, survey) and build alignment.
- Download what is known across teams (marketing, product, CX, data science, etc.): ingoing hypotheses, perceptions of the journey, CRM survey open-ends, personas/segments we want to pursue, competitive analysis, data science.
- Identify what is unknown: What confuses, what are barriers to entry, underlying motivations, who is the real customer, duration of this journey, perceived competition, biases.
- Agree on what success looks like: How should the final deliverable look, what does it need to achieve, what will this work impact within the organization—communications development, product development/refinement, innovation, all?
Discovery: Center on your respondent
- Who will you talk to? Think through the key identifying variables of your broad user base: demographics, frequency of usage, awareness of category, awareness of brand, etc.
- Go into discomfort zones: Journeys capture the full lifecycle which extends beyond purchase. Talk with power/passion users, latent users and rejecters.
- Focus on the individual: I strive for pristine data, so choose one-on-one interviews (video, F2F) rather than focus groups. Use your analysis to uncover patterns.
- Kickstart participant memory: We’re asking people to recall experiences, which are inherently flawed (humans forget). Help them shore up memories with real-life artifacts: calendar entries, receipts, credit card slips, social media posts…. these items spark authentic stories and emotions.
Analysis and visualization: Show your story
Most likely, you’re sitting on a trove of data (yikes!) with a need to synthesize in both meaningful and compelling ways.
- Plan ahead: Talk with your client in advance to decide on the best form of deliverable(s). Guide them toward what’s possible. They also might want to validate quantitatively, so talk through how you can be of service to bring it all together without losing the high touch of qual.
- Sparring partner: It’s likely that you will be lost in the data weeds. Pluck someone from the team, the office (the street?) to share your findings. Relaying the story to a stranger reveals its strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t answer their questions, there’s more work to be done.
- Bring on the designers: Unless you’re design-gifted, work with a professional. They’ll elevate your product.
Action planning: Move them to the next step
While this isn’t integral to the journey map process, it’s an important part of your client’s path. I try to bake it in to the workflow. You’ve started the project with full team inclusion; now help them all put this valuable information to use.
- Can you share it to the full team, followed by a Q&A session?
- Can you conduct a workshop/sprint to inspire some new ideas which they will prioritize?
- Can you overlay it with jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework so the team can see how their respective plans match/meet where users are, and how they feel in that moment.
Through a rigorous process, fed by varied disciplines/teams, journey maps help you pull back to see the sum of all parts.
Aliza Pollack runs research projects to root brand initiatives in real insight. Her work is human-centered, not consumer-oriented. Any brand, no matter how loved, is a fleck of dust in our lives. To resonate, it needs to know how people live, their ambitions, fears, and inspirations. I love digging for those nuggets.
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Posted By Farnaz Badie,
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Beyond Storytelling: When, Why and How to Work with Stories
Presenters: Criscillia Benford and Anna Marie Trester, PIER Consulting Group
Summary of Conference Session
This session's speakers are both social scientists, focused on linguistics and humanities. Their powerful session at the QRCA Conference looked at the use of narrative inquiry and storytelling in order to facilitate workplace conversations and help organizations build better work environments and relationships with their customers.
Key Session Takeaways
There's nothing more deeply human than stories. As long as humans have been able to talk, we’ve been telling stories. We process what’s happening to us and catalogue it in the form of stories. In Silicon Valley, storytelling is now starting to replace traditional methods, such as surveys, in assessing employee satisfaction. The speakers use narrative inquiry to help organizations learn how communication is experienced within their cultures, and how these experiences shape their cultures.
There are three key steps to the process of a narrative inquiry:
Step 1 – collect stories
Step 2 – process stories
Step 3 – look for patterns among the stories
In the case of an organization looking to better understand its current culture, step one involves meetings with stakeholders in order to consider what the experience of a young employee in their organization may be like, and ultimately formulating two to four themes. The speakers then use a story circle whereby 10 employees/peers sitting in a circle share their stories about the organization. An example of a prompt for the story circle: "Think about a time when a supervisor gave you some advice—it may have been in a formal setting, like in their office, or an informal setting, like in a coffee shop. What did the supervisor say and how did you feel about it?"
In step two, a group of 10-30 stakeholders review the stories collected from the employees, and start to make sense of them by considering the emotions, feelings, actions, and dialogues expressed in those stories.
In step three, the stakeholders start to cluster the ideas emerging from the stories and look for repetition and patterns of behavior within their organization.
In summary, narrative inquiry is used to identify what’s working and what’s not working in a culture. From there, the team helps the organization create intervention initiatives. Storytelling can be used in many ways to help our clients better understand a challenge they are facing. For example, storytelling can be used in new product development projects, where moderators can ask respondents to tell us the best and the worst stories they have had with a particular category or brand.
The presenters emphasized that as facilitators during the narrative inquiry, we have to be as invisible as possible—if you intervene in the stories being told, you won’t hear the details.
Stories contain worlds... but it's just as important to hear what isn't being said (referred to as a Noisy Not), as it is to hear what is being said.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Farnaz Badie, The Thought Bubble
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Marta Villanueva,
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 18, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Cultivating Connection: Helping Decision-Makers Understand the Humans Behind the Data
Presenter: Cory Davison, 4Xperience
Summary of Conference Session
At the QRCA Annual Conference presenter Cory Davison of 4Xperience asked attendees, “How do you connect the qualitative findings with the decision makers, to further drive action?”.
One of the biggest challenges for qualitative researchers is to deliver insights to the different audiences and promote a common understanding of who the humans are providing input in the research. Driving action makes our research meaningful. Action starts with “humanizing” the data and connecting with the decision-makers who may interpret the research from many different perspectives.
During her presentation and utilizing real case studies, Cory Davison shared a simple framework with 5 steps (Relate, Speak their Language, Understand their Audience, Walk in their Steps, and Focus on the “So What” which can be the bridge to connect consumers and the humans interpreting the data.
Key Session Takeaways
I really enjoyed Cory’s session and had many “takeaways” including the heart of her presentation which was that as qual professionals we need to find a way to relate to clients through stepping into their world and remembering that they deal with varying thoughts, feelings, emotions, just like us. They are deserving of our empathy.
The boardroom dishes out many challenges including shorter attention spans, dealing with big data, many versions of the truth, etc. By remembering that our clients are human like us, we can make presentations interactive, build bridges from an experience perspective, and use tools like the Insights Discovery Tool to understand what clients know, believe, and do can break down barriers to connection.
On the topic of presentations, we need to make sure that as practitioners we are speaking the same “language” in order to connect with our clients. Focus on what matters to them, including the metrics client uses, emphasizing the story the data creates, developing a process map with interval views (product/brand path from beginning to end), and an experience map (showcases what happens when the human factor is involved). Understand their audience and bring it to life through personas. Most importantly, Cory reminded all of us to “be clear about what you know and don’t know”.
Present the data in a way that can be understood. Researchers and qual professionals need to remember that journey maps are different from process maps.
- Journey maps are about what customers do vs. what a brand wants them to do.
- Journey maps answer: what does the persona do, think, say, feel? “So what?”
We must direct clients in what to do with the data. The “so what” must include the persona, company, and solution. Coming up with a mantra or agreement statement can aid understanding - something clients can go do. For example, we can use an action phrase to make the connections for clients: "Therefore we recommend/enabled by/ and if we do this…."
It’s very easy to get caught up in the research and forget that clients are “human” too. This presentation was a great reminder to take the time to understand the client pain points, their stakeholders, and ways to connect with their preferences using a tool like Insights Discovery.
We forget the power behind the creative techniques used with consumers. Our tools can easily be adapted for relationship-building with clients.
Moving forward, I will be adapting my deep dive techniques developed for consumers to connect with clients.
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Marta Villanueva, NuThinking
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Chris Hauck,
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
The Future of In-Person Market Research
For the first few minutes, I thought the recent QRCA webinar “The Future of In-Person Market Research” was mistitled. I was expecting a panel of futurists talking about whether this old-fashioned approach to research would evolve into some kind of totally invasive biomeasurement product. Plug the respondent in, download the data from their brain and voila! Insights! No moderator needed!
Thankfully, the conversation with four leaders from different focus group facility companies was well thought through and perfectly timed. Prior to the call, I hadn’t even considered going back to a live group in 2020. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be getting on an airplane, picking up my rental car, driving to a hotel, cleaning up, putting on my focus group uniform, walking over to the facility and then spending six hours talking to people in a closed room, sharing stimuli and collecting exercises from them.
It was clear from the conversation that I won’t be doing exactly that in the near future, but I probably won’t be sitting at home wondering when we will return to facilities either. Our four panelists—Laura Livers, Schlesinger Group; Rick Seale, Shugoll Research; Amy Shields, Nichols Research and Brett Watkins; L&E Research, — inspired confidence in their efforts to open their facilities safely.
What does safely mean?
Given that we don’t fully understand this virus and or how it works, the panel gave me considerable confidence that they are on top of cleanliness in the same way that airlines or hotel chains are maintaining separation and keeping everything clean. I left the panel confident that they are doing everything to protect the moderator, the participants, and any clients who may want to join. They have all purchased a variety of products and tools to make this happen (mostly plexiglass dividers and sophisticated steam cleaning systems). And they have put in place detailed and complex procedures to protect our safety.
We will all wear masks outside the room, scheduling will be closely managed to ensure as few people as possible are in common spaces, food will be individually –packed, and stimuli will not be shared by the respondents. Waivers will also be signed by all participants regarding the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 with extensive discussions happening between the facilities and their lawyers. Given the well thought out measures they have all put in place, I feel confident that I’ll be back in the moderator’s seat before the end of the year.
There are limitations
It will be a long time before the moderator will be able to look in the holding pen (my colloquialism for the waiting room) and see the respondents for a multitude of groups all gathered together sharing a sandwich tray waiting for the start of their 6 p.m. group. You won’t see ten people around a table passing around your stimuli anytime soon. One panelist had a great story about a moderator conducting IDIs over Zoom with the respondent in the room. No sharing of the air, but it did give me that impression of some sci-fi film where the good guy is grilled by a computer screen. The plus, less travel. And less exposure to COVID-19.
Schedules and flexibility
The important thing to realize is that each facility is different, so the conditions under which you will do your in-person group will be different in each market. You won’t be able to tell the facility at what time you want to have your groups; they will likely tell you, based on who else they have conducting research on the same day. You won’t tell them that you want ten people around the table; they will likely tell you what your limit must be. And it will be different for each location, so you will have to be flexible to be successful. There might not be any consistency across the markets where you conduct research, which is something you will have to live with. It won’t be negotiable.
Call ahead and discuss your project with the facility during the bidding process. We are so used to getting our way, that we have often simply sent out our specs and taken the estimate. If we argued, it would only be to get a small reduction. Only in cases where the design required some unique situation at the facility would we check to see if they could accommodate. It won’t work like that anymore. You have to talk to them about your needs. You have to be flexible when they can’t meet those needs due to the constraints of their procedures. There won’t be a lot of wiggle room. The stakes are far too high for the facility. Like the rest of the economy, if someone gets sick at the facility, the whole thing will shut down. They can’t afford to shut back down—and neither can the rest of the industry.
Impact on participation and costs
For the most part, the panelists didn’t discuss costs. But the conversation made it pretty obvious that they are eating a lot of these new costs in order to open again. Participation does not seem to be adversely affected, as many of the respondents have time and availability due to being at home. Response rates may change as markets open up after COVID-19; at this point there is no way to know how much.
I was happy to hear that facilities don’t believe in-person qualitative research is our past. And that makes sense; some projects just have to be in-person. When the stimulus can’t get out or when taste testing is involved, it’s going to be in-person. It’s good to know that the facilities are working hard to make groups a reality sooner rather than later. Maryse Hudon from Quebec left the clearest closing comment for this article in the Q&A: “This has been so helpful to identify all the issues involved and the complexity of finding the ideal solution. Thank you so much for a much-needed discussion.”
About the Author: Chris Hauck, HauckEye
For more than 30 years, Chris Hauck has honed his research skills across a wide variety of categories - from telecom and IT to consumer-packaged goods, hospitality, medical products and consulting. Chris has an BBA and MBA from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth TX and currently lives in Longmont Colorado. Chris is currently president of his own company dedicated to experiential research, HauckEye.
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Posted By Michael C Sack, Co-Founder/Owner/Moderator/Interviewer,
Friday, June 5, 2020
“Visual Data” Is NOT Data Visualization
An average person is exposed to over 10,000 image-based impressions a day. By contrast, the average person takes in less than a thousand words and a dozen numeric comparisons per day. We receive essentially ten to 100 times more image impressions than other types of information. This balance of information types is consistent with how the human mind works.
The first decision that a human makes is Momma versus NOT Momma. In the first twenty-four hours after birth, a normal baby can tell its own mother’s face from all other faces. The distinction is made on visual clues like eye and hair color, the shape of the face generally and the shape of the nose, mouth, eyes, and other facial features, specifically. The recognition is a visual discrimination.
Momma vs Not Momma
Then think about a child before they form a sentence, generally 2-3 years old, i.e., sometime in their second year. This is over 500 times later than their first visual discrimination. Then consider how long it is before they can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is thousands of times later than the first visual discrimination.
If you think this may be a biased comparison, try this experiment. I have a granddaughter who is nine months old (though she was two months premature). Nonetheless she just said her first word (da-da) and began to crawl in the last two weeks.
I put her in her little play area and placed one cookie at one end of it and four cookies at the other. She went for the four without hesitation. She cannot say four or count to four. She does have a visual construct that allows her to judge MORE versus LESS. We all know more cookies are better, even a 9-month-old. (Note: my daughter only let her nibble on one cookie with her one tooth.)
Our minds are visual, first and foremost, and do not rely on words and numbers to navigate our worlds. If we did, we might not make it to adulthood. Our verbal and numeric skills would come too late. Our visual recognition of threats and opportunities begins far earlier.
Our Industry Has it Backward
The mind operates on visual information more than ninety percent of the time. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ninety percent of information transmitted to our brain is visual and the human brain processes images in 13 milliseconds—60,000 times faster than text.
The consumer insights industry gathers 99 percent-plus verbal and numeric data. It is even worse than that. We also ask our questions verbally and numerically. Of the three data types, this makes it the hardest for respondents to answer.
What Are Visual Data?
How can we turn the visual messages into measurable data? The answer is simple and complex at the same time. We need to receive and record the visual information in the same way the brain does.
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Prof. Daniel Kahneman identifies System 1 thinking as “the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach…” and that “intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.” BUT RECOGNITION OF WHAT?
Our Mind Operates on Visual Structure
Here is an image that represented a breakthrough insight in the appliance industry. The research was about stovetops. The study found that consumers wanted a stovetop that took full responsibility for their safety and protected them from heat and harm. This image summarizes that result, really: snow and a stovetop
The image to the left is how we think we see things, but that is only the conscious (System 2) view that considers the content as image recognition. The brain first sees it as shown below. This is a (partial) System 1 view of the same image.
Neuroscience is the fastest growing segment in the industry, and it observes the process of the brain’s System 1 recognition. Yet it does not tell us what is being recognized. Visual Semiotics does.
Visual Semiotics is the science of Visual Data. In the example, blue and white cause some of the signals in the brain that neuroscience monitors as secure and isolated/safe. Shapes cause some of the signals in the brain neuroscience monitors as separate/protected. Physical context (like distance, dominance, proximity) cause some of the signals in the brain neuroscience monitors as in charge/responsible. We are aware of four other symbol types that complete the System 1 decoding of images.
This Is Not New!
The knowledge of visual constructs shaping our thinking was discovered in the 1960s by psychologists working in the Tavistock Centre (Clinic) in the U.K. They were working to try to develop a better treatment for autism.
They discovered that autistic children broke the world down into fewer symbolic visual structures (“constructs”) than other people. Autistic children also made some constructs totally dominant (being able to see through a window did not differentiate it from a door). Learning how each child decoded the world visually was the key to learning to communicate with them. This also taught the clinicians how the rest of us visually deconstructed the world.
What is relatively new is the language for describing this process, Systems 1 and 2. Dr. Kahneman named it and showed its relative influence on decision-making and economics about fifty years after the process was discovered.
(Note that Construct Psychology is the basis for Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral Therapy is both the most widely used and effective psychological therapeutic method in the world. It is the only therapeutic approach known to help substance abuse, for example.)
The Visual Future
Over ninety percent of the information that helps us through our daily lives is visual. Over ninety percent of the information on the Internet is visual. The visual data available on the Internet makes what we currently call Big Data miniscule by comparison.
At present, we intuitively recognize the meaning of Visual Data. To read and write it, we need to learn a new language, i.e., Visual Semiotics. Visual Data is the future.
Author: Michael C Sack, Co-Founder/Owner/Moderator/Interviewer
Brand Kinetics is the home of quantified Visual Semiotics and Visual Data. Visual semiotics shows you how the brain processes visual information. Visual Semiotics has been validated in 56 countries and used successfully in 101. Our process has won six major awards and our projects have won over 100.
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Posted By Brooke Bower,
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: FG BnB!
Presenters: Abby Leafe, New Leafe Research and Laurie Tema-Lyn, Practical Imagination Enterprises
At the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference, presenters Abby Leafe and Laurie Tema-Lyn asked all of us “What happens when you bring the sharing economy to the world of research?” Turns out, a lot of exciting things! Throughout the session, Abby and Laurie creatively (and practically!) presented how we can use alternative venues for conducting qualitative research such as AirBnB and Peerspace and how to ensure that a project is a success once the right space is identified.
The engaging session provided real world instances of this method. Both Abby and Laurie utilized their own experiences using unique spaces to conduct qualitative research throughout, including an instance where an LA mansion proved to be the ideal setting for three days of focus groups and client innovation sessions for a start-up client on a budget, leading to development of a pipeline of new product ideas, some of which are now in the marketplace. As they pointed out, not everything is sunshine and roses when utilizing these spaces. Both Abby and Laurie highlighted some hard-earned learnings about how to avoid problems and ensure our sanity when working in a new space that may not be set up for our research.
Non-traditional locations can be great for the right project. The project should have a very specific reason for choosing a non-traditional venue and all logistics associated with the venue need to be explored and planned for. The general elements to consider include:
- How to get there: for clients, respondents, and the researchers.
- Comfort: what is needed to make the research comfortable and is there enough privacy for the structure of the research.
- Technology needed: can be the biggest factor to consider.
- Budget: sometimes non-traditional locations can be a cost saver, but researchers must think through everything you need to bring that might be in a traditional facility, i.e. multiple types of creamer, buying easels/office supplies, bringing in snacks and meals, staffing the location to have a facility manager.
- The intangibles: the ambiance fit for the project, your gut feeling.
If all of these are considered and it is a fit for the project, the right place can help stimulate creativity and engage the mind in different activities, communicating to clients and respondents it is not business as usual!
A key tip from both Abby and Laurie was to thoroughly prepare the clients and respondents for the venue. Overcommunicate about it. Write a letter to the respondents introducing yourself as the moderator, telling them about the purpose of the research and why it is being held in the non-traditional location, and how to get there with special parking instructions.
The fun, non-traditional location can strengthen the depth of your connection with your client as it takes you out of the standard business setting (i.e. debriefing in a luxury LA mansion by the pool after the respondents have left!). This presentation really broadened my mind and encouraged me to think more creatively when I am looking for research venues!
The topic of this presentation was creative and provided fresh ideas to re-energize research projects!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Brooke Bower, Independent Research Consultant
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
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Posted By Roben Allong and Barbara Hairston,
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Re-Thinking the Rules of Engagement for Virtual Research Theatre
by Roben Allong and Barbara Hairston
(Photo credit: Julia M. Cameron)
Savvy qualitative researchers are not waiting for a “new normal” to emerge. They are re-thinking engagement rules before they step back into the research theatre, post COVID-19. Engaging consumers post-crisis — when experiences across racial, ethnic, employment, and geographic lines are newly imprinted and quite disparate — is an opportunity to re-calibrate the way we conduct qualitative research, whether in-person or online. To state the obvious, no one has been left untouched by the pandemic’s sudden disruption of human behavior and norms; this requires a new look at the rules for qual research interaction.
While participants are available and willing to talk, many are still in crisis physically, mentally, and even financially. Qual researchers should not expect that study participants will be mindfully available or fully cogent in responses, especially given their disparate experiences. Post-COVID-19 study designs will require that we look beyond traditional methodologies and techniques. This post will outline five guidelines that can be deployed to elevate engagement for a more insightful study, whether in-person or virtual. These may already be familiar but are worth revisiting; how we apply them in this new normal may also help us elevate the practice.
First, be as transparent as possible to re-establish trust. Basic trust between people has been severely upended. Transparency is needed now, more than ever; that includes reassuring participants of the protocols that are in place to ensure participants’ physical and mental health before starting your focus group or interview interaction. Meeting vulnerable communities where they are is imperative to rebuild trust. Clearly express participation expectations and also acknowledge that the crisis has had an impact. This is especially important for online video studies where building effective rapport in a virtual environment requires greater specificity and clarity. Transparency helps reduce fear of the unknown and the unexpected that participants may not even realize they are harboring since the advent of COVID-19.
Second, create and enforce a no judgement zone that supports study participants as they share their truth, that may even be new to them. Avoid unconscious bias. Be especially mindful of how you ask questions; choose your words and examples carefully. Tap into unfamiliar emotions that they are feeling and expressing freely without judgement. Don’t assume that what you do in person—the tone, body language and energy you radiate to encourage respondent rapport and engagement—is easily transferred to a video platform. There is distance between you and participants and between participants themselves. Subtle body movements, tones, whispers, eye expressions that we noticed and took for granted can go undetected in a virtual focus room. Paying even closer attention is mandatory. Think about the things you do that work well for you in person and how you can effectively alter and adapt them to the virtual environment.
Third, be authentically empathetic. Don’t assume that this is a participant’s first Zoom “rodeo” of the day nor that they are a pro at video calling. They are still living full lives and despite agreeing to take part in the research study, may not be fully present. Allow yourself to feel how being unemployed or working from home, fielding multiple conference calls, applying for jobs online, managing a team remotely or household with everyone in it simultaneously, or home-schooling children for the first time, informs their attitudes and perceptions. Be patient and build in extra time for them to collect themselves and their thoughts.
In order to get a full understanding of mindset and behavior changes, it important to not only have a good representation but also cultural understanding across all ethnicities in order to uncover the hidden stories that lead to critical insights and innovation. Make it a priority to be mindful that, because of racial, ethnic, gender, disabilities, and economic disparities, the pandemic has had a disparate impact on various segments. Build a strong, sharing, and meaningful connection by better understanding diverse cultures and validating unique experiences.
Fourth, increase pivot-ability. As clients and brands pivot toward quick data insights from quantitative because it’s relatively inexpensive and fast, accelerated qual interviews and even faster analysis and reporting will soon be the norm. However, qual by definition is not fast. Getting to the deep emotional recesses of the mind and memory takes time. As Einstein advised more than 100 years ago, time is relative. Pivoting to nimble online tech tools that combine and speed up parts of the qual methodology (such as fielding hybrid studies, insight gathering, analysis, and reporting) is essential. Our current fast-paced climate does not allow for clients to fully “embrace” the qual process, nor do some want to. To meet those emerging needs, wants, and expectations with more speed and acuity than before, qual researchers need to re-think their process and deliverables.
Fifth, be even more curious. Everything around us is changing. The past, in many cases, is only a reference point. The more we hear from participants, the broader our understanding will be of the evolving impact of COVID 19. That means we have to be more curious and avoid the temptation to make assumptions. Try to really understand that things that were once tried and true may no longer hold that position, in the minds of respondents. Things that they believed were once under their control, no longer are. Where they felt safe before, even to the point of taking things for granted, they don’t anymore. There has been a paradigm shift. Explore ways to better understand and accurately interpret the new context from the eyes, ears, and circumstances of our study participants.
COVID-19 has changed the rules of human interaction — which is the equivalent of a seismic shift in qualitative research. COVID-19’s forced contact deprivation coupled with the accelerated wide acceptance of video calling for both business and personal use has hastened a rethinking of how, when, who, and why we connect virtually. As the frequency of online qual research accelerates, we have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to adapt what we know and create new best practices to facilitate a different, deeper, more meaningful interaction in a virtual environment. Obviously, the ideas presented here are by no means exhaustive but are designed to spark alternative thinking. As you ruminate on all the possibilities, what approaches are you are re-thinking for this new post-COVID-19 research theater engagement?
Roben Allong considers herself a research “spelunker” focused on exploring what lurks deep in the caverns of the global cultural zeitgeist. As CEO of Lightbeam Communciations, she is an innovative researcher with over a decade of knowledge and trend expertise across a broad spectrum of consumers, brands and industries. She is currently a QRCA Board member and Chair of QRCA New York Metro Chapter.
Barbara Hairston has a broad base of experience and expertise conducting studies for public health education, K-12 education, higher education, and social issues clients. Through her firm Resources International Inc., she conducts research using a variety of online and face-to-face methodologies to deliver the best possible research solutions among adults/seniors, general market and African American segments, physicians and allied health providers, and stakeholders.
Remote Market Research
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Posted By Aimee Caffrey,
Thursday, May 14, 2020
Updated: Thursday, May 14, 2020
Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Street Research: Learning from Humans at the Intersection of Authenticity and Insights
Presenters: Kelly Heatly, Heatly Custom Research, LLC and Jill Matthews, Bright Cactus, LLC
In the session on Street Research at the 2020 QRCA Annual Conference, Kelly Heatly and Jill Matthews introduced place-based or street research. Discussion centered around effective applications for place-based research and best practices for successful execution, including low- and high-tech tools for on-site data collection and analysis/reporting. Utilizing a series of case study examples, Kelly and Jill demonstrated the unique value of its inclusion in the qualitative researcher’s toolkit.
With applications ranging from understanding the consumer purchase journey or shopper experience to visual merchandising, signage testing, sensory testing, or simply meeting hard-to-reach participants where they are, street research is about identifying opportunities to capture meaningful customer feedback in the moments that matter. Some key points I took away from this engaging and informative presentation are:
- Street research is often one of three types:
- Live, interactive, in-person (the most traditional)
- Synchronous, tech-mediated (virtual moderation via video conferencing software or a research-specific platform while a participant is in-store, at the shelf, etc.)
- Asynchronous, tech-mediated (participation via mobile app or browser).
- Regardless of whether one is leveraging an in-person approach, a wholly tech-mediated approach, or something in-between, it is crucial to plan with the end in mind and align with your client as early as possible on the following:
- Participation/responsibilities in the field
- Reporting and deliverables
- Inclusion and quality of video recording
- While traditional, in-person research is often the most logistically complicated, each approach requires deliberate design and preparation. This entails thinking carefully about where the research will/should unfold, relevant legalities, issues of permission and recruitment, staffing on-site, and technological preparedness (e.g. packing chargers, having a plan for storing videos, etc.). Entertaining as many “what if’s” as possible and devising contingency plans accordingly is essential.
- When it comes to in-person research with pre-recruited participants, clearly communicate an exact meeting place and, for any in-person street research, always dress appropriately for the environment.
- Successful street researchers accept that the chaos of the real world is a double-edged sword. It can serve as both the greatest evidence of authenticity and the greatest interference to the best-laid research plans. Remaining flexible and prepared to improvise can mean the difference between being thwarted by the unexpected and using it to propel one toward meaningful insights.
#1: Having participants wear Snapchat Spectacles to collect in-the-moment data?! LOVE it!
#2 Reminder: Always consider local laws around capturing video/photo without permission.
In addition to helping me think through some of the fundamental considerations to be made when conducting street research, Kelly and Jill offered some great tips on the fly that I will definitely keep in mind the next time I’m involved in or supporting this kind of research! These include having a pre-paid phone just for research purposes (e.g. calling/texting with participants) and finding simple but meaningful ways (e.g. bring in a box of donuts!) to build rapport with front-line staff whose work the research may be disrupting.
As expected, an informative and fascinating presentation by two inspiring Quallies. Thank you, Kelly Heatly and Jill Matthews!
QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Aimee Caffrey, Bain & Company, Inc.
QRCA Annual Conference
QRCA Reporter on the Scene
Reporter on the Scene
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