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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.

waterfall

 

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.

DO

DON’T

  • 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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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 (
https://law.justia.com/cases/california/supreme-court/3d/48/341.html) 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 https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB806

I found this article by NOLO Press to be very informative.  NOLO is a fabulous resource for small business owners. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/exempt-job-categories-under-californias-new-ab5-law.html

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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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. 

References
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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Online Chat Focus Groups: A First-Timer’s Perspective

Posted By Cheryl Halpern, Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Online Chat Focus GroupsA First-Timer’s Perspective 

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.  

Methodology Description 

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. 

Discussion Guide 

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.  

Preparation 

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: 

  1. Sending questions, either from the pre-loaded discussion guide or by typing freehand. 
  2. Sending visual stimuli to the whiteboard. 
  3. 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.  

Moderation 

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. 

Consensus Assessment 

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. 

Tips

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: 

  1. Engage participants from the outset. Without face-to-face interaction, it is especially important to make the respondents feel welcomed and eager to participate.  
  2. Familiarize yourself with all toggles/options available. I did not realize that I could have done more to optimize the respondents’ screens. 
  3. Use the whiteboard judiciously. Juggling the whiteboard and the discussion guide at the same time probably complicates things unnecessarily for a novice. 
  4. 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. 
  5. To facilitate deep dives on key topics, plan multiple, closely related questions and allow respondents 90 seconds to read and respond to each.   
  6. Include time allocations and screen shot reminders in your programmed discussion guide so that all the cues you’ll need are in one place. 
  7. 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. 
  8. Practice! Even a skilled moderator needs to take the time to learn the nuances of a new tool.  

cheryl halpernAbout 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. 

Tags:  Actionable  Focus Groups  Insights  Market Research Technology  Online Listening  Online Technology  QRCA Digest 

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Journey Mapping: Big Picture Thinking

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. 

A picture containing book, store Description automatically generated

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.

A picture containing person, indoor, table, ceiling Description automatically generatedAliza 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.

 

 

Tags:  Customer Journey maps  Data visualization  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  research methodologies  research methodology 

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The Future of In-Person Market Research

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 webinarThe 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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Tags:  In-person research  market research  QRCA Digest  qualitative  qualitative research  remote market research  research methodology 

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“Visual Data” Is NOT Data Visualization

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

cabin 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.

Michael C Sack, Co-Founder/Owner/Moderator/InterviewerAuthor: 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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Tags:  data visualization  emotional insights  emotional measurement  emotional motivation  QRCA Digest  visual data  visual future  visual structure 

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Re-Thinking the Rules of Engagement for Virtual Research Theatre

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)
(Photo credit: Julia M. Cameron)

 

Savvy qualitative researchers are not waiting for 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 studywhether 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.  

Firstbe as transparent as possible to re-establish trustBasic trust between people has been severely upendedTransparency 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 interactionMeeting 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 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 personthe tone, body language and energy you radiate to encourage respondent rapport and engagementis 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.  

Thirdbe authentically empatheticDon’t assume that this is participant’s first Zoom “rodeo of the day nor that they are a pro at video callingThey 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 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. 

Fourthincrease pivot-ability. As clients and brands pivot toward quick data insights from quantitative because itrelatively 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 essentialOur current fast-paced climate does not allow for clients to fully “embrace” the qual process, nor do some want toTo meet those emerging needswants, and expectations with more speed and acuity than before, qual researchers need to re-think their process and deliverables.  

Fifthbe 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 virtuallyAs 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 thinkingAs you ruminate on all the possibilities, what approaches are you are re-thinking for this new post-COVID-19 research theater engagement? 

Roben AllongRoben 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 QRCA Board member and Chair of QRCA New York Metro Chapter. 

linkedin.com/in/robenallong 
twitter.com/trendiwendii 
IG @roben_the_researcher 

Barbara HairstonBarbara 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.  

Linkedin.com/in/Barbara-kinlaw-hairston-32761a7 
Twitter.com/KinLawBH 

Tags:  communication  mobile research  QRCA Digest  Qualitative Methodologies  Qualitative Methods  Remote Market Research 

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Quarantine Connections: How Virtual Coffees Can ‘Brew’ Renewed Connections

Posted By Cynthia Harris , Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Quarantine Connections: How Virtual Coffees Can "Brew" Renewed Connections

When stay-at-home orders went into place in Ohio, I immediately felt sadness as I had hoped to do more in-person qualitative work and workshops this year. After traveling for the past year and focusing on digital methodologies, I was excited to connect live with consumers and colleagues in-person again in 2020.

As a naturally curious researcher, I began to think through how I could stay connected with consumers and clients while still honoring the mandates to mitigate COVID-19. “I can still deeply connect with consumers and colleagues virtually… After all, that’s solely what I’ve been doing while traveling the world for the past year!” While my Plan A had to be tabled, I had a new, intriguing idea that began to emerge.

Enter Plan B... my idea to have 30 virtual coffees with 30 different people within the next 30 days.

Little did I know I would learn so much from this experience about how to creatively plan research occasions, how to stay in touch with colleagues digitally and how to keep the human spirit alive despite social distancing.

Here are the top five things I learned:

  1. People are enthusiastic to connect: I was blown away by how many people were eager to catch up. From former colleagues to college friends to mentees I had not caught up with in a while, it was such a joy to reconnect with people who have meant a lot to me over the years. Do not underestimate the fact that we are all looking for connection during this time. People will be enthusiastic to catch up with you!
  2. Innovative ideas can come through casual conversation: During one of my coffee chats, a client and I tossed around ideas for how to tackle an upcoming research objective. We were not talking through a specific brief. We have not even booked the work (yet). But, I do think we gained a deeper rapport with one another because we entered a deeper “circle of trust”’ Use this time to pursue depth with people. It is mutually appreciated!
  3. Using a calendar service: Sure, I had heard of calendar services like Calend.ly and you can book me. But it was not until my “30 for 30” quest that I used a calendar service. And, my oh my, it was the point guard to my playbook! I am now convinced that leveraging one of these services is an incredible way to broaden conversations with clients and potential clients in a way that is convenient for you and them.
  4. Digital rapport-building is a craft: Though I have spent the past year focused primarily on digital research, this experience reaffirmed my belief that engaging authentically online requires skill. Sure, there are lots of articles on “how to design your background and how to have proper lighting,” but truly connecting with audiences via screens takes practice. Spending time with people over virtual coffees can help you build this muscle if digital moderating is something you aspire to given our current working conditions.
  5. Everyone is learning something new these days: I was amazed that each conversation I had resulted in me taking a note or two to research further. I learned about a community garden in my neighborhood; I learned more about GDPR; and more! My point is, we all are exploring new topics these days and you can learn so much from others. Instead of getting straight to business, find out what your clients might be expanding into these days.

In the book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi states, “Wherever you are in life right now and whatever you know, is a result of the ideas, experiences and people you have interacted with in your life.”

My plan B ended up being a foray into renewed relationships, creative thinking, and potential future business. While we may be quarantined and craving in-person connection, I encourage you to consider a Virtual Coffee quest of your own. You will likely cherish each conversation and perhaps learn something new. Embrace Plan B. Something beautiful might be brewing inside Plan B.

Author Bio:
Cynthia Harris is the founder of 8:28 Consulting, a boutique qualitative research and marketing strategy company focused on designing digital and in-person experiences to amplify the voice of consumers. Cynthia’s career spans market research and marketing experiences across many categories ranging from health and beauty to the food industry. She is passionate about advocating for consumers in creative ways. Cynthia has an MBA from the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

Email: cynthia@the828firm.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cdharris

Instagram: @hello828consulting

Tags:  digital research  human behavior  humanizing research  QRCA Digest  qualitative research 

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