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.