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The Changing Concept of Dinner in the Age of COVID-19: Romance Vs. Reality

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn and Dr. Donna Maria Romeo, Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Changing Concept of Dinner in the Age of COVID-19

Background

As qualitative researchers —Donna with an anthropological lens, and Laurie with an innovation lens— we often work on behalf of clients to understand perspectives and opinions related to specific brands or communications. As foodies, we enjoy working on projects related to the food industry. So, as we spoke this summer about how COVID-19 was affecting our personal lives, we decided to collaborate on a passion project to explore the nature of dinner in the age of COVID-19.

Our video interviews with folks from diverse backgrounds, life-stages, and household compositions revealed much about habits and practices around food planning, prepping, grocery shopping, cooking, and eating. We uncovered exciting insights that suggest implications for food retailers, marketers, manufacturers, meal delivery services, and others.

A central theme running across the research was the concept of taking stock, both literally and figuratively. The pandemic demanded us to take inventory as we looked through the pantry, fridge, and freezer. More broadly, it triggered us to take stock of our lives mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we grappled with challenging issues that have become a part of our collective experience.

We learned that the question: “What shall I/we do for dinner tonight?” was on everyone’s minds and had become a central focus for the day’s events. In response to that question, we found a larger construct in the dichotomy of dinner, which we have identified as Romance vs. Reality. Although not a new construct, for many, this duality has been exacerbated by life under COVID-19.

The Romantic Dinner 

First, let’s begin by toasting to the romantic side of this equation! Without the grind of the daily commute or hectic shuttling of children back and forth to school and events, many people found more time in their lives as they hunkered down at home.

The Romantic notion of dinner is described as an ideal time when household members sit down together, relax, and talk as a family. Dinner becomes a shared social experience as well as a form of entertainment. Under COVID-19, dinner becomes something to look forward to and even the highlight of the day.

Romantic dinners take preparation. People told us they turned to recipes found in books or the internet, while some took Zoom classes and learned how to bake challah or pizza. Some discovered their inner chef and experimented with new cuisines and cooking methods, such as the Instant Pot or air fryer. A few set the table with the good china and stemware. An older couple dresses up for dinner, with attire suited to the cuisine.  

Half of our respondents regularly or frequently experience these romantic dinners. In many ways, these meals are a throwback to an earlier time, the idea of Sunday dinner with emphasis on wholesome, home-made foods, lovingly prepared and savored over the evening.  

With few reasons to rush away from the dinner table, spouses deepen intimate relationships, parents and children spend precious time together and exchange ideas. Dinner in the age of COVID-19 for them is intimate, social, creative, and soul-satisfying. The Romantic Dinner has helped people emotionally get through the lockdown and restrictions on their freedom.  

While most Romantic dinners are shared with immediate family and others in the extended COVID-19 social pod who safely dine together, some also extend this reach to far-flung family and friends virtually. Several respondents discussed sharing snacks, wine, and even holiday meals like Passover and Easter with distant friends and family via Zoom so they could keep relationships and traditions vibrant, even though people can’t come together physically.

As a form of entertainment, the Romantic dinner was described as an outlet for creativity and experimentation. People feel a sense of self-confidence in trying something new and home-made and even home-baked.

Several spoke with pride of pulling together an appealing and delicious scavenger meal from what they could find in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Others found the pandemic a perfect time to experiment with foods from different cultures, which in some ways, was a stand-in for the travel they missed.  

For many, the Romantic dinner is an opportunity to show off in the age of COVID-19. With recipe postings and stylized photos on social media, people relish their bragging rights. And all this ties in with the plethora of cooking shows and food porn. 

The Harsh Reality Dinner  

Not everyone answered the “What shall I/we do for dinner tonight?” question with positivity and creativity.  Unfortunately, for some, dinner in the age of COVID-19 is a Harsh Reality.  

The Harsh Reality dinner is a grueling, time-consuming chore, marred by stress, strain, and guilt, and simply a means to an end. Day in and day out, people grow bored with their cooking routine and the increased demands COVID-19 has placed on them.

These sentiments are felt acutely by parents of young children, especially those who work at home.  These folks have many balls in the air—so food shopping, cooking, cleaning, maintaining safe/sanitary practices, and cooking a meal become the ultimate stressor.  

Those who live alone and a few older empty-nesters were in this camp as well. They described dinner as a basic need or “fuel.” There’s nothing romantic about it, and “Netflix is my dinner guest.” For older couples who eat differently due to health issues, cooking is not enjoyable. As one retiree said, “I just wish someone would come and cook for me.”

And to a Gen X mom with two daughters and a husband, each of whom is on a different diet, it’s a veritable nightmare to figure out what to do at dinnertime to keep everyone at least somewhat happy. 

Some people who experience dinner as a Harsh Reality feel guilt and shame at not doing more, not keeping up with others who enjoy cooking or seem to cook effortlessly. They feel the strain of not meeting the ideal, and self-judge as less competent mothers or spouses.

Glimmers of Light  

Fortunately, for those experiencing dinner during the pandemic as a Harsh Reality, there are glimmers of light on the horizon. As some communities are taking control of their COVID-19 infections, many are once again easing the stress of the “what’s for dinner?” question by turning to take-out, curbside, and restaurant dining (alfresco predominantly).

The romantics are a bit sad to see these changes; but the hassled, harried parents who are juggling work, parenting, and homeschooling demands are welcoming the help that restaurant dining affords them.

Conclusion: Implications

For the Romantics… 

  • Brands and companies can provide ongoing ideas for menu planning, new recipes, ingredients, and cooking tools
  • Offer simple, low-cost, and creative ways to beautify table and ambiance
  • Consider bundling opportunities: e.g., spices or ingredients coupled with music (and video) representative of an international cuisine 
  • Design tools/services to enhance smartphone food photos styled perfectly for social media 
  • Advertising and communications can play up the multi-sensory, pleasurable aspects of cooking and dining at home

For those living in the Harsh Reality… 

  • Make it easy for the cook! Easy-to-find recipes, short cuts, and speed scratch cooking ideas 
  • Tools that simplify and make cooking faster and easier 
  • Break down recipes into individual portions for the solo householder or for households where each person has their own dietary preferences or needs 
  • And most importantly, food advertising needs to get real! Communicate in ways that acknowledge all types of diversity, and strive to de-stress, de-shame, and de-guilt the less-than-ideal cook.

About the Authors:

Dr. Donna Maria Romeo, Founding Principal, Romeo Anthropological Consulting, LLC 

Donna is a business anthropologist and customer experience expert with a PhD in applied anthropology. For over 25 years, she has helped global organizations across a range of industries see the world of the consumer through fresh eyes. Her work has contributed to innovations in customer experience, marketing, service design, and product development
anthrodonnatx@gmail.com
https://anthrodonna.com

Laurie Tema-Lyn, Founder, Practical Imagination Enterprises®

Laurie Tema-Lyn is a qualitative research consultant and creative catalyst with 25+ years experience. She is former member of the QRCA Board of Directors. Laurie is the author of Stir It Up! Recipes for Robust Insights & Red Hot Ideas, and numerous articles which have appeared in VIEWS, Quirk’s Media and LinkedIn.
laurie@practical-imagination.com
http://practical-imagination.com  

Tags:  communication  market research  marketing research  mrx  QRCA Digest  qualitative market research  research methodologies  research methodology 

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

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

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

Presenter: Jennifer Cuthill, Clearworks

Summary of Conference Session

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

Key Session Takeaways

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

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

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

To be successful in digital ethnography, Cuthill recommends:

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

When choosing a platform for digital ethnography we should consider:

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

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

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

Aha Moment

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

Final Comments

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

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

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

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

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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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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Beyond Storytelling: When, Why and How to Work with Stories

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.

Aha Moment

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.

Final Comments

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

Tags:  human behavior  humanizing research  listening  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative Methodologies  Qualitative Methods  Research Methodologies  types of research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Cultivating Connection: Helping Decision-Makers Understand the Humans Behind the Data

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…."

Aha Moment

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.

Final Comments

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

Tags:  actionable insights  Humanizing Research  Insights  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative  Research Methodologies 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: FG BnB!

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

Summary

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

Aha Moment

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!

Final Comments

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

Tags:  focus groups  human behavior  Humanizing Research  market research  marketing research  mobile research  Moderating  outreach  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Qualitative Methodologies  Research Methodologies  research methodology 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Street Research: Learning from Humans at the Intersection of Authenticity and Insights

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

Summary

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.

Key Takeaways

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:
  • Objectives
  • Participation/responsibilities in the field
  • Reporting and deliverables
  • Timing
  • 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.

Aha Moment

#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.

Final Comments

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.

Tags:  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  Reporter on the Scene  Research technology  Research Methodologies  research methodology 

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