The reemergence of qualitative research​

I liked the article below about how big data is necessitating the reemergence of qualitative research. It’s from today’s 7-14-2016 blog from ThinkNow, an Hispanic panel group who write some great articles on miscellaneous research topics. It mirrors a situation at the recent IIex 2016 conference in Atlanta, a 3-day conference filled with insight innovation from all over the world, in which a key presenter said (about qualitative work I had conducted for their recent multiphase project for International Data Corporation and Rackspace): “I’m falling in love again with focus groups. It was wonderful to listen to high level decision makers sit around and intensely talk about their perceptions, misperceptions, confusion, and knowledge, back and forth, right in front of us in a facility. I understood so much that I couldn’t have learned with online or mobile. This jump-started the remainder of the project.” Here is Roy Kokoyachuk’s article from ThinkNow in its entirety:  As Big Data Rises So Does the Need to Talk Directly to ConsumersWhen big data came on the scene a few years ago there was a lot of hand wringing in the market research industry about what the future was going to look like if all online consumer data was going to be available for marketers to analyze and exploit. In-person qualitative research, with its old-school approach and methodology, seemed to be a good candidate for extinction in an age of pixels and clicks. Why would marketers want to talk to consumers if they could see their every purchase and eavesdrop on their online conversations? Wouldn’t consumers reveal their likes, dislikes and motivations for all to see and marketers to exploit? Now, in mid-2016, we have a pretty good sense of how things are shaking out. While it’s true that we share quite a lot about ourselves online, it’s not always the type of information that marketers can use. While Amazon, Google, and Spotify do indeed know a lot about our purchase behaviors, browsing habits and music preferences they don’t know why we bought something, looked something up or chose a certain song to listen to. All the information Amazon, Google and Spotify work with was created after we’ve searched for or clicked on something. They have a limited view, however, as to why we went to their sites in the first place. Without the ‘why’ marketers are left guessing as to how to incite future purchases or gauge interest in future products. The ProblemThe ‘why’ was supposed to come from the social listening side of the equation. Facebook, Twitter, et al were going to tell us what motivated people to do what they do. While they do uncover interesting insights there’s something coloring many of those findings – social acceptance and vanity. A significant predictor of whether an online conversation approving of or disproving of a product or service is often-times the content of the first comment in the string. Subsequent respondents then echo the initial sentiment to gain social acceptance. Additionally, the comments and images we post online for all to see are not necessarily reflective of our real selves. If they were, a large proportion of us would be walking around staring into mirrors, making duck lips and tilting our heads just so. Our ‘better’ online selves are happier, enjoy life more and have more ‘friends’ than our offline selves. The problem for marketers is that in 2016 it’s still the offline self that spends money on products and services. Amazon can set their algorithms in motion once we’ve clicked on something or made a purchase but until we do they’re clueless as to what to say to us. The SolutionWhile everyone was distracted by their glowing screens something interesting has been happening in market research – old school qualitative research has been making a comeback. After a lull in qualitative research which occurred while consumer insights teams absorbed the new tools they had at their disposal and figured out what they could and could not do, we’re experiencing a resurgence of interest in ethnographies, focus groups, shop-alongs and IDI’s. In a nod to the new online world, some of it is happening online but a lot of it is reverting to face-to-face methodologies. We recently conducted a series of focus groups among individuals without health insurance. Not having health insurance is not something people brag about on Facebook. In fact, one might get the impression from online posts that Americans are perpetually smiling, spend most of their time on vacation and are ‘living the dream’. Listening to group members describe their struggles with health insurance access, fear of financial catastrophe and concerns about their and their family’s health, one realizes that this type of conversation can only be had in-person. Several group participants hugged the moderator on the way out and thanked him for allowing them to share their feelings on the topic. The moderator had done little more than listen attentively and probe for more information but an intimacy was achieved in those groups that felt intensely human. Of course, not all focus groups revolve around such weighty topics but a good moderator can help people uncover the inner motivations for their preferences. An online post can tell us “Mustangs are cool!” but it doesn’t usually reveal that “I want a Mustang but work in a law firm where most people drive Audi’s and BMW’s so I’m kind of embarrassed by wanting one.” Further probing might lead an ad agency to have an ah-ha! moment that could lead to an ad campaign that drives buyers to showrooms. Knowing that someone clicked on a picture of a Mustang is interesting but will only get you so far in developing resonant marketing messages. As long as marketers are selling products and services to human beings there will be a need to understand them on an emotional level and thus a need for qualitative research moderated by humans​.  About the author: Roy Eduardo KokoyachukRoy is a Managing Partner at ThinkNow Research. He started his career at Warner Bros. Media Research. A desire to pursue multicultural market research full-time led him to join a full service Hispanic & multicultural market research company, in 2003 as Vice President of Advertising Research. He became Executive Vice President in 2006 and opened an operations center in Tijuana, Mexico and directed the company’s entry into online research. In 2009 he initiated the creation of the first nationally representative opt-in market research panel of U.S. Hispanics – CadaCabeza. This panel broke new ground in panel building by focusing on the recruitment of Spanish speaking Hispanics as well as the English speakers typically found on online panels. He co-founded ThinkNow Research to further pursue his passion for multicultural consumer insights. Posted in Analysis, and qualitative research, Big qualitative and big data, Methodologies and research findings, Qualitative market research | Leave a comment »

Observational workshop at Orlando QRCA Conference

This session focuses on theoretical and practical issues of the dynamics, problems, and value of observation that we researchers face, are inspired by, may struggle with, and need to address during qualitative projects. The gaze is broader than just the kind of ethnographic process that relies on observations. It is the researcher’s state of mind, intuitive skill-set, freedom or restrictions, and actions that result from our awareness that we are being viewed and impacted by a client presence. The presenters – both cultural anthropologists – are collaborating on a researcher-on-researcher project that emphasizes the idea of clients as a key form of the research inquiry. They look at the effect of these expanded ideas on observation with other researchers through phone and in-person interviews. This presentation will focus on the implications of the practices we use in our research, our relationship with clients, and, finally, on the impact of these eyes on the research. This session includes examples from their own projects, those of other QRCs, and interactive exercises. Attendees can expect to experience how the gaze influences our view of the ethnographic experience, how it helps mediate collaborative strategies for successful business outcomes, as well as the gaze’s overall place within the “Whole New World of Research.” Target Audience: All ranges, from advanced to beginning qualitative researchers ava lindbergAva Lindberg is a cultural anthropologist and depth psychologist who applies the core principles of academic anthropology to contemporary market research to discover and explore penetrating insights for breakthrough brand and strategic initiatives. Passionate about observation as a portal into the conscious and archetypal levels of human behaviors, emotions, and motivations, Lindberg uses classic in-person authentic ethnography within a hybrid combination of creative groups, focused depth psychological interviews, digital/online ethnography, and ideation worksessions. Recent clients include Hilton Worldwide Insights, Unilever, International Data Corporation, McDonald’s, Kraft, and ConAgra. She is a frequent workshop leader at U.S., Canadian, and international research conferences. antonella fabriAntonella Fabri is a cultural anthropologist with an international background. A native Italian, she studied in Italy and Spain before receiving her PhD in the US. She worked as a college professor prior to becoming an independent market consultant. She is an expert in ethnographic research methods, branding, positioning, semiotics, and Latino culture. Her projects have ranged from health and pharmaceuticals, to finance, to organizational culture, as well as luxury goods, beauty products, food and beverages, and hospitality. She is fluent in Spanish and Italian. Dr. Fabri has authored numerous publications and spoken frequently at professional conferences.​

The gaze: Preview of Orlando workshop

We teach that the gaze of the ethnographer, the participating client team, and the consumers under observation will determine the relative power, specificity, actual findings, and analysis of the research results.

Passion for qualitative research

There is a special kind of aliveness, call it passion, that the qualitative researcher feels for the deep, real-world experience of being, talking, questioning, and observing consumers and subjects.

Categorizing qualitative findings

On the positive side, there are ever-increasing number of brilliant qualitative methods that we work with daily and add to our repertoire as they become available.

When ethnography is at the complex midway point

The midpoint stands between old assumptions and breakthrough findings, and despite some clarity, we are still at the transition point.

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