Qualitative research is an investment that rewards richly, if done right. It offers valuable insights into deep and important business questions, providing critical insights into your audience’s behaviors, experiences and motivations. And as a seasoned researcher, my team and I are continuously evolving our craft to be relevant in a world with rapidly changing consumer needs and expectations. But the principles for strong research outcomes are evergreen.
To ensure maximum impact for our clients’ investment, here at Magid we focus on four steps when designing our qualitative research:
#1. Discuss what decisions your research will inform
It’s not enough to start with clear and defined research objectives. Instead, focus on your definitive business objectives to ensure you are not only aligned with your research partner on what you aim to learn, but also the potential impacts this knowledge will have on your business decisions.
The intended application of the research should inform the approach and is core to how we direct research questions and shape the analysis framework. As the research partner, when we understand the desired application of the learning, we can shape the research to generate insights that will be most relevant and beneficial to your operations, strategies and overall decision-making processes.
It may be helpful to think of research objectives as ‘the what’, and understanding the business objectives helps us to understand ‘the why’. Something we qual researchers are all used to!
The use of different research methods will help uncover diverse aspects of the consumer’s perspective. We gather multiple touchpoints with the same consumers across different contexts at distinctive points in time – providing a truly comprehensive understanding of their thought processes and decision-making. We call this “triangulating on the truth of the consumer experience”.
I’m always blown away by how rich and rewarding a 90-minute focus group session can be – but layering it with other points of engagement is so much more eye-opening. Combining live conversations with pre-work or an online community yields a more robust set of data, offering richer insights for making strategic decisions, developing products or services and shaping marketing campaigns. The variation also reduces the bias or limitations associated with a single method.
#3. Context is king
Conducting in-context qualitative research presents significant benefits. Instead of relying on consumer recall of what they ‘think’ they would do (or have done), we observe and assess consumers in their natural environment, particularly at critical moments of brand use or purchase decisions. Through this, we can gain genuine insights into their needs, behaviors and usage patterns.
This real-world, context-based perspective forms the basis for creating effective, user-centric products and services tailored to meet your customers’ real needs. In-context methods are powerful in their capability to unearth deep and unique insights, even revealing potential problems or opportunities that might not be captured outside the consumers’ natural context.
Whether it’s an in-store assessment, an over-the-shoulder view during a gaming session, or an on-site at a hotel, our aim is to leverage these authentic moments to provide you with informed insights that help you reach your goals.
#4. Include modern and relevant activities
Experienced qualitative researchers know they must go beyond just what participants say. We must consider their behaviors, expressions and emotions to provide a thorough understanding of their experiences. Techniques to push past the ‘expected’ responses require activities that force participants to move beyond their rational, or System 2, thinking.
Your research should include engaging activities that not only compel participants to break away from routine responses but also offer rich, often unexpected reactions. For example, now that we’re in football season, we’d use a fun projective exercise to explore lead product features and benefits through the lens of a fantasy football draft.
In today’s complex and diverse landscape, finding universally relatable references can be challenging, but rest assured, a skilled researcher can efficiently do so. Your research design should continually innovate, move with the times and avoid repetition to ensure you extract the valuable insights you need to address your business questions. Using a familiar and enjoyable paradigm ensures that participants can relate and participate significantly, resulting in less scripted and more intuitively insightful responses about your products and services. For instance, we may develop culturally relevant games inspired by popular TV shows such as America’s Got Talent to stimulate genuine feedback from a different POV.
Impactful qualitative research should not only give you a better understanding of consumer attitudes, opinions and behaviors, but ultimately shape strategies and actions that enhance your business growth. Your research partner should continuously refine their qual toolbox to keep it modern and innovative, and ensure your investment in research translates into tangible business benefits.