I was recently explaining the idea of an in-home interview to my husband. “You would never let someone into the house!” he replied, knowing that I would be skeptical, at best, if invited to participate in one. However, I would agree to participate in this type of immersive research. Even though I am unabashedly, undeniably and thoroughly biased, I believe that helps me understand why some of the busiest professionals working in some of the most sensitive and regulated industries agree to do the same.
Yes, financial advisors are busy. Yes, doctors have to be careful about what they say and share. Yet both are willing to meet with us at their offices and talk for rather lengthy periods of time. There are certain industries—financial services and healthcare being two prominent examples—where compliance concerns, traditional thinking and precedent can falsely limit the qualitative method possibilities.
Editor’s Note: Our qualitative researchers go beyond people’s words and actions to reveal the meaningful insights behind them. They have decades of experience across a myriad of industries and brands. But who are they? And what drives their desire to connect with others? Take a two-minute peek into today’s featured moderator: Rob Darrow.
When I first entered the field of market research years ago, the CEO of our small boutique firm routinely stated that “our greatest challenge doesn’t come from other research firms, but from prospective clients who feel they don’t need research.” Thankfully, most companies recognize that market research plays a critical role in market success, but even that enlightened view is not sufficient to guarantee success.
After all, what does “market research” for any given organization actually mean? When is it needed? How should it be applied? Even those who are committed to better serving their customers can find themselves making some very basic mistakes when it comes to using or not using market research. Following are two common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to market research and product development.
In July 2006, I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon. It was the beginning of my service at Market Strategies International. A decade is not a long time but long enough to witness some changes. Let me share with you a quick inventory of what has changed from 2006 to 2016 in the market research industry:
The next tech trend has arrived, and who would have thought that it would come in the form of a 1990s video game revival of Pokémon?
Suddenly seeing Pokémon everywhere evoked memories of listening to my younger sister describe her valiant efforts to “catch ‘em all” as she immersed herself in the world of her coveted GameBoy Color, describing her collections of Pikachus, Bulbasaurs and Mews. Faithful fans, my sister included, would likely cringe at my coarse recollection of their favored childhood diversion, but they are probably too busy wandering into your backyard to capture and train their brood of digital friends via Pokémon Go – the latest, and arguably most viral, generation of the Nintendo gaming franchise.
In case you haven’t noticed the headlines, here is a quick download on the phenomenon (don’t worry, I’ll connect this to market research soon):
I run competitively, mostly in races around my home state of Arkansas, and I’m currently training for the Hogeye Marathon, which is known for its hilly, difficult course.
Training for a marathon involves many aspects from experimenting with different fuel/gels to finding the best pair of shoes to take you the distance. But the most important is probably the long run. You have to start out with a short distance/time and then gradually build up—maybe a mile or so every week—until you’re at least somewhat close to the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. This requires planning—working backwards from race day to establish a training plan to ensure there is sufficient time to gradually build up the distance. Without a proper plan and follow-through, race day will surely be a disaster.
The same can be said of business decision-making. A snap decision on an important issue without proper forethought and planning could be an embarrassment at best and career ending at worst. So what does it take to get to “decision day” for your desired outcome? Here are a few considerations:
Recently, a market research project made my mouth water–literally. We conducted a study on the food people eat and how they cook. It was an online bulletin board across the US, Brazil, Poland and China. I want to make your mouth water, too–below are photos of homemade pasta and noodle meals taken and posted by respondents.
Can you guess which meal is from which country? (Answers are at the end of this post.)
How to Avoid Product Pitfalls through Deep Understanding
As a qualitative market researcher who conducts focus groups around the country, it’s fair to say that I know a thing or two about air travel. This exposure has made me notice the many little things that contribute to making a flight pleasurable or miserable. There are so many things, in fact, that I will only focus on one of the details that recently made an impression on me.
Let’s face it–attending multi-day conferences can be challenging. After a while, speeches and workshops feel the same, and most speakers talk about the same topics with slight variations. You’re sitting there thinking, “Oh no, not this again,” as your mind wanders to everything you need to get done back at the office or home.
Successful corporate events are those that enlighten and entertain at the same time; this should be the goal of every event planner and decision maker influencing meeting strategies and agendas.That is why staging a customer focus group for a large audience can easily become the most memorable highlight of a conference.
As my friends and family spread out around the globe, my community is moving steadily from meeting in coffee houses to meeting up online on SnapChat and WhatsApp. I prefer the semi-impermanence of SnapChat. It’s like my best friend taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hey, look what I just saw? What do you think of that?” even though he’s living thousands of miles away in rural Africa. My online world is only a shade less vibrant than my “real” life. If I were to invite you into my home, introduce you to my family, neighbors or friends, you would only be seeing half of my life. With international relatives and most friends living over an hour away, I am increasingly living my life online.
Online Communities as Sources of Comfort & Friendship
I’m not alone. The mass migration to digital life can be seen everywhere. The diversity of idea sharing comes to life online—look at the richness of any comment section associated with a major newspaper and our conceptions of community can only grow broader. We are constantly presented with voices that dissent from and endorse our world view. In our private lives, online communities are sources of comfort and friendship. Take for example patients or caregivers in the health-medical space where it can be difficult to gain access to others with similar experiences in their “real life.” Having a rare disease can be isolating when there are no other patients in the region to connect with in-person. Increasingly, people are relying on online communities for information and human connection.
Market Research Online Communities, or MROCs, to use the punchy acronym, are currently one of our fastest growing qualitative research tools. They are often described as online focus groups or bulletin boards on steroids.
However, since the term was coined several years ago, there is still a lot of confusion about MROCs. A source of this confusion is that “Market Research Online Community” is a fairly ambiguous label and open to interpretation. As a result, we’ve thrown around a lot of vague and evolving nomenclature. People have said to me: “Can we do a panel?” “Wouldn’t it be cool to tap into a social network community?” And, my personal favorite, “What we really need is an ad hoc, longitudinal open network community—kind of like a panel.”
The problem with using “panel” to describe an MROC is that it leads many to think about a traditional, large panel of thousands of members who are periodically tapped for either quick-read or in-depth quantitative surveys. The panel has no end-point and is sometimes also used to find respondents for either online or in-person qualitative research. “Community” and “Social Network” also mislead since they are currently buzzwords that too easily conjure up social media research, such as language and trend analytics and other social listening tools.