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What’s Hot Under the Qualitative Sun?

July 20, 2010
Face to face focus groups are still a key staple in qualitative research.  But everywhere you go, people in the industry are talking about exciting innovations in market research. Those innovations are driven by new technology, the economy, cultural changes, and more. Here’s a partial list:
  • Web 2.0: The Web on Steroids. The introduction of Web 2.0 capabilities (which allows interactions between those who post things online, and those who read and respond to them) has opened doors to a whole new world of possibilities.  That interactivity alone is changing qualitative research.
  • Online Research: Remote Control and More. A whole slew of new online qualitative platforms and techniques take advantage of the ease of interacting on the web. The benefits? They include speedy research and output, geographical reach, less group influence, greater “think” time for respondents, and more. See “Market Research: Ten Trends for 2010,” in which Jane Mount of Digital Research, Inc. predicts declines in in-person qualitative research as newer innovations take hold.
  • Consumer Banter: Mining for Insights. The growth of social networks and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, blogs, Market Research Online Communities (MROC’s), and other online data are being scoured for research purposes.  Whether the data are analyzed in-house or out-sourced, this new source is raising new options (“natural chatter”) and challenges (privacy concerns).
  • Facebook: Letting it All Hang Out. Communication, and attitudes about it have undergone seismic changes. Openness is the new trend. If you think it, you can write it, take pictures of it, and make it viral. That’s true in both personal and business lives. Doing business has changed from advertising through traditional media, to creating relationships on the web. The result? More information means more data for research. Ad agencies, aware of consumer use of social media, are using it too, to make up for the decline of traditional advertising media.
  • New Portable Devices: Can You Hear Me Now? Smart phones, Flipcams, Webcams, and the like extend and expand research options. Want to know what a shopper thinks while she peruses the shelves? She can send pictures with the flip of a phone, and text you while it’s happening.
  • Going Global. The opening up through social networking mirrors the opening to international markets and marketing. Whether in France or Japan, market research requires translation not only in terms of language but to local cultures as well.  Moderating and analysis have to bridge the gap between whole cultures now, as well as between target segments.
  • The Economy Today. Research buyers are looking for savings, pure and simple. The specter of increased taxes, the cost of healthcare, the sluggish recovery, and uncertainty all around make for wary buyers. Companies are interested more than ever in insights that affect the bottom line.  That means greater challenges than ever for qualitative research:  results need to be keenly focused and integrated with marketing objectives.
So where does that leave us? In the posts that follow, we’ll discuss new qualitative techniques affected by these emerging technologies and trends. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that one thing hasn’t changed: People are people. What really matters is understanding where they’re coming from and why–whether the old- fashioned way: face to face focus groups, or the marvels afforded by 2010 technology.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 7:45 pm

    great article. I became more and more excited to learn tesenang reading this article because it relates to my study of Qualitative Research
    best regards

  2. September 19, 2011 10:39 am

    Very nice. Thanks! We are in the midst of all this in India… Mixing conventional with the new. Opens up so much more…

    • September 19, 2011 1:50 pm

      Yes, and with all the new advances coming from high tech and social media, the possibilities seem endless! Of course, the key is always to use whatever works best in reaching consumers and getting real insights — rather than all kinds of bells and whistles just because they’re new.

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