Jim White, PhD
So my partner Jim Chastain and I dusted off the RealityCheck crystal ball to see what’s in store for qualitative research in 2015. Here are our top 5 qual trends for this year.
- From Research to Experience
More and more clients will seek methods that deliver experiential learning that immerses them in their consumers’ worlds. For these clients, focus groups will be less and less relevant. They won’t be content to just passively observe their consumer; they’ll want to experience what it’s like to actually be them, even if only for a short while.
Clients will increasingly value immersive techniques that create opportunities to come out from behind the observation mirror and engage with respondents directly. And they’ll gain an increasing appreciation for approaches that allow them to role play as their consumer and gain a much deeper, human understanding of the people to whom they are marketing.
- From Insights to Empathy
Related to this, the trend toward engagement and empathy will continue to gather steam. Increasingly, clients won’t want to just understand their customer on a cognitive level. They’ll want to connect with them on an empathic and emotional level and will demand innovative approaches to help them do so.
More and more, clients and researchers are realizing that treating consumers like human beings yields richer insights and more genuine connections between brands and people. When you think of research as a conversation among people, rather than a test, a deeper, more meaningful dialogue begins to happen between you and the humans you need to understand.
- From Researchers to Translators
As client organizations get more stretched, they will depend more on smart qualitative translators to give insights meaning for their brands. They’ll expect their research partners to not only report the findings, but to also show them a clear, relevant pathway forward for their brands.
Researchers will need to deliver insights-based consulting, not just insights. This means they’ll need to not just find and report insights, but translate those insights in meaningful and compelling ways.
- Big Data Comes to Qual
Leading-edge qualitative researchers will increasingly use more sophisticated analytics to manage and mine the avalanche of data that can now be captured through online qualitative techniques. Big data has hit the qual world and you need to be equipped to handle it.
This means qual researchers will need to approach analysis more like our quant counterparts, including:
- Taking a team approach to project execution, rather than having one qualitative consultant do it all. To manage the avalanche of data from online qual, researchers will use resources more smartly, having teams of coders, data wranglers and text analytics specialists assisting lead consultants in revealing insights and identifying key themes.
- Applying more analytical rigor to data analysis. The more unstructured data qual researchers face, the more likely we are to miss key insights if we continue to analyze the same old way. Increasingly, we’ll use more sophisticated content analysis and text analytics techniques to make sure our analysis is comprehensive.
- People are More Willing to Share
Thanks in large part to the age of social media, people are more willing than ever before to share their lives with us. Smart qual researchers will figure out new ways to leverage this trend to benefit their clients.
Particularly in online contexts, people are increasingly comfortable letting others into their lives. We’ve been constantly amazed at the increasing openness of online respondents and the willingness they have to put remarkable amounts of time and attention into the activities we ask them to do.
But this trend also brings with it a challenge. Qual researchers will need to be creative and innovative in the techniques they use. People are used to an ever-changing landscape of creative and expressive tools in the digital world. Qual researchers will need to keep pace in order to keep their respondents engaged.