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The Bottom Line from the 2018 QRCA Annual Conference

Missed the 2018 QRCA Annual Conference? Get caught up with this overview of the event highlights in qualitative research and intriguing innovation to watch.

Are you up-to-date with the best of Qualitative Research? I recently returned from the 2018 QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) annual conference. The conference brought together QRCs from around the world to share their knowledge, insights and practices.  I am grateful for all I learned.

Here is what you missed.

Foundational Qualitative

The keynote speaker was Naomi Henderson, the founder of the Riva Institute and arguably one of the most influential qualitative research consultants ever.

About twenty years ago when I decided to make the switch to market research from brand management and traditional marketing, I started my journey by attending the Riva Institute.

Naomi’s talk was a great review of my Riva training as she spoke about the fundamentals of market research that are as true now as they were decades ago.

Not only is she a skilled practitioner, but her Riva Institute has also trained a large number of QRCs (Qualitative Research Consultants) including more than half of the attendees in the room where she spoke.

Another great speaker was Kate Watson of KCW Global Research who did a masterful review of structural and graphic packaging research fundamentals.

Packaging research is easy to do poorly and Kate gave us tips on how to shine. Kate shared her “ideal” project structure and her most powerful practical exercises.  She also gave great tips on probing. I left this talk believing that the tried and true is still highly relevant with much packaging research.

Tom Rich (Thomas M. Rich & Associates) once again had me riveted with a powerful presentation on understanding customer behavior.

I fully agree with his premise that “the better we understand the forces that influence behavior, the better we can serve our clients.”

Tom’s talk also highlighted a behavioral design model called the Fogg Behavioral Model, which suggests that behavior is a function of motivation, ability, and triggers. This thinking will be very helpful in assessing how customers are making choices.

Intriguing Innovations to Watch


Shapiro+Raj are rethinking recruiting from the ground up and we all need to pay is attention. Susan Stanicek and Sasha Myszkowski explained how S+J uses Social Adaptive Recruiting™ to find and qualify respondents. One tactic they use is to reach out to moderators of closed discussion groups on various social media platforms and establish a relationship based on a common interest such as a rare medical condition. They fully disclose what they are doing (looking for participants) and ask for help.

Tory Gentes (The Palmerston Group) also presented on innovative DIY recruiting techniques; I heard great things about Tory’s session, but I missed it.


The Qually Award presentation was also outstanding. Three finalists presented a proposal they had written to respond to an RFP written by a real client. The topic was the shift toward a more curated shopping experience.

The finalists included:

  1. Shaili Bhatt of C&R Research
  2. Lauren McCrae and Nicole Aleong of Lux Insights (winners) and
  3.  Kelsey Segaloff of Chadwick Martin Bailey, Inc.

These proposals were all visually engaging, applying what I would call Design Thinking principles. Not surprisingly they also used mixed methodologies to get at the various angles of the issue.


These days, the traditional PowerPoint deliverable is being replaced with more engaging and shorter summaries, which highlight the implications of the research, rather than all the findings. These reports are intended to have an important role in immersing the client organization in the results.

Several sessions addressed this subject including Anya Zadrozny’s roundtable Video and Research: Tips, Tricks, and Pointers to Add Video to Your Research and Maria Virobik & Lorie Poe’s roundtable Simple Ways to Visualize Data for Reports that Engage.

Susan Abbott of ARC Strategy Ltd, in her talk Building a DIY Website for Immersive Reports, showcased a new way of providing the deliverables to the client in a way that lives and breathes long after the project is finished. I was sorry to have missed this session.

In Persuasive Storytelling Tips & Tricks, Jim Berling (Burke Institute) offered ideas of ways to package findings including photo book reports, mock magazine reports, and mock talk show videos. An audience member also suggested custom podcasts. I believe the tremendous innovations in how insights and findings are presented will continue.


User-generated video ethnography is also here to stay.  The video is easy to obtain and very powerful at conveying a message. The platforms that moderators can use to capture video are developing better capture and editing features that make them very easy to use. Machine generated transcripts are more and more accurate (and relatively inexpensive), and the ability to highlight text in the transcript and automatically generate video clip of that phrase being said is making video easy for even the least techie moderators.


Because I could only attend one session per timeslot, I missed a lot.

In addition to the sessions I already mentioned, I regretfully missed The Future is Virtually Here which was David Bauer of Hemispheres Insights’ session on virtual reality, as well as Achieving the Unimagined: Discover the Secrets of Effective Workshops and Co-Creation by Petra Viskova and Hana Klouckova of Confess Research.

I am excited to attend the next QRCA conference in Savannah, Georgia (USA) in January 2019 or the May 2018 QRCA/AQR 9th Biennial Conference on Qualitative Research in Valencia, Spain to learn more about the important developments in qualitative research. And I am looking forward to Greenbook’s IIEXNA in Atlanta in June where there is a great line up of qualitative speakers (among others).

What do you see as the most important trends in qualitative research?

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Amy Savin

Amy Savin

President, Savin Management Group LLC