Qualitative Services

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Qualitative research is primarily exploratory research. It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research

Focus Groups

A focus group is a small-group discussion guided by a trained moderator. Focus groups involve the simultaneous interviewing of approximately ten people who represent a target audience. An average focus group session runs about 90 minutes and the moderator leads the group through a series of discussion topics. It is the primary job of the moderator to serve as a catalyst for the group discussion. As the name suggests, a focus group is for a specific discussion topic. The focus is narrow not broad. Keeping the group on topic is the task of the moderator. The moderator also helps the group set ground rules which encourage free expression of ideas in a non-threatening environment. The composition of the groups, as well as the topic of discussion, is carefully planned in advance. Participants are encouraged not only to respond to the questions posed by the moderator but also respond to other participants’ comments and input. The goals is not consensus. It is to explore how different individuals think about the topic under investigation. Focus groups generate qualitative data that helps understand the complexity of a topic. They are useful when the topic under investigation is not well understood, and the goal is exploratory to obtain unanticipated insight. This works well when the goal is to formulate ideas about a topic under investigation. They also help to generate deep, contextual qualitative insight into a particular topic under investigation.

One-on-One Interviews

In-depth one-on-one interviews, conducted by a trained analyst, offer great value and should be considered whenever qualitative results are needed for a number of critical reasons. One-on-one interviews uncover the best thinking of each and every participant without the drawbacks of group dynamics. In a typical focus group, a small percentage of the participants do most of the talking. Even if an adept moderator can help smooth out this imbalance, it is difficult to prevent group-think bias from setting in as a result of a few individuals monopolizing the conversations.

With one-on-one interviews, good or bad ideas from one participant do not influence the thoughts of any other participant. This alone increases the quality of the information obtained. In-depth interviewing is also designed to elicit the “whys” behind participants’ responses. Skilled analysts are trained to probe into people’s thought processes to obtain a clearer understanding of exactly what participants mean by their answers, without leading them to a particular conclusion.

In-depth interviews are useful when the topic under investigation is exploratory, with the additional ability to use confirmatory techniques to test preferences for selected choices and options. In-depth interviews generate a combination of qualitative information about a topic in an environment where participants do not share their ideas, or reactions, as well as limited quantifiable information regarding stated preferences.

Brand Personas

A brand is built and sustained by a set of marketing and communication techniques designed to distinguish a company from its major competitors and create a unique, positive and lasting impression in the minds of consumers. While sometimes reduced to a logo, branding consists of a variety of components that make up a brand toolbox, including brand awareness, brand reputation and brand differentiation. Collectively, brand equity consists of a compelling brand promise that communicates a combination of functional, emotional and social benefits that consumers can expect to deliver long-term value. Brand identify consists of all the outward expressions of a brand, including its name and visual identity. But there are is also an intangible component that communicates a brand’s emotional story, and one of the most effective tools to make this connection is through brand personas who capture and communicate a brand’s personality, such as their values, personality traits and goals. Personas are used to help customers recognize and connect with a personality with whom they can identify. It is basically an effort to turn your company or brand into a person that consumers can easily identify with and feels authentic. And it is entirely possible that a company or brand has multiple personas targeted to different market segments. Regardless of the number of personas a brand has, effective personas transforms a company or brand into a person with a distinct personality.

Consensus Mapping

Consensus mapping is a qualitative technique to uncover non-conscious mental processes and judgments that, without conscious awareness, influence consumer behavior. One of the most important advantages for using consensus mapping is that human are not always able to correctly identify the reasons for their own behavior. In other words, consumers’ non-conscious judgments and emotional impulses not only occur before making conscious judgments, they often influence them as well. In fact, research demonstrates that the non-conscious gives the orders and the conscious mind then carries them through. Understanding these non-conscious mental processes can provide a way to uncover the hidden thoughts and feelings that have a profound influence on consumer decision making.

One way to unearth these hidden thoughts is through looking for the metaphors consumers use to communicate. A metaphor is simply the representation on one thing in terms of another. The ubiquitous use of the expression “time is money” is perhaps one of the simplest examples of metaphorical thinking. In fact, human communication is embedded in conceptual metaphors, and metaphors do not exist in words or conscious thought. Many metaphors consist of physical motion, bodily sensations or sensory experiences

Once we recognize the most thought, emotion and judgment occur through non-conscious awareness, it becomes apparent how marketers can learn to communicate more effectively with consumers through overlapping metaphors that can be uncovered and used to develop consensus maps. These maps outline the relationship between how different concepts are related to each other through metaphor. If a company or brand can be deconstructed using consensus mapping, marketers gain powerful insight into how to communicate with customers relying on underlying non-conscious thought processes that circumvent direct appeals to rational arguments that are, in general, significantly less intuitive. Messages that speak to our embodied cognition, on the other hand, resonate more directly with consumers’ attention and more readily influence their decisions and actions.

Usability Testing

Usability testing is a technique used to evaluate how consumers (target users) interact with a product. The objective is to identify where consumers are able to use a product (or website) to test if it is sufficiently easy to figure out how to accomplish specific tasks. Usability testing can be an irreplaceable practice, since it is able to identify where a product (or website) is intuitively obvious to consumers how to achieve a particular task, as well as the tasks where consumers struggle, or fail, to achieve a particular task.

Usability testing is a user-centered process that can reveal to the design and development teams identify problems so that they can be fixed before the product is brought to market, or a website goes live. Usability testing provides project managers with specific information to improve a product or website before going to market. Specifically, it can be used to:

▪ Learn if participants are able to complete specific tasks successfully, or not.

▪ Identify how long it takes to complete specific tasks.

▪ Find out how satisfied participants are with a product or website.

▪ Identify changes required to improve user experience.

The ultimate goal of usability testing is a proactive method to ensure that a product (or website) is functioning at a level that makes it easy and intuitive to consumers to avoid problems before the launch of a product (or website).

Observational Methods (Process Evaluation)

Observational research in market research is based on field observation methods developed by anthropologists and sociologists. The main advantage of observation is its directness, meaning it makes it possible to study behavior as it occurs. Data collection is qualitative and collected by observation behaviors as they occur in their natural setting. Unlike survey research where the researcher explicitly acknowledges their role in the data collection process, observational methods do not require the researcher to acknowledge their role as an observer. Instead, the research can gather information simply by passive observation of consumers in naturally-occurring situations, such as shoppers in a store, patients in a hospital waiting room, and customers using bank.

Successful observataonal research involves extended engagement and clear guidelines on how the observation is to be done. It also requires systematic and strategic inventiveness to develop a good understanding of the surroundings. Standardized attention and accurate recording of observations are also vital. Researchers need to be very focused on the particular behaviors being observed so they are not distracted by other things occurring in the environment

There are three main methods of conducting observational research based on how involved or visible the researcher is in the particular environment.

  1. In participant observationthe researcher is an active member of the group being observed. An example is a member of a volleyball team observing team behavior. Participant observation is also referred to as covert observation, because they are undetected by the participants who are unaware that they are being observed.
  1. In non-participant observation, the researcher is not directly involved, such as a researcher observing children on a playground. The participants are not addressed directly by the researcher, so they may or may not know that they are being observed or that research is being conducted.
  1. In overt observation, researchers identify themselves to the participants and then explain the purpose of the research and what will be observed. Many researchers shy away from this type of research, because they believe that participants may modify their behavior so that the researcher do not see their ‘true selves.’

The following is a partial list of areas of qualitative research expertise:

Projective elicitation

Reflective laddering

Re-directive questioning

Distinguishing semantic and episodic recall

Consensus and perceptual mapping

Non-directive probing

Implicit construct identification