Monthly Archives: October 2010

How to Reach Teens With Online Qualitative Research

Quick, what’s the best way to engage teens in online qualitative research? Duh, text messaging. Did you know that today’s U.S. teens age 13–17 send or receive and average of 3,339 text messages per month. That’s more than 4.5 texts per hour.

The data comes from Nielsen, which analyzed mobile usage data among teens in the United States for the second quarter of 2010.

Nielsen also points out that no one texts more than female teens, who send and receive an average of 4,050 texts per month. Their male counterparts churn out only 2,539 texts per month, which is almost 1,000 more per month than the next age group—young adults (age 18-24) exchange 1,630 texts per month.

So does this tell us that the way to reach teens is through mobile qualitative research? It worked for the Municipality of Copenhagen when it was testing a new school food program. City officials wanted to understand how school children experienced three different test concepts for school food. But, as Merlien Institute points out, it was difficult to interview the students using traditional face-to-face methods. Enter their mobile phones. The students were already familiar with them (one of the benefits of using text messaging for online qualitative research) and therefore could easily document their behaviors and thoughts with text, as well as images and video.

Julie Gade of Story Field, who led the research for the Municipality of Copenhagen, will be presenting this case study at the International Conference on Market Research in the Mobile World, taking place Dec. 2-3, in Berlin, Germany.

Learn more about how online qualitative research with text messaging works.

Real-World Ways to Use Online Journaling

The beauty of online journaling is the ability to follow a participant’s interactions, thoughts and feelings over a period of time. There are many, many uses, including these unique ones that some of our clients have used with QualJournal, our easy-to-use, flexible and cost-effective online journaling platform.

Product Testing: One client, a diaper company, used online journaling to compare the day-to-day use of two different products. One week, moms were asked to journal their experience using one diaper; the next week, they switched to the different diaper. What the client got was rich feedback, including images showing how the diapers stood up to wear.

Exploratory: In one QualJournal project, participants were asked to keep a ‘sports journal’ split into four categories: watching, listening, reading and talking. Anytime the participant did any of these things related to sports, they would journal about it. In a sense, this method was a “spot ethnography” — an ethnography related to a particular subject at different times.

Check out three more real-word ways to use online journaling in the full article, posted at

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Research Dollars

Sure the market research industry is rebounding, but companies—including your clients—are still going to be looking for ways to run leaner. Make working with you a no-brainer with these simple ways to stretch your research dollars. The original article by Ken Zeldis and Amy Rey of Pennington, N.J.-based Zeldis Research Associates appeared in a recent issue of Quirk’s email newsletter. Here we highlight some of their ideas:

  • Consider online qualitative research: Would a bulletin board focus group work just as well as (or better than) an in-person focus group? You bet. You’ll save on travel costs—and time—and you’ll be impressed with richer, more in-depth responses from your participants. Before going the traditional route, check to see if your research can be conducted online with a bulletin board focus group, webcam focus group, online journaling or other online research software.
  • Reduce cost at the margin: You’ve probably noticed that participation is higher in slower economic times—that’s because those incentives mean more to your participants. Zeldis and Rey suggest looking for the low-hanging costs—like participants. If you think you’ll get 100 percent participation, recruit 12 instead of 15. Which leads us to the next tip…
  • Increase response rates: Zeldis and Rey say they see participation increase 50 percent when the study is sponsored by the client. Consider going this route, provided you don’t think it will create biased results. They also say touching base with participants beforehand and letting them know you’re looking forward to the study can increase response rates.

Find more tips to increase response rates and engagement in the Resources section at

ESOMAR: Tension in the Market Research Industry

The ESOMAR Online Research Conference in Berlin wrapped up this afternoon with recognition of the promise of new opportunities moderated by the tension created by them. 

While there are many reasons to be excited about the future, the industry is at an inflection point, and that means change. Change is difficult. Change produces tension. A major thread running throughout this conference was the tension in the market research industry and how we can begin to resolve it.

  • There is tension between the respondents’ right to privacy and the industry’s desire to access and use data. Though this tension is pervasive, it is particularly acute with social media.  Where does the respondents’ right to privacy end and where does the researchers’ privilege to listen and analyze begin?
  • There is tension between communities and panels. Communities are active and interesting and produce fast research results for the expected and unexpected. Panels are on-demand, cost effective and targeted. Is there room for both in our industry, or better yet, in our budgets?
  • There is tension between the promise of new technology and the technology’s ability to deliver. Online research software has improved dramatically. Quantitative survey software is becoming fairly standard. Online qualitative research software is getting better and easier every day. However, in the “hot” issues of social media and mobile research, the technology promises tremendous research opportunities. How long must we wait until the technology catches up with the promise?

ESOMAR Online: Facebook Challenges Online Research Firms

Facebook just gave a 40-minute pitch of its research capabilities to 230 researchers at the ESOMAR Online Research Conference in Berlin this morning.  Though presenter rules clearly prohibit presentations that overly tout capabilities, this presentation clearly showcased Facebook’s research prowess.

Facing skepticism from the research firm attendees, the Facebook representative provided substantive support for their capabilities.  “After weighting” Facebook tracking of Obama approval rating has closely tracked the Gallup and Rasmussen polls (r=.91 for you quant jocks). In fact, Facebook tracked closer to the Gallup and Rasmussen polls than they did to one another.

Facebook is creating a new category of research firms. They have a 500 million person worldwide panel on whom they collect volumes of data….and they can deliver verifiably accurate survey results within days. The times they are a-changin…

ESOMAR Alerts Online Research Industry to Respondent Privacy Issues

Nielsen “breaks in” to a website to “scrape” the comments from people posting about their medical conditions. The CitiBank iPhone app leaks personal data.  Facebook admits that its apps have been sharing personal data with outside companies.

These are just some of the most recent headlines related to online research data and individual privacy.  Privacy is a huge issue to government, technology, marketing research and to individuals. The issue is so important ESOMAR dedicated an entire section of its Online Research Conference today to reporting on its study on respondent privacy.

“Privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Mike Cooke, Global Director of Online Development for GfK NOP. Therefore, it is incumbent on market research providers to ensure privacy for its respondents. Mike outlined four fundamental principles that all research firms must address:

  1. The company is solely responsible for personal data under its control.
  2. Consent of respondents is paramount.
  3. Transparency: Respondents have a right to know why research data is being collected.
  4. Secure processes are necessary.

ESOMAR and the industry are working together to develop guidelines that will protect respondents and research firms.

QRCA Conference: Should qualitative research care about social media?

Should qualitative research care about social media?

Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research posed this question to the qualitative research practitioners at the QRCA Conference in Philadelphia today.

Her answer: YES!!!!

When it comes to social media, Kathy said qualitative research should “own it…and right now we don’t.” Social media monitoring is a listening exercise by definition. Though some providers do offer charts and graphs to summarize the social media findings, there is little understanding behind those graphs. Therefore, researchers are better served by utilizing qualitative analysis techniques that understand the comments in context.

Qualitative research should lead the way in developing social media analysis. After all, effective social media analysis is a natural fit to the qualitative researcher’s skill set.

There are five primary outcomes from qualitative analysis of social media research results.

  • Discover issues related to the brand. Why are they talking about us?
  • ID target segments. Who is talking about us?
  • ID Consumer language. How are they talking about us?
  • Category analysis. What are people saying and and feeling about the brand and competitors?
  • Enhance secondary research. What are the motivators behind the trends we have identified?

Kathy Doyle believes the field is wide open for qualitative researchers. Marketers want it, and monitoring services provide the data, but qualitative researchers are not providing the analysis and interpretation. Kathy is adamant that it is time for our industry to step up and own the social media space.

QRCA Conference: Future of Qualitative Research Is Bright

Maybe it’s the end of the recession or maybe it’s just eternal optimism of qualitative researchers, but the mood at the QRCA Conference is generally upbeat. Most researchers are reporting that business is significantly above last year’s recessionary numbers and approaching the levels of 2-3 years ago.

Also, Greenbook recently released their Research Industry Trends Study showing that research practitioners were upbeat about the future. Overall, expectations for increased spending on research increased from 47% in 2009 to 73% in 2010. However, we should moderate our enthusiasm by the additional finding that research buyers were less enthusiastic, with only 45% expecting increased research spending. Still, that number is up from 31% in 2008.

Ben Smithee, Spych Market Analytics, argued in his presentation that the future of qualitative research is “bright” but that researchers will need to adapt to a new normal. His presentation focused on the need for qualitative researchers to embrace various methods of research such as social media, online qualitative research and collaboration in addition to traditional focus group methodologies.

The world is changing — faster than ever. If we want to survive and thrive, we will have to adapt faster than ever, too.

Are They Respondents or Participants?

What do we call those wonderful people who share their life story, their dreams and their failures with us? For most of my career, I have referred to them generically as “respondents.”  In fact, “respondents” has been a pretty universal term for these kind folks.

But over the past couple of years, I have begun to question that terminology. It seems to be a holdover from quantitative research where a researcher poses a question and the subject dutifully “responds” accordingly. This imagery seems somehow appropriate for quantitative survey research but strangely inappropriate for qualitative research.

In qualitative research, we engage in dialogue rather than a structured question-response format. In this limited sense, I suppose, “respondent” has always been a bit of a misnomer.

In today’s world of online qualitative research and the exploding array of methods available to us, the subjects are becoming more and more active. Nowadays, we typically ask them to have a dialogue with us over some period of time using a bulletin board focus group, webcam focus group or in doing mobile qualitative research. More than ever, we are even less likely to ask these research subjects to simply respond; we are much more likely to ask them to participate fully in research, which reveals much more about them than simple responses to a survey.

Finally, acknowledging our research subjects as “participants” is much more gratifying and respectful of them than referring to them as merely “respondents.” Pavlov’s dog was a respondent in the purest sense. These people who sometimes bare their souls should be considered something better. As for me, I’ll call them “participants.”  What about you? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

A Beginner’s Guide to Online Journaling

When you think about online qualitative research, what comes to mind? Probably a bulletin board focus group or webcam focus group, which are among the most common online tools researchers are utilizing. While these methodologies can provide rich, in-depth data for your clients, there’s another one you should consider adding to your toolbox—online journaling.

What Is Online Journaling?
Online journaling projects most often consist of longer-term, immersive research studies that allow researchers to understand consumer behaviors as they occur. Projects can last a week or longer and generally involve 20-40 participants who use blogs to post their thoughts—and photos and videos—about a particular research topic. They might post once a day for a one-to-two week project or a few times a week for longer projects. Participants answer moderator assignments and respond to stimuli.

In addition to being convenient for the participants, who can log in whenever they’re ready to post something, being online makes the entire process easier for the researchers and clients, as well, as they can log in whenever they’d like to view the responses.

Using Online Research Software
While anyone can set up a free blog using a service like WordPress or TypePad, there are limitations. For starters, blogs aren’t private – even password-protected ones can be accessed publicly. The biggest obstacle is that there’s no easy way to compile the responses from the 20-40 individual blogs. That’s why we created QualJournal, online research software that offers complete security, comprehensive backend reporting and more.

Read more about online journaling and the features of QualJournal at

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