Monthly Archives: November 2010

When to Use Mobile Qualitative Research

It seems like everyone has a mobile phone these days. Well, not everyone, just 5 billion people (or 70 percent of the world population). And that number is growing every day. With the proliferation of mobile devices and text messaging, researchers are discovering a new way to collect real-time data and engage participants—through mobile qualitative research.

Mobile qualitative research means using mobile phones to collect feedback from research participants. Participation rates are generally high, and engagement levels are through the roof: Since text messaging reaches participants anytime and anywhere, you can get “in the moment” responses. Plus, anonymity makes participants more likely to openly share information.

So when should you pull mobile out of your online qualitative research toolbox? Mobile qualitative research is great for event research. But there are other uses, too: It works well when assigning your participants homework — whether it’s before, during or after a bulletin board focus group. It’s also the perfect platform when you need feedback at the point of sale or point of consumption (during meal or snack time).

What have we left off? We’d love to hear how you’re using mobile qualitative research to reach participants in new and exciting ways. Please share your tips and ideas in the comments below.

3 Tips for Keeping Clients Engaged in a Bulletin Board Focus Group

When conducting a bulletin board focus group, engaging participants is a breeze compared to engaging clients.  This week a researcher asked us what strategies we had developed for engaging clients in a bulletin board focus group.

We came up with three ideas off the top of our heads:

  1. Send teaser highlight reports of provocative respondent posts.
  2. Schedule daily conference calls to discuss the boards and if any change in direction is needed.
  3. Design the discussion guide to require client input by leaving it blank on the last day “to be filled in with additional questions raised in the discussion.”

We hear from a lot of researchers who really don’t want their clients engaged. Some researchers are of the opinion that engaged clients tend to muck up the works. However, if you are a researcher (or client) who wants clients engaged, do you have additional tips, tricks or techniques to share?

Are Focus Group Facilities Dead?

“No more viewing studios. Clients can either come out from behind the mirror, or not attend groups at all,” says Andy Cooper in a recent online issue of research. His article, “Hear me out: Let’s get rid of viewing studios” argues that viewing clients too often use it as a crutch. He says viewing groups is not worth giving up an evening of “The Apprentice.” Mr. Cooper seems to believe that viewing studios (focus group facilities in the United States) are unnecessary and actually can be counter-productive. Why not just shut them down?

Since October is Conference month, I have spent a lot of time discussing the fate of focus group facilities recently. As online qualitative research has exploded, researchers are beginning to wonder about the fate of the facility with the mirrored window. Most people, including me, believe that qualitative research will grow.  However, with the proliferation of online qualitative research techniques and the new-found freedom researchers have to conduct qualitative research online have led to valid questions about in-facility research.

My personal opinion is that qualitative research will grow as a percent of total research spending. However, I believe the bulletin board focus group, webcam focus group, mobile qualitative research and other techniques will draw significant share of the work traditionally sent to facilities. Therefore, the facility business has matured and is not likely to grow significantly.

Are focus group facilities dead? I don’t think so. But I don’t see them growing significantly as a category.  Also, though I sympathize with Mr. Cooper’s desire to get clients out from behind the mirror, the method is helpful–and a well-run, interesting focus group sure beats a night with “The Apprentice.”

Phone Call Declared Dead, Online Qualitative Research Comes Calling

On TechCrunch this week, Alexia Tsotsis declares the phone call dead—well, almost dead: “Less obsolete but more annoying than a handwritten letter, the phone call is fading as a mode of communication even if the nostalgic will be singing its praises for awhile,” he says.

If you’re used to doing telephone surveys or interviews, you’ve probably noticed that, overall, the people you call are less willing to participate. Maybe even a little angry when they answer? As Alexia points out, “One thing a phone call does signify is EMERGENCY,” so when it rings, it can be startling.

Alexia cites Nielsen data showing the decline of voice usage by age in the last year. Voice usage declined across all age groups except two—55-–64 year-olds and 65 and up—from the second quarter of 2009 through the second quarter of 2010.

Taking the phone call’s place in all other age groups, of course, is text-based communication—particularly texting (SMS), but also email, Twitter and Facebook.

So what does this mean for researchers like you? Well, it’s good news, because with the help of online research software, you can easily and cost-effectively reach participants wherever they want to be reached—whether that’s on their mobile phone or their computer.

Want to reach teens? Your best bet is mobile qualitative research. Regular readers of QualBlog will recall another set of Nielsen data on teen texting habits that we pointed out a few weeks ago—that today’s U.S. teens age 13-17 send or receive an average of 3,339 text messages per month.

Other online qualitative research tools include a bulletin board focus group, a webcam focus group and online journaling. Learn more about each of these online qualitative research tools at

Change in the Qualitative Research Industry

The following post is from Jim Bryson reporting from Day 2 of The Market Research Event:

Dan Heath gave a great presentation today at IIR’s The Market Research Event on implementing change in organizations. Dan is the author of Switch.

In proportion, Dan compares the rational brain and the emotional brain to a rider on an elephant. The rational rider thinks he is in control but ultimately, the elephant wins any disagreement. Therefore, to achieve change, one must:

  • Give the rational brain a reason to change and a direction for change. This is our typical business approach. We typically expect people to (1) analyze, (2) think and (3) change. But this simply doesn’t work because it ignores the emotional elephant.
  • Motivate the emotional brain. The mental model is (1) see, (2) feel and (3) change. For example, the FDA food labels would be more effective if, rather than listing the percentage of saturated and unsaturated fat, it read, “this product will make you fat.” This would actually stimulate change because it creates an emotional response.
  • Shape the environment. The shape of the environment encourages certain behaviors. Therefore, to promote change, create an environment that promotes the change you want.

So how does this apply to the qualitative research industry? Organizations are in a constant state of change and research is often conducted to direct and/or justify change. As researchers, we often know what change needs to happen, but we often justify it through numbers and then get frustrated when change doesn’t occur. We need to take the responsibility to encourage change through emotional and environmental as well as rational methods.

A Better Way to Combine Quantitative Surveys With the Depth of Online Qualitative Research

For years, researchers have been searching for the best way to combine quantitative surveys with qualitative depth. One way to do that is with survey interruption chat. It works like this: A moderator breaks into a survey while the respondent is completing it. The moderator has a live chat conversation with that respondent before releasing them to complete the remainder of the survey.

It does the job, but it can be a clunky way to gain qualitative insight from participants. Luckily, there is a better way: We call it the QualLink-QualBoard method, which allows respondents to be selected based on their survey responses to participate in a QualBoard bulletin board focus group. At the conclusion of the survey, participants who qualify for the online qualitative research can opt-in or opt-out. If they opt-in, they receive login instructions for the bulletin board focus group.

So why is this method better? Here are three reasons. Check out seven more over at

  1. Discussion Depth: A live chat is a five-minute chat discussion with the respondent. A bulletin board focus group is a 2-3 day discussion during which the participant answers questions for 20-40 minutes each day.

  2. Survey Integrity: QualLink identifies qualified participants and invites them to participate after the survey is completed. Chat interruption methods disrupt the survey flow as intended by the survey design researcher.

  3. Comprehensive: The bulletin board focus group is not dependent on a moderator being available to conduct the interview whenever the participant completes the survey — it’s always ready, even at 3 a.m.

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