Monthly Archives: April 2011

Thinking Outside the Bulletin Board Focus Group: Interesting Ways to Use Online Research Software

Last week we sat down with Jessica Ritzo, marketing consultant and head of online qualitative for Insights in Marketing, a Wilmette, Ill.-based research firm (and a client of ours). We’ve been impressed—and intrigued—by the inventive ways Ritzo’s company has embraced online research software. They’ve used bulletin board focus group software for online journaling projects, they’ve mastered the art of combining online—and traditional—methodologies in the same study, and more. Here’s a sample from the interview.

We understand you did an online journaling project, but didn’t use online journaling software. Tell us more about that.
We’ve used both online journaling and online bulletin board focus group software for research involving blogging/online journaling. While both tools can work well for shorter and longer-term projects, I’ve found that online bulletin board software is a better fit for projects that may require more moderator/respondent interaction over the course of the fieldwork, since it allows for more active probing.

What are some other examples of “beyond bulletin board focus group” projects you’ve done?
We’ve also done quite a lot of real-time online qualitative, including online focus groups and one-on-one in-depth interviews. Additionally, we’ve conducted a good amount of website usability and development research online, most recently using 20|20’s QualMeeting. Additionally, just as we do with our in-person qualitative work, it’s not unusual for us to create hybrid methodologies to best meet the research objectives. So, this may mean weaving together multiple online approaches or combining online with more traditional approaches within the same study. Really, it comes down to identifying the most effective methodology for each individual project.

For more insight from Ritzo, including some great tips for online qualitative newbies, check out the full article posted at

True GRIT: What the Industry Trends Survey Says for Online Qualitative Research

Last week, the Greenbook Research Industry Trends survey results were released. It covers a lot of ground. I put together a summary for our internal staff related to qualitative with a focus on online qualitative research. Here is a summary of those findings:

  • Qualitative research is growing, with a net gain of 10 percent saying they will conduct MORE qualitative research this year than last.
  • Budget constraints are easily the No. 1 reason that companies change data collection methods. These companies are looking to new methods and new technologies to meet these budget constraints.
  • Online qualitative research has huge growth potential, with barely one-fourth of firms currently using any single form of online qualitative. Types of online qualitative used by research buyers include: online communities (28 percent); bulletin board focus group (27 percent); chat focus group (25 percent); social media monitoring (25 percent); and mobile qualitative research (15 percent).
  • Researchers have high expectations for mobile phone research.  We did a little extra analysis on the results as reported by GRIT. GRIT reported on current and future predicted use of several methods. We simply calculated the difference to get a sense of anticipated growth. The following table displays those numbers with growth rates over 20 percent highlighted in yellow. Note that three of five methods with highlighted growth rates are mobile.

Where Do You Stand on the Future of Market Research?

When someone asks about the future of qualitative research, there is usually one of two answers industry experts will give:

1) Gloom and doom: “The end is near!”
2) Change is good: “These are exciting times for our industry!”

We definitely fall into the more optimistic category, but our glasses aren’t so rosy that we don’t see how all of this change (online qualitative research, mobile qualitative research, etc.) in the industry could negatively affect some of the tried-and-true research methods available today.

Simon Chadwick of Cambiar Consulting agrees, and even takes it a step further in a guest post at GreenBlog. He says there are three natural responses to the question about the future of market research and that all three have some truth:

1) “Traditional MR techniques … are on their way out and unless the MR industry wakes up to this fact very fast, it will be wither and die on the vine, much like the buggy makers at the dawn of the automotive era.”

2) “All of this is just a fad, a rush of blood to the collective head of the industry, and after a while we will all calm down and realize that the survey is going to be just fine. Anyway, none of these methodologies can substitute for proper probability-based sampling and finely-honed questionnaires.”

3) “This is the new research paradigm and it’s exciting! In 10 years’ time, research will look totally different and we will all be better off as a result.”

So what say you? If you had to pick one of these responses, which one would it be? Or, do you have your own? Please speak your mind in the comments section below.

For Mobile Qualitative Research, Catering to ‘Dumb’ Phones Still Makes Sense

Think the whole world has switched to smart phones? Well, you’re wrong. Sure, the latest estimates show that there are more than 5 billion mobile phone users in the world, but the majority of those people (3.8 billion) are in developing countries—and they’re using so-called dumb phones.

Dumb phones? The phrase, coined by Navin Williams of Fugumobile and James Fergusson of TNS Global, refers to all of those non-smart phones (you know, like the one you probably carried as recent as five years ago).

Williams and Fergusson presented a paper on bridging the digital divide in qualitative research in emerging markets at the ESOMAR Asia Pacific 2011 conference, held last week in Melbourne, Australia. In their paper—and in this blog post on—they point out that there is still an industry bias toward smart phone-based research studies, but that there shouldn’t be. Here’s why:

“The smart-only approach is highly detrimental to the growth potential of mobile market research which seeks consumers of all hues—smart phone-owning and non-smart phone. In 2010 CISCO Systems, considered the gatekeeper of data networks (both online and mobile), undertook a global study on mobile data traffic with projections up to 2014. The results are well in line with other similar industry studies. On mobile smart phones it not surprisingly predicts that in North America and Western Europe, 2010 penetration levels of 33 percent and 28 percent will rise to 54 percent and 49 percent by 2014. At the same time the total smart phone global penetration will rise from 10 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2014.”

So what’s the takeaway? When doing mobile qualitative research, stay away from online research software that caters only to smart phones. If you don’t, you’ll be alienating a still very substantial population of mobile users.

Is Research ROI the Next Big Thing?

A few years ago, some research buyers raised concerns about respondent quality in the then-new world of online qualitative research. Bob Lederer of Research Business Report (RBR) took up the cause.  RBR and several others organized an industry conference on data quality, which led to data quality standards and incredible industry awareness of the problem and potential solutions.

Bob is at it again. At ARF and PMRG this month, Bob was advocating Research ROI. Bob tells me that he feels he “caught lightning in a bottle.” He is not only talking about it, he is planning another conference. Research buyers have already asked to be on the program to talk about how they are evaluating their market research initiatives, and Bob believes interest will be extremely high.

He may be right. References to research ROI are popping up other places, too. The March issue of MRA’s Alert! magazine has a short article titled, “How is ROI Calculated for Marketing Research?”

Is research ROI lightning in a bottle? I don’t know. I do believe that, in a world of ever-tightening research budgets, a heightened interest in ROI makes a lot of sense.

What do you think? Do research and ROI go together? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

New eBook: How to Save Time and Money on Your Qualitative Research Projects

This week 20|20 Research released a new ebook, How to Save Time and Money on Your Qualitative Research Projects: Using Online Research Software for 5 Popular Methodologies. Hopefully reading the title is compelling enough for you to want to download it, but if not, here are three good reasons you should:

1. It will open your mind to online: As Jim Bryson explains in the intro, online qualitative once made a lot of empty promises to researchers—but that was more than a decade ago. Over the years we’ve created and fine-tuned a suite of online qualitative research tools that really can make traditional research projects faster, cheaper and better. The ebook was developed to help client-side researchers and research agencies better understand how the most common qualitative project types can be conducted online.

2. It will introduce you to new methodologies and online applications: OK, so maybe you’ve done a few online projects. But have you experimented with multiple methodologies? Many researchers know about the bulletin board focus group, but did you know you can do many other projects online? You will after reading the ebook, which includes sections on mobile qualitative research, online focus groups, online journaling and more.

3. It will teach you something new: The ebook is a great introduction to online qualitative research, but it’s also a useful (and quick) read for the most seasoned online qualitative veteran. We bet you’ll find at least one thing in there that you didn’t already know.

And here’s a fourth reason that needs little explanation—it’s free! Download the ebook. And if you get a chance, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Slow Research Often Leads to No Research

“The two reasons we don’t do more research projects are budget and speed,” said a senior research manager in a recent interview. She went on to explain that decision timelines are simply too short for any type of research.  Often these decisions are made without research simply because the research process takes too long. How many research projects don’t happen simply because there was not enough time? How many decisions go bad because the research could not be done? No one really knows.

This senior research manager joined the chorus of others who extol the virtues of communities simply because communities allow them to get a quick understanding of new product concepts and other issues when the research team simply has no time. Communities provide some research where none was available before.

Online quantitative research has risen to the occasion by providing faster and faster turnaround for surveys. But even it has been slow to the party, insisting on two-week turnarounds for research followed by the research event then an in-depth analysis. Qualitative has simply not adapted very well.

This week 20/20 Research introduced QuickQual Turbo, a 7-day qualitative service utilizing its QualBoard bulletin board focus group platform. We squeezed the recruiting process to provide high-quality respondents and an in-depth qualitative discussion along with a new way to do analysis.

Speed will continue to drive decisions. How will we as an industry respond? Will we adapt or will we become irrelevant?

Making the Case for Smaller Research Projects (and How Online Research Software Can Help)

“The best way to succeed wasn’t just swinging big and hoping for that one big hit, but by swinging smart and creating momentum through small victories.”

Yesterday was Christmas morning for baseball fans (read: Opening Day), so I can understand the baseball reference in Sean Holbert’s latest post on KL Communications’ IC2 Insights Blog. Not only that, when applied to qualitative research, it’s actually a great analogy.

He’s talking about no longer using a one-methodology-fits-all approach to qualitative research, but using the full spectrum of new research tools that are available to us and making several smaller project out of them. He points to online communities, crowdsourcing and social media analysis as a few of these new tools, but the same argument could be made for mobile qualitative research, online journaling and other online qualitative research solutions. With these tools, he says, “we can truly match each objective to its best methodology. Not only does the smaller scope of each study provide true insights through context, but it also often helps to reduce the cost per study, making it easier to efficiently manage budget.”

He calls this an iterative approach to research and says the benefits go beyond budget: “By conducting more studies with a tighter focus, we’re able to create a more adaptable research model,” he says. “It allows us to avoid drowning in data and instead, to truly act on each valuable insight we find. It will provide us with greater depth and context in our learning, which is vital. Without context, insight is just a data point.”

Easier on the budget and better insight? Pardon the baseball reference, but that sounds like a home run to me!

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