Monthly Archives: November 2011

‘Research Industry Not Changing Fast Enough for Business’

Jeffrey Henning of Affinova got the chance recently to hear Stan Sthanunathan, vice president of marketing strategies and insights for Coca-Cola, speak about the iconic company’s struggle to maintain its brand power. While Coca-Cola is still the No.1 most recognizable brand in the world, Google and other newer brands are coming uncomfortably close. “Change or perish is the new mantra,” Sthanunathan explained at the 25th anniversary celebration of the founding of The Coca-Cola Center for Marketing Studies. But there’s a problem: The industry that companies like Coca-Cola rely so heavily on to help them navigate rapid change is stuck in slow motion.

According to Sthanunathan, the research industry is not changing fast enough. Too much money is spent on “rear view research” and not enough of it is going toward helping companies “shape the change.”

He says the research industry needs to change its mindset (Research departments “must shift from quantifying the expected to listening for the unexpected”) and be open to innovation (“Researchers need techniques that observe, listen, synthesize and deduce in ways we haven’t in the past.”). But that’s not all, according to Henning, who adds to the list of must-dos for the research industry. At the top of his list is to embrace technology quickly.

Another of our favorites: Focus on business outcomes. He quotes Sthanunathan again: “Never assume that your job is over when you deliver the report. That’s when you work actually begins.” In other words, “Think relationships not transactions.”

Warning: Quirk’s Cover Story Not About Online Qualitative Research

I got excited glancing at the cover story in the latest issue of Quirk’s. The theme of the issue is international research and I just knew the cover story—a case study about how Platinum Guild International used qualitative research to help launch a new website—was going to read like a success story in using online qualitative research tools to reach geographically dispersed respondents quickly, easily and without spending too much on travel.

But I was wrong. In fact, the study was all in-person. QRi Consulting, the London-based research firm they worked with, conducted 32 in-person interviews in the United States, Japan and China—three of the guild’s biggest markets.

Now, despite our obvious affinity for online qualitative research, we’ll concede that it’s not always the best choice for every qualitative research project. Yes, there are some cases when in-person makes more sense. But, after reading the article, I’m torn on whether I agree with their reasoning for doing the interviews in-person.

“The subject matter is deeply personal,” Simon Patterson, CEO of QRi Consulting, told Quirk’s. “Jewelry, especially bridal jewelry, is something precious. It’s intimate and emotional. We didn’t want to try to capture such a significant experience online, when being there in person could maintain the humanity behind the whole experience.” Patterson also notes that being there in person helped overcome the obstacles inherent in multinational research—namely cultural differences. That’s why he sat in on each interview. (Hello, frequent flier miles!)

As an aside, that may not have been the best idea either: At the ESOMAR conference in Vienna last week, researchers from India presented on the extreme bias that can occur in some cultures when the moderator simply shows up. Those cultures attached a high status to those moderators. Therefore, they do not behave normally and, often, even answer to please the moderator. Caution should be taken when anyone, particularly a westerner, shows up to do research.

But let’s get back to the issue of online vs. in-person. The article explains: “The in-person interviews created an opportunity to clearly observe how respondents navigated the site. Patterson could see their posture, body language and facial expressions. This up-close experience allowed for observations of personal and cultural attitudes and behaviors and it also allowed for conversation and probing to dig deeper into the respondents’ thoughts as they navigated the site.”

Do you see why I’m torn? There’s nothing in that description that today’s online research software couldn’t overcome.

Here’s the real reason I think they did in-person interviews: “The Platinum Guild and QRi Consulting agreed from the beginning that doing the interviews in a face-to-face environment was very important for the study,” explains the article. The client wanted it done that way, and sometimes that’s reason enough.

What are your thoughts? If you were the researcher on this project, what would you have proposed?

ESOMAR Qual Conference Take-Away: How Cultural Difference Impact Research Results

The annual ESOMAR Qual Conference drew to a close on Wednesday. As with most qualitative conferences, it was full of great content. More importantly, it was great to re-connect with many friends and colleagues from 40 countries around the world.

My biggest take-away from this conference was the impact of culture on attitudes and behavior.  The culture to which a person belongs has tremendous impact on the choices a person makes and the attitudes a person has toward a product or service. It’s obvious that a culture valuing individualism will view a radical fashion style very differently than a culture that values fitting in with the group. What is less obvious but equally important is what impact the cultural bias of a person’s home, family, neighborhood or area has on their perceptions and behaviors. Several presentations focused on cultural influences and the importance of studying and understanding them.

As qualitative researchers, we often assume that people are mono-cultural. Therefore, we ask their opinion or even watch their behavior, but rarely take cultural influences into account. Failing to take cultural influences into account ignores one of the major influences and leaves our analysis incomplete and possibly even misleading.

As researchers we need to embrace holistic methods that provide a 360 degree view of the consumer and his/her cultural influences if we are to provide an accurate and complete understanding of behavior and potential behavior.

Download Our New eBook on Hybrid Research

There was a time not long ago when qualitative research meant focus groups or phone surveys…and that was about the extent of it. But that’s no longer the case. Today’s researchers have myriad tools and
techniques at their disposal, from the same tried and true face-to-face techniques to multiple options in online and mobile. These tools can be used alone to gain deep insights—or they can be combined to achieve even richer results. Just as the best houses are not built with just a hammer, the best research projects are often not designed with a single research tool.

But how do you combine methodologies AND stay on budget, not to mention schedule? That’s usually the question we hear from researchers. They understand the value of mixing methodologies, but when it comes to execution, they come up short.

If this sounds like you, check out the latest eBook from 20|20 Research. The eBook, Mixed Methodologies 101: How to combine research methods to achieve deeper insights, outlines the process—soup to nuts—for three popular hybrid research designs:

1. Quantitative to Qualitative:
2. Online Qualitative Research to Online Qualitative Research
3. Online Qualitative Research to In-Person

We also help dispel the most common myths about hybrid research design. (Like why hybrid research isn’t necessarily more expensive or time-consuming than using just a single methodology.)

The bottom line: Today’s researchers are responsible for designing projects that produce insights. More and more, hybrid designs produce results that were difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in the past.

Download the eBook, Mixed Methodologies 101: How to combine research methods to achieve deeper insights.

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