Unconventional Qualitative Research

  • Unconventional Qualitative Research
    Life is not strictly quantitative or strictly qualitative.
    Depending on the business issue being addressed and the budget, qualitative insights can be gleaned from a variety of “nontraditional” methods. Listed below are just a few of the “nontraditional” methods we have used in both quantitative surveys as well as in conjunction with other qualitative approaches.
Digital Imagery

In this age of digital proliferation, the old adage “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” has never been truer. Gleaning insights from imagery can take many formats, including:

  • Image Selection. Respondents are presented with a large variety of images, and asked to choose the images that evoked deep emotional feelings or images that they feel represents the brand. When analyzing the more popular images, new branding, positioning, advertising, and messaging ideas can be gathered. This method also works well for market segmentation studies, strategy, attitude and branding research studies.
  • Respondent Submitted Images. Respondents can be asked to send in pictures relevant to the project or business problem. Below are just some of the examples of the types of respondents have sent in:
    • A before and after pictures (pictures of the respondents hands before and after using hand lotion, pictures of a cooking pan before and after using it for a week).
    • Pictures from the respondents home (pictures of the contents of the pantry or refrigerator, medicine cabinet, makeup drawer, etc.)
    • Pictures showing how a respondent would use a product (a dish made from the food product, how a dishwasher is loaded, how a storage system is being used in a garage or shed)
    • Pictures of the contents of a respondents’ vehicle, purse, or bathroom vanity area.
Unmoderated Qualitative Research Methods

Unmoderated qualitative insights can be gleaned using platforms traditionally intended for quantitative surveys. Thought provoking, open-ended questions are programmed into survey tool and participants are chosen not only for their fit within target criteria, but also for their ability to give in-depth, expressive responses. Respondents complete the questions in much the same way as a self-guided survey. Since there is no moderator, there is no opportunity to ask probing questions.

Different unmoderated Qualitative Research methods include:

  • Online Pseudo-Depth Interviews. This technique uses an online survey format and consists of 15 to 20 open-ended questions. The sample size is usually 25 to 100 target-market respondents. The interview is limited to 30 minutes in length. The goal is to create "soul searching" questions that stimulate revealing responses. Pseudo-depths offer good quality data, reasonable cost, and quick turnaround.
  • Online Sentence Completion. This projective technique uses an online survey format and consists of 50 to 60 incomplete sentences that respondents must finish. The sample size is usually 50 to 75 participants, and survey length is limited to 30 minutes. The key to success lies in clever wording of the stimuli. Online sentence completion can be a standalone method or part of other qualitative techniques.
  • Online Word Association. This projective technique uses an online survey format, and consists of 50 to 75 stimuli words that participants respond to by typing the first word, association, or image that comes to mind. Sample sizes range from 100 to 200. This technique is best for exploring awareness, imagery, and associations linked to brands.
  • Online Hypotheses Quantification. After focus groups or depth interviews, it is often wise to quantify the results. We accomplish this by identifying 50 to 100 verbatim statements that support the major hypotheses and ask a nationally representative sample of 200 to 500 consumers to agree/disagree with each statement. The statistical results are combined with the original qualitative data to create one integrated report.
Story Telling

Story telling is a projective technique where respondents are asked to write a short story on a relevant topic. These stories are encouraged to be anywhere from 100 to 500 words. The sample size can range from 50 to over 300 respondents (the sample size and word length depend on the goals and the scope of the project).

The topics of the stories can be realistic, for example, respondents can be asked to write a story about a trip to the store, or how a product can be used. The realistic story telling technique is ideal for exploring how customers interact with a product or service and how that product or service fits within the respondents’ lifestyle.

Alternatively, the respondent stories can be fictional. For example, respondents can be asked to write stories about a product or brand being a superhero or going on vacation. The fiction story telling technique is best used when exploring the imagery, associations, and feelings customers have about a product or brand.

Website Usability

Online experiences are becoming increasingly important. Many brick and mortar customers are researching products online before visiting stores, and e-commerce continues to grow as a percentage of total retail sales. In fact, many services, communications, and interactions with customers exist entirely online. This introduces interesting challenges for developing online pages and tools that deliver a pleasant user experience.

Is your website’s content interesting and “on target?” How well does the website communicate the brand and its services? How easy or difficult is it to navigate the website, and how might navigation be improved? What words or images can be misunderstood or misleading? How could the website be improved?

  • Online. In website usability testing, respondents are asked to share their screen with a moderator and then are sent through a series of use case scenarios. A use case scenario is typically a series of tasks that define the online experience with a webpage or series of webpages. Examples of use case scenarios include; shopping for a particular item or browsing the webpages for a specified type of information. As respondents complete a use case scenario, the moderator asks the respondent to talk out loud about what they’re doing and why while also observing what links and pages the respondent is viewing. The approach tends to be largely observational, although the moderator may ask questions at certain moments during or after completion of use case scenarios.
  • In-Person. In person website usability is conducted in much the same way as the online approach, but respondents are invited to a central location to complete use case scenarios with a moderator present in the room. The moderator can view and track what links and pages the respondents is viewing, asking questions along the way.

Experienced Qualitative Consultants

Decision Analyst has over 3 decades of qualitative research experience and is one of the pioneers in adapting qualitative research to the Internet. Our moderators can recommend the qualitative technique (online or in-person) best suited to your research needs.

For more information on our Qualitative Research services, please contact Clay Dethloff, Senior Vice President (cdethloff@decisionanalyst.com), or call 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.