Using more Technology in Qualitative Research


I was challenged by a client the other day asking why I don’t make more use of technology. My methodology of talking to consumers face to face felt old fashioned and a little out of date.

The client was right – of course, they always are – and I challenged myself and the team to think about and explore how technology can improve what we do.

The exercise was interesting, as with everything, the answer to the question is very dependent upon how it is asked:

Can we save costs by using technology? Yes very definitely we can reach out to consumers without actually meeting them, no need to travel to see respondents when we can interview them over Skype – or many other brilliant interfaces. This of course can represent a significant cost saving on global projects.

Can we save time by using technology? In theory yes because we can save travel time, we can use recordings so that respondents can fit us into their schedules instead of us asking them to fit into ours.

Are there opportunities to use social media to understand what customers are thinking and saying about our clients’ brands, products, services etc? Very definitely. Social media is a massive conversation which is largely being held in public. A huge source of information giving a great insight into what people are saying about you.

Can we improve our presentations by making greater use of technology?  PowerPoint is becoming rather old hat.  We can look more up to date, be more engaging by using more multi-media.

Can we present ourselves as more modern, more up to date, look more impressive to our clients? Yes. We need to be seen as modern and up to date. No client wants to be seen to engage a dinosaur still using the research technics of last century.

But to me the first question was the one that was worded correctly: How can we improve what we do by the use of more technology?

Our speciality is in understanding consumers’ emotional responses to their experiences of brands, products and services and how and why these emotional responses are triggered by that experience, in giving our clients a real understanding of not just how consumers respond to the brand/product /service but why, what the ideal response would be and how they can achieve this ideal response. Our methodology includes a mix of dialectic questioning, observation and challenging of the consumer. The insights that we gain, the depth of true understanding, the clear routes forward for our clients would be substantially undermined without direct face to face interaction between researcher and consumers.

So my response to the question is yes perhaps we can improve our presentations with more use of multimedia, but we will continue to travel the world to see your consumers face to face in order to give you a real depth of insight, understanding and business changing recommendations. It may not look modern and exciting but it will help you to transform your business.

Interestingly we completed the project in question for this client and less than two weeks after the debrief they briefed us on another project. It would appear that they had come to the same conclusion as we had.

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