In-the-Moment Qualitative Research

  • In the Moment Research
    Human memory is flawed. We forget things, and over time our memories become warped or distorted. We think we remember accurately, but often we do not. In-the-moment qualitative research is designed to capture consumer behaviors and thoughts at the moment of purchasing decision.
    Because most people carry smartphones everywhere they go, they have the means to capture photos, video, and thoughts wherever they are. The global availability of internet-connective mobile devices allows respondents to document actions, events, and decisions when they occur and affords us an opportunity to introduce immediate questions. Digital research platforms have quickly evolved to allow respondents to upload and share multimedia inputs as part of a study, making it possible to observe these moments without the time and expense of physically being there. Digital platforms also reduce the potential bias that might arise from the presence of an in-person observer.

There are a variety of techniques that can reach consumers in the moment. Choosing the best approach depends on the target respondent, the subject of the observation, timing considerations, market considerations, and a variety of other factors. Below are a few examples of different “in the moment” approaches:

Video Diaries/Mood States

Typically, online video diaries involve 10-25 respondents. Participants are asked to record and upload a series of mood-state videos each day. Depending on the goal of the research, the consumers can either record their moods at a specific time of day or whenever their mood state changes. Throughout the process, the participants’ facial expressions, tone, and thoughts are recorded and uploaded. This provides researchers a complete picture of each respondent’s mood and emotions to analyze. The videos allow an intimate look into the range of emotions experienced by the respondents and how those emotions affect buying decisions or behavioral choices.

Virtual Ethnography

Traditionally, ethnography has been accomplished by in-person observation of consumer behaviors. Spending an extended amount of time observing consumers reveals deeper motives and insights. Virtual ethnography accomplishes this “observation” by requiring photos, videos, and experiential journal feedback over several days, weeks, or even months. The virtual format can be ideal for process mapping, product usability studies, consumption tasks, etc. Typically, 15 to 25 target market respondents are recruited to document specified events, actions, or moments of interest. These could be general activities during a certain day part, food and drink prepared and consumed at specific times or places, media and advertising encountered at certain times or in various environments, or use of a product or product category. Respondents use their smartphones to capture videos, photos, and voice recordings of themselves, family members, and/or friends in various settings or situations.

Virtual Shop-Along

Respondents are asked to shop at a certain store or for particular items to better understand their selection and decision processes and to record their overall shopping experiences. Virtual shop-alongs reveal key drivers of purchase decisions as they occur at the point of purchase. Shop-alongs answer several questions: What steps lead the customer to a purchase? What aspects of store layout increase appeal? What information might be missing? Which products or brands are being overlooked? Which brands are getting the most attention? Is the shopping experience a positive one? Depending on the exact business issues under investigation, a variety of different research methods can be used, such as video journeys, image diaries, or post-shopping journal entries.

Live Screen Sharing: Website Usability

As respondents navigate a website, they have screen sharing on so our moderators so can observe what they are doing and how they are navigating the site. The moderator can make requests, ask questions, and pose problems, all the while observing how the participant reacts. The moderator is also linked to the participant by phone or computer VOIP, so that the moderator has simultaneous remote observation and recording of the respondent’s computer screen and answers to moderator’s questions. The moderator can follow along, ask questions, monitor how easy/difficult it is for respondents to navigate the site, guide the respondent through specific tasks, etc. Everything about the user experience is used in the analysis, including paths through the website, answers to questions and probes, and respondent pauses, frustrations, and tripping points.

In-Vehicle or In-Home Video

Similar to virtual ethnography and video diaries, respondents can be recruited to put video cameras inside their vehicles, homes, or offices for an extended period of time. The audio and video capture in-car or in-home actions and experiences. For cars or trucks, for example, it’s possible to record video of the road ahead of the vehicle, GPS information, speed, and force of gravity as turns are made. In-vehicle videos are not just for testing vehicles or products within the car; they also allow researchers to observe customers as they drive to or from a store, see drive-thru behavior and experiences, watch in-car consumption, or track the different types of stores visited. In-home videos can record food preparation, family dinners, washing machine operations, or family discussions over a meal. The possibilities are endless, so long as the consumer is aware of the cameras and has fully consented to their presence.

Voicemail/Audio Journaling

In-the-moment research goes beyond the collection of texts, videos, and images on a smartphone. While mobile phones make in-the-moment research easy, they are not the only way. Telephone functions of mobile devices are basic enough for unsophisticated segments of the population or older residents. The respondents can either call in at a time convenient for them, or they can be sent a call at a specific time or after an event. The data collection for the voicemail journaling generally lasts between 7 to 10 days. Data collection can include a combination of open-ended and/or survey-style questions. Audio journaling can be appropriate for understanding emotional triggers, shopper experiences, or decision moments. Voicemail journaling keeps the data collection simple and it can be accessed by the majority of the population.

Experienced Qualitative Consultants

Decision Analyst has over four decades of qualitative research experience and is a leader in the development of innovative qualitative research techniques. Our experienced moderators can recommend the qualitative technique(s) best suited to your research needs.

For more information on our Qualitative Research services, please email Clay Dethloff, Senior Vice President, at, or call him at 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.