Unconventional Qualitative Research
Life is not strictly quantitative or strictly qualitative.Depending on the business issues 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” qualitative methods we have used as standalone techniques or in conjunction with other qualitative methods.
Online experiences are becoming increasingly important. Many brick-and-mortar customers are researching products online before visiting stores, and e-commerce continues to grow rapidly 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.
Usability testing can discover if your website’s content is interesting and “on target”; how well it communicates the brand and its services; how easy or difficult it is to navigate and what navigation can be improved; and what words or images can be misunderstood or misleading. Usability Testing can be conducted:
- 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 defines the online experience with a webpage or series of webpages. Examples of use-case scenarios include shopping for a particular item or browsing webpages for specified types of information. As respondents complete a use-case scenario, the moderator asks each 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 are viewing, while asking questions along the way.
In this age of digital proliferation, the old adage “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” has never been truer. Finding insights within imagery can take many formats, including:
- Image Selection. Respondents are presented with a large variety of images and asked to choose the images that evoke deep emotional feelings or the images that represent the brand. By analyzing the preferred images, new branding, positioning, advertising, and messaging ideas are generated. Image-selection methods also work well for market segmentation, strategy, attitude, and branding research studies.
- Respondent Submitted Images. . Respondents are asked to send in pictures relevant to the question or business issue under investigation. Below are some examples of respondent-submitted images:
- Before and after pictures (pictures of the respondent’s hands before and after using hand lotion or pictures of a cooking pan before and after usage)
- Pictures of the respondent’s 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 respondent’s vehicle, purse, or bathroom vanity area.
Unmoderated Qualitative Research Methods
Unmoderated qualitative information can be gathered using platforms traditionally intended for quantitative surveys. Thought-provoking open-ended questions are programmed into a survey format, and participants are chosen for their ability to give in-depth, expressive responses. Respondents complete the questions in much the same way as in an open-ended survey. Since there is no moderator, probing is not possible.
Unmoderated Qualitative Research methods include:
- Online Projective Open-ends. This technique uses an online survey format and consists of 12 to 15 soul-searching, open-ended questions. The goal is to create projective questions that evoke revealing responses. Projective open-ends offer good quality data, reasonable cost, and quick turnaround. The sample size is usually 25 to 50 target-market respondents. The interview is limited to 20 to 25 minutes in length.
- Online Sentence Completion. This projective technique uses an online survey format and consists of 30 to 40 incomplete sentences that respondents must finish. The sample size is usually 50 to 75 participants, and survey length is limited to 20 minutes. The key to success lies in clever wording of the stimuli. Online sentence completion can be a standalone method or combined with 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. Survey length is limited to 20 to 25 minutes.
- 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 how much they agree/disagree with each statement. The statistical results are combined with the original qualitative data to create one integrated report.
Storytelling is a projective technique. Respondents are asked to write a short story on a topic related to the research project. These stories are typically anywhere from 100 to 500 words. The sample size can range from 50 to 100 respondents. The sample size and story length can be changed to fit the goals and 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 real-life storytelling technique is ideal for exploring how customers interact with a product or service, and how that product or service fits within the respondent’s 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. This fictional storytelling technique is best for exploring the imagery, associations, and feelings customers have about a product or brand.
Experienced Qualitative Consultants
Decision Analyst has over four decades of qualitative research experience and is a leader in developing innovative qualitative techniques. Our experienced moderators can recommend the qualitative technique best suited to your research needs.
For more information on our Qualitative Research services, please email Clay Dethloff, Senior Vice President, at firstname.lastname@example.org), or call him at 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.
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