These are informal discussions with 8-10 pre-recruited respondents, moderated by a qualitative researcher.
Smaller Group Sessions
Composed of just a few respondents, typically one to two hours in length, these sessions are valuable in gaining greater depth from few respondents. They are also useful when there are many sub-targets of interest; each can be addressed in its own session. These interviews can also be conducted via telephone.
Typically 30-60 minutes in length, these interviews involve a one-on-one discussion, in person or via telephone, to obtain individual feedback and underlying motivations, beliefs, attitudes and feelings on a particular messaging, advertising, packaging or other stimuli. Individual purchase decision processes can be explored, and subject matter of a very personal or confidential nature can be more effectively discussed.
A subset of individual interviewing consists of in-person web site development and analysis. Accompanied surfing studies which feed the web design process by learning from existing sites and respondents' reactions to them. For the actual site, usability is tested to assess navigation and interpretation. The emphasis with this type of study is on understanding if the site accomplishes its communication goals in terms of content, "look and feel", branding and so on.
This involves a qualitative researcher accompanying a respondent on a shopping trip (brick and mortar and/or online), with discussion occurring before, throughout, and after the shopping experience. This type of research can be highly useful in exploring purchase decision process as well as obtaining specific reactions to packaging and merchandising.
“Natural Habitat” Interviews
These interviews, also referred to as observational or ethnographic interviews, take place in the actual environment where people live, work or play. They provide an excellent opportunity to observe as well as to interview the respondent in their environment and sometimes in the course of doing various activities. They provide an excellent means to consider unmet needs as people go about their task or activity, explore whether claimed behaviors match actual behaviors, and delve into multi-person decision-making influences and processes.
Bulletin Board Interviews
These are threaded discussions conducted online with a pre-recruited group of 20-25 respondents over the course of several days or more. This methodology provides an excellent way to interview respondents that are too geographically dispersed to bring together in a single location and/or are too busy to attend an in-person session. They also lend themselves to addressing highly sensitive or personal subject matter that may be difficult for the respondent to share in a face-to-face situation.
Qualitative research provides an excellent means for exploring and contrasting experiences, thoughts, feelings and motivations. This format encourages the generation of ideas and allows respondents to build on each other's suggestions.
APPEL RESEARCH conducts qualitative research via:
Traditional focus groups
Web site and product usability sessions
Online/Virtual/Bulletin Board focus groups
Qualitative email surveys
Analysis and Interpretation
The most important part of qualitative research is analysis and interpretation, which is also the part most subject to criticism of the technique. The top complaint is that decisions are made from the comments of just a handful of people. But, qualitative research is conducted for the ideas and the depth, not the count. That comes from the quantitative side ... and that is why we often use both methodologies in our work.
Another belief is that anyone can watch a focus group and draw appropriate conclusions. And yet, people observing the same focus group see the results differently, with each camp firmly convinced that the sessions validated their going-in perspective. A trained, skilled and experienced interpreter, like those provided by APPEL RESEARCH, will insure that you get real learning, rather than a reinforcing of preconceived opinions.
Guided Imagery - Respondents are directed, with eyes closed, toward a setting, often an imaginary room that represents a product or idea, and asked to describe the setting in terms of what they see and smell, and who is there and what are they doing.
“Why” - In this form of laddering, a question is asked and answered. The moderator then follows with the “why” question, until the foundation of the issue is determined.
Drawings - Respondents are asked to draw people, usually as stick figures to eliminate anxiety over drawing ability, often of someone who would use a particular product or hold a particular position. Then they would identify the name, age, occupation, hobbies, etc. of this user. We also add a talking bubble to the drawing to enable the respondent to tell us what the subject is saying or thinking.
“What if” - What if each brand were an animal, a food, a beverage, a vehicle -- what would it be? Each example is considered for associations and relevance.
"Obituary" - How and why did the competitor die (weaknesses)? What did the competitor achieve (strengths)? Who will miss it (key audience)? Who will replace it (competition)?
Some uses of Qualitative Research:
In early stages, for basic diagnostic insight.
Generating questions/hypotheses for quantitative surveys.
Ascertaining the words and language patterns that target groups use.
Validating hypotheses developed through quantitative methods.
Probing issues that emerge from quantitative studies.
Testing visuals – pictures, video, packaging.
Comparing concepts and ideas in depth.
Developing new ideas, products, approaches.
Observing consumers/users in natural habitats.
Web site development – to refine site look and feel and usability.
Settings for Qualitative Research:
Qualities of a Good Moderator:
Standing in Front of An Easel Does Not a Focus Group Make
"Let's test this idea by picking some people off the street, bringing them into our conference room, and asking them what they think."
Facilitators and discussion organizers often possess some of the characteristics attributed to high-quality focus group moderators ... but, because the term "focus group" has become so overused in describing any conceivable type of meeting, those who lead them are sometimes confused with trained professionals who can demonstrate the distinct skill of moderation.
Relationship With Respondents
A trained and experienced moderator develops a good rapport with focus group participants, establishing an inclusive environment, evoking empathy but not sympathy, showing flexibility in style to meet the circumstances, and listening, not leading.
Relationship with Clients
A professional moderator works closely with clients, always pursuing relevance to objectives, demonstrating strength under pressure, anticipating problems (and having backup plans), and understanding internal and external competitive conditions. In reporting, the client can expect timely insights, an understanding of the competitive situation, findings of parallels from other industries and settings. Furthermore, a professional moderator will communicates bad news as well as good, defending findings backed up by data.
Digging Through the Data for the Real Value
Respondents may think they're being honest, but too often, they defend or rationalize decisions they have already made. They give the socially acceptable answer. They try to come across as smart and rational, when we know that most decisions are really about emotions and imagery.
We address this with a variety of qualitative toolbox offerings:
APPEL RESEARCH, LLC, 475 K Street NW, Suite 1015, Washington, DC, (202) 289-6707, firstname.lastname@example.org