Reflections on Qual360

Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Qual360 conference in Atlanta, hosted by the Merlien Institute. If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I typically fold qualitative insight into a diverse research mix, so I went to the conference with a broad view of market research methodologies. But after connecting with qualitative researchers, marketers, academics, and thought leaders from around the globe, I left Qual360 with a renewed appreciation for the fundamental importance of qualitative insight, its deep impact on key business decisions, and its differentiated value in today’s data-driven culture. Here are a few of my takeaways from Qual360:

  • In a world where everything is getting faster, qualitative research must go slower. As Anita Watkins from TNS and Emily Williams of Newell Rubbermaid put it, qualitative research is not about testing, it is about illuminating context and understanding evolving beliefs. That means qualitative insight can’t be commoditized and sold with the promise of fast, bite-size deliveries. The true value of qualitative insight lies not in the verbatim data but in the accurate analysis of those words in the context of social, environmental, psychological, and emotional depth.
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The Data Digest: Enchanting Consumers With Video Across Devices

Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola once said: “The very earliest people who made films were magicians.” In some ways, things haven’t changed -- although the media producers of today seem to pull the classic reappearing act as their key trick: When content finishes on one screen, it reappears on another . . . and then another.

Video is available across myriad personal devices, and consumers’ viewing habits are fragmented across technologies. Just as channels for video consumption are becoming more profuse, the types of content that viewers seek are also increasingly diverse. In the past month alone, American audiences said hello to streaming-exclusive dramas and goodbye to long-running TV shows. This week, consumers viewed an array of films like those premiering at SXSW, and tuned into the March Madness sports frenzy.

Consumers have choices about what to watch, on which device, and when. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, US online adults still prefer to watch longer-length video on TVs but frequently turn to smaller devices for shorter content:

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The Data Digest: The Multifaceted Journey To Purchasing Health Insurance

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that the Data Insights team here at Forrester has been tracking the evolution of US healthcare reform over the past three years and its implications in terms of consumer behavior, attitudes, and expectations. Our study began in July 2012, when we advised health insurance companies how to prepare for the flood of new customers entering the market. Two years later, my colleague Gina Fleming extended this analysis into Forrester’s Healthcare Segmentation, which provides a refined understanding of key customer profiles. Now, with our 2015 Consumer Technographics® Healthcare Survey just back from field, we can complement our understanding of the US consumer health insurance market with another layer of insight: the member’s journey to purchasing health insurance:

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The Data Digest: Celebrating China's New Year And Consumer Tech Boom

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Kicking off the 2015 lunar calendar and the year of the goat (or sheep or ram), today celebrates the emergence of spring, the coming together of families, and the arrival of good fortune. Given China’s prosperous technology evolution, the superpower has a lot to look forward to. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, the country is already home to the most mobile-savvy population on the planet, with nine out of every 10 metropolitan Chinese online adults using a smartphone; within the next two years, the nation will see an additional 200 million unique smartphone subscribers: 

What will happen when the world’s largest mobile phone market becomes even bigger?

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The Data Digest: Behaviors Beyond The Gifts

The holiday season is one month behind us, and while the celebratory spirit has faded, the effects live on through the gifts we’ve exchanged. If you think the shiny new object you presented to your loved one had its greatest impact when she unwrapped its box, think again. Apart from the occasional toy tossed to the back of a closet, gifts may have a stronger influence on our long-term behavior and lifestyle than we might think —particularly when it comes to consumer electronics.

For example, according to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, consumers who have received a tablet computer as a gift end up using traditional devices like laptops, desktops, and digital cameras less often. Qualitative insight from our ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community reveals that sentiments of surprise and delight characterize the experience of these tablet recipients; regardless of their initial technology attitudes, most community members find the devices exceed their expectations and inadvertently change their lifestyle:  

According to the National Retail Federation, consumer electronics stores saw more than $23.4 million in holiday sales in 2013 and even more by the close of 2014. However, the more interesting story is unfolding now, as consumers who have leapfrogged the purchase experience begin experimenting with —and embracing —their new devices.

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A Year In Review And Lessons Learned

Around this time of year, one can’t help but become reflective. I know I’m not alone when I say that, on the one hand, this year somehow shot past faster than the last one, but on the other hand, it was jam-packed with new discoveries, fresh ideas, and memorable experiences. In particular, this has been a milestone year for the data insights innovation team here at Forrester, as we officially launched our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes mobile behavioral, social listening, online qualitative, and survey data. As I think back on my experiences with the Technographics 360 initiative inside Forrester, paired with my industry learnings outside Forrester, a few key lessons come to mind that I will take into the new year:

1.       Synthesis is “in.” In fact, I learned so much about this topic, I wrote a full blog post dedicated to it! In essence, we now live in a world where the truest insight is a product of synthesis – building knowledge up – rather than of analysis – breaking ideas down. I recently attended SSI’s seminar featuring Simon Chadwick, who proposed that data synthesis is “the next big thing” in insight skills. I agree: With so many diverse data sources at our fingertips that offer unique perspectives on consumers’ lives, researchers need to put the puzzle pieces together to construct a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.

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Synthesis Is "In"

As researchers, we can’t underestimate the power of perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was erected 125 years ago, it became the tallest manmade structure in the world and, more importantly, allowed visitors to look down over Paris for the first time; perhaps it was the first real instance of a “birds-eye view.” At the same time, artists like Picasso and Stein were pushing the limits of perspective by portraying every angle of 3-dimensional concepts in one painting or poem. In many ways, the research world today is akin to this historical period of creativity. With more data at our fingertips than ever before, we are able to observe consumer behavior from new vantage points and produce a fresh understanding of customer trends by analyzing multiple angles at the same time.

Here on the data insights innovation team at Forrester, we’ve called our multiperspective research approach Technographics 360. Officially launched this year, Technographics 360 blends Consumer Technographics® survey output, ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight, social listening data, and passive mobile behavioral tracking to synthesize a 360-degree view of consumer behavior. Instead of analyzing research questions by breaking them down, we can synthesize comprehensive solutions by building our knowledge up.

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The Data Digest: The Apple Watch: What Makes Consumers Tick?

The unveiling of the Apple Watch in early September left consumers and industry analysts with more questions than answers. After the sluggish sales of smartwatch predecessors, what is the actual market opportunity for Apple’s wrist-based wearable? Will consumers’ perception of the technology motivate them to make a purchase? And what type of consumer is most receptive to this device? 

In my recently published report, I leverage Forrester’s Technographics®360 multimethodology research approach to answer these questions. So far, reaction to the Apple Watch has ranged from skepticism to enthusiasm, and our data shows that the story of Apple Watch adoption is indeed two-sided. Our evaluation of consumer behavior and attitudes reveals an immediate market opportunity for the device as well as psychological barriers to adoption: 

However, the story doesn’t end there. Between the advantages and challenges of Apple Watch adoption emerges a third reality, which synthesizes the two. Apple Watch uptake will evolve, with early adopters, motivated by excitement, biting first and a second wave of mainstream consumers – who can see and experience the benefits of the device – buying next.

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The Data Digest: Managing The Holiday Gift Hunt

Here in the US, all signs point to winter: Daylight savings has just begun; specialty holiday drinks have been added to cafe menus; and several cities have already witnessed the first snowfall. And with the arrival of the chilly season comes preparation for the mad rush of holiday shoppers.

Although the holiday retail season is shorter this year, given fewer days than average between Thanksgiving and Christmas, consumer expectations of retailers during this holiday season are greater than ever. When it comes to online retail specifically, consumers seek out – and have come to expect – great deals and free shipping throughout their holiday gift hunt. In fact, Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that shipping cost is the most important factor in a consumer’s decision to purchase from a retail website (such as Amazon.com or Gap.com):

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The Data Digest: Consumer Perspectives On Healthcare Reform, One Year Later

With Kristopher Arcand

If the healthcare industry exhibited symptoms of dysfunction, the US government administered a wave of treatment in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. October 2013 marked the opening of online insurance marketplaces, and set the stage for the act's requirement that most US residents have health insurance coverage. As a result, the industry has witnessed cessations and regenerations, and the pulse of consumer sentiment has fluctuated. Now, one year on, we’re due for a checkup.

At a macro level, US online consumers’ perspectives on healthcare reform today are largely consistent with those immediately preceding open enrollment under the federal law: Individuals continue to be skeptical of policy changes. However, at a micro level, subtle yet fundamental shifts in the consumer mindset signal a gradual evolution in perceptions of healthcare.

Our Technographics 360 research approach, which synthesizes Forrester’s ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community insight and aggregated social listening data, shows that the conversation about healthcare has shifted from politics to experience -- and, in particular, to a focus on cost:

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