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.
From Time Warner and Comcast to AT&T and DirecTV, corporate mergers appear to be the latest tactic in winning the battle for market share and driving innovation. From a business perspective, the strategic advantages of such mergers may be clear — but what do these changes look like from the consumer’s viewpoint? To understand consumer reaction to the latest series of merger announcements, Forrester leveraged its Technographics360 approach of linking multiple data sources to give a holistic view of consumers. Specifically, we tuned into online chatter with our social listening platform and engaged our ConsumerVoices market research online community for this analysis.
According to the data, consumers associate mergers with increased costs, fewer opportunities for choice, and decreased product and service quality. While a few individuals appreciate the potential for innovation that mergers might afford, the prevailing sentiment is uncertainty:
The fact that individuals are wary of these corporate mergers partially stems from the timeless truism that “people are afraid of change.” To mainstream consumers, a large merger suggests a loss of customer control and greater uncertainty; according to the Harvard Business Review, these are the top two qualities that underpin a fear of change.
My colleague Lindsey Colella and I attended the Vision Critical Summit in New York this week and were inspired by how market insights professionals are truly embracing the value of market research online communities (MROCs). Among the emerging and innovative methodologies, this is the one that we are seeing gaining significant traction: The Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report shows that this is the top emerging methodology used by client-side researchers — with 36% currently leveraging it.
What did we learn at the event? In addition to reinforcing MROC best-practice tips like closing the loop with panelists and incentivizing in a relevant way, which Lindsey recently wrote about in her report “Best Practices For Managing A Market Research Online Community,” the following best practices and examples caught our attention:
· Internal marketing is critical. Market insights professionals need to “sell” the value of MROCs to various business units across the organization. One electronics retailer did that by hosting monthly meetings in which the MI team presented all the research collected in the MROC to the cross-function business leaders.