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.
Companies are in a unique position today, as they have an unprecedented ability to collect information about consumers through various channels and thus create rich and deep profiles of their target customers. However, what is considered a goldmine of information has actually highlighted many pain points, including:
Consumers are being bombarded with multiple surveys across different channels by different departments. As a result, consumers feel more and more that they are being badgered for information about themselves.
A siloed department structure creates little incentive to collaborate across departments. Thus, repetition of similar projects by different departments occurs, contradictory results can be communicated internally, and learning based on a department’s successes and failures from past projects is not communicated across departments.