The following is adapted from the QRCA Breakthroughts podcast, Mobile/Texting Research With Jim Bryson.
When CalExpo reached out to Steve Murrill and April Haas of Sacramento, Calif.-based Meta Research to help the company understand what teens thought of its California State Fair, the duo and longtime 20|20 Research clients knew of the perfect way to engage teens — via text messaging. According to Nielsen, today’s teens age 13–17 send or receive and average of 3,339 text messages per month. That’s more than 4.5 texts per hour.
“Our client said they really wanted to know what teenagers thought because they were having issues making the fair relevant to them and getting them through the gate. They said they wanted to get inside teenagers’ heads,” Haas explains. “Since teens are so hot on text messaging these days, we thought text messaging would be a fun and interactive way to gather insight from them. It would be something they’d want to participate in, and we’d be able to gather that qualitative feedback you just don’t get from checking a box.”
Methodology: Murrill and Haas chose our mobile qualitative research platform, QualAnywhere, to conduct the study. Over a two-week period (the length of the fair), researchers approached teens as they arrived at the fairgrounds. At first, Haas says, their recruiting process didn’t work. “Teens were immediately on their guard when we asked them if they’d like to participate in this project, and we didn’t get much interest at first.” So they modified their message to make the research project sound like more of an opportunity. “We would say, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected to participate,’ and would immediately hand them a prize and a park map and give them the instructions,” she explains.
Interest in the mobile qualitative research project shot up, but once the responses started rolling in, it was clear the instructions needed to be tweaked, as well. “At first, a lot of the responses just told us where they were.”
Again, the researchers made some adjustments to the instructions as well as to the reminder text messages that went out. “After that, they were supplying us with a lot more detail on what they thought about different aspects of the fair. Why they didn’t like a certain ride, for example,” Haas explains. In addition to the incentive up front, teens also were eligible for a grand prize drawing. For every text message response they sent, they received an entry — so the more they texted, the more chances they’d have to win.
Results: In all, Murrill and Haas recruited a couple hundred teens to participate and ended up with more than 3,000 text responses. And the results were fascinating. “As much as we’d like to think we remember our teen years, times have changed,” Haas says. “The responses gave us that inside-the-head feedback we needed. In the end, we were able to get some great feedback about what’s going to make the fair more relevant to them.” Another driver of the project’s success was the team’s adaptability. When something wasn’t working, they changed the process. “Because it was qualitative, we were able to make changes from the way we recruiting to the questions we asked. It made it a more effective process as we went along,” Murrill explains.
Learn more about QualAnywhere, our mobile qualitative research platform.